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Stress-Free Vet Visits: Tips for a Happier, Healthier Dog

There are a number of situations in life that we can avoid with our dogs (like overwhelming dog day cares and dog parks) but going to the Vet is not one of them. The physical health of our dogs is paramount to longevity and their overall quality of life. It is also the foundation for behaviour. As a professional, I will always suggest a Vet check to discount any health concerns if you are seeing any concerning behavioural changes in your dog. Pain and injury will affect learning and behaviour.  

Dog relaxes at vet

Dogs learn by association. Past experiences will predict future behaviour. This means if your dog has a bad experience or is overwhelmed at the Vet clinic, you may struggle to get him/her back for the next visit..

Here are a few  things you can do to make your dog more comfortable for Vet visits: 

  • Plan ahead so you are not rushing. Being rushed and flustered will not set you up for a calm visit from the outset. Make sure car rides are fun by taking your dog to other fun places and activities as well. We don’t want the car to predict a Vet visit. 

  • Schedule visits for quieter times of the day where possible

  • Take your dog to the toilet before heading off for the consultation 

  • Avoid waiting in the waiting room with your dog. Vet waiting rooms are fraught with different smells, sounds and sights which can quickly overload your dog. Leave your dog in the vehicle and comfortable - if safe to do so - until your Vet is available. You may need to ask for an additional family member to tag along to facilitate this. Arrange for your dog to enter through a separate entrance to avoid having contact with other dogs or people as they come and go

  • Take a blanket/towel from home for your dog to sit or lie on. This can be placed on the exam table for small dogs or on the floor for larger breeds. Teach your dog to go to a mat/place at home so this can be  transitioned to the Vet clinic as well. Giving your dog a ‘station’ for placement can mean less stress for you, for your dog and for the Veterinarian as well. Anxious/fearful dogs will often move around a lot (fiddle) which can make the Vet visit much more stressful for everyone

  • Take some yummy treats and/or a Lickimat for reinforcement. Not all dogs are  keen on the liver treats many Vet clinics provide. 

  • Teach your dog a trick like a nose target or a paw shake. This can help build rapport with their Veterinarian before they start their examination.

  • Practice cooperative care at home and pair it with yummy treats. This will create a good association with being handled by you before being handled by the Vet. I name different body parts as I handle i.e ears, paws, tail and neck etc for vaccinations. 

  • Teach a chin rest to stabilise your dogs head for eye, ear or mouth exams: watch a video here

  • Use Adaptil Spray on a bandanna for calming before the Vet visit in need:

  • Put your dog back in the car before returning to pay your account. It can be difficult to watch your dog while you are distracted.

  • Plan drop in visits to the Vet clinic. This can be helpful to build a positive relationship with the Vet staff and the environment. I would suggest only doing this during quiet times when there are no other dogs present. Take yummy treats and let your dog initiate any interactions with the staff. This can also be a good time to lure your dog up onto the scales with a yummy treat for weight records.

Did you know that many Vet clinics offer in-home consultations as well? This can be an excellent option for caregivers who know their dogs don’t cope well with car travel, new environments or Vet visits? There is an additional cost of course but it may be well worth the investment. 

Cheers, Memphis


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