How to De-stress Your Dog Before a Visit to the Vet
Going to the veterinarian is important for your furry pal's good health. Still, a visit to the vet may be stressful for dogs — and their human companions. One appointment can equate to visiting a family doctor, dentist, optometrist, and other specialists all at once.
For some dogs, the stress starts before you arrive at the vet's office. Even traveling in the car or being in a carrier or kennel can ignite their nerves. Once you walk in, dogs often have to wait in a room with people and other animals who may be acting out their own stress. Then, the exam itself may involve touching his ears, feet, underbelly, legs, teeth, and tongue. Strangers may also restrain your dog for measuring, giving vaccines, or collecting blood samples.
Even though trips to the vet bring the potential for frayed nerves, proactive steps can de-stress your dog ahead of his next visit. Working with your little buddy to discover the best ways to calm him can even deepen the strength of your relationship and mutual trust.
Prepare Ahead of Time
To dial down your dog's stress, help prepare him for what's going to happen.
Expose him to some of the things he may experience on the day of the appointment:
Take your pup on a few short car trips
He'll begin to associate car rides with positive places, like the park. Additionally, if you use a carrier to transport your pooch, don't wait until you're headed to the vet to bring it out. Keep it visible and accessible, and encourage your dog to spend time inside. Make the place cozy with treats, toys, and a blanket or bed.
Practice handling your dog
Get him accustomed to people touching his face, paws, and body. Gradually get your furry friend used to ear cleaning and nail trims. Reward all his positive behavior with praise, treats, toys, or petting. Throughout the process, reinforce familiar commands such as "stay," "sit," and "come," so you can keep him calm and under control both at home and during appointments.
Make an early appointment
Schedule the appointment for the earliest time possible — on a weekday, if you can. This will limit your wait time as well as the presence of other animals or people. Your pet may not even get an exam the first time he meets his vet. Instead, schedule a relaxed meet-and-greet appointment to introduce the two. If you have more than one dog, try scheduling their appointments on different days. This way you can focus on one pup at a time and they won't enhance one another's stress.
Set a Calm Tone
There are a number of steps you can take on the day of the appointment keep your pup and you calm.
Before your appointment
- Go for an early walk to burn off your pup's excess energy — and your own!
- Skip or delay the meal he'd normally eat. During the appointment, treats will be even more appealing.
- Before heading out, give your pooch a calming supplement.
In the waiting room
- Sit in the quietest part of the waiting room.
- Position your pup's carrier so that it faces away from other animals.
- If you have your doggo on a leash, keep him close.
- Talk to your pup in a reassuring tone while you wait.
During the examination
- If he seems antsy about the vet or tech's closeness, offer to restrain your doggo yourself.
- Bring along your pal's favorite treats for the clinic staff to offer as a familiar reward.
Recognize Signs of Stress
Dogs use plenty of signals to communicate with you. Look for common signs of stress so you can step in to calm your furry pal if needed. For example, he may bark, whine, or growl to express his fear. Watch for more subtle signs as well, such as tucking his ears and tails, opening his eyes so wide the whites are visible, or even avoiding eye contact. Some dogs shake, while others may freeze or hold very still — a sign that may precede biting.
If your dog shows these signs, mention them to your vet or the staff. They've probably noticed the same thing. You might agree to reschedule the appointment or discuss a prescription sedative option.
Vet appointments are an essential part of caring for the health and wellbeing of your pup. But a visit to the vet can often leave you both so stressed you're ready to high-tail it outta there. Yet with time, training, patience, and persistence, you and your pup can work closely together to make routine appointments more comfortable. Remember: Your veterinarian is your partner in this as well. Ask for help finding ways to make the appointment less of an ordeal for you and your buddy. With proper planning and some human-canine cooperation, the experience may even become something that strengthens your bond.