Taking your dog to the veterinarian can be a very challenging experience even under the best of circumstances. If you know your dog is afraid of veterinary visits, these trips are not only challenging, but so stressful that you may skip the annual wellness checks and reserve the veterinary hospital for emergencies. Annual wellness checks are an important part of your dog’s healthcare and can actually prevent serious health issues from developing. Following are a few simple things you can do to make veterinary visits go a lot more smoothly for both you and your pooch.
SOCIALIZE YOUR PET
Ideally, puppies should be socialized before they are 4 months old. This is the time of development during which a dog’s personality is formed. The more a puppy has a positive experience with things he sees, hears, smells and experiences during this time, the less fearful he will be as an adult dog.
If you have an older dog that is scared of veterinary visits, it could be that he wasn’t properly socialized during this critical early socialization period, or it could simply be that he acquired negative associations with going to the veterinarian as a puppy.
Either way, it is never too late to start getting your dog more positively exposed to new sights, sounds and situations. You can talk to your veterinarian and their team about any methods for acclimating your dog to the environment that will help them realize that going to the doctor really isn’t as scary as they think.
DESENSITIZE YOUR PET TO TOUCH
It is inevitable that your dog will be held, poked and prodded when at the vet, which can be especially scary if he’s not used to it. Animal behavior College recommends spending time handling your dog and getting him used to being touched all over. Puppy classes offered at Hannah The Pet Society include Gentle Handling by strangers while being fed treats and receiving soft praise. These handling techniques help prepare the puppies for the type of handling they will experience at vet visits and grooming appointments. This will help the puppies grow up with positive associations with being handled.
MAKE CAR RIDES FUN
For many dogs, a stressful office visit begins with getting into the car. This is because trips to the veterinarian may be the only time they ever travel by car. You can help your dog be more relaxed at a Hannah hospital by making car rides fun. Start with short trips around the block. Then, work up to going to fun places like the dog park or the Pet store. Be sure to provide plenty of positive reinforcement along the way. Once car trips start having happy endings for your pup, he’ll most likely begin looking forward to hopping in for a ride.
MAKE GOING TO YOUR HANNAH VETERINARY HOSPITAL FUN
Just as you can change your dog’s associations with car rides from bad to good, you can do the same with one of our Hannah hospitals by taking him there for social calls between appointments. Call ahead and give the staff a heads up before you visit, and try to go at a time that’s typically not busy so the doctors and techs will have time to shower your dog with attention.
The American Kennel Club adds that it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes just hanging out in the waiting room, allowing your dog to watch the other Pets coming and going and to get used to the sounds and smells. Be sure to reward him when he’s calm and relaxed, and ignore whining or anxious behavior.
VET VISIT PREPARATION PLAN
On all future veterinary visit days (unless the Pet is very sick), skip one meal before the visit. If this is too hard, then give only ¼ of the normal amount of food. The goal is for your Pet to be very hungry when it arrives at Hannah. One hour before the medical appointment, give your Pet the prescribed an anti-anxiety medication called Trazodone (A Comfort Med!!). Your veterinarian will determine at the medical visit if your Pet requires a higher dose, or combination of medications depending on their fear severity.
A) Bring very special food treats such as warm chicken, hot dog chips, or cheese to the medical exam. Help your Pet see the exam table as a “Cookie Table”. Place a cookie on the table and show the Pet the cookie as the Pet is placed on the table.
B) Act relaxed and happy during the drive and medical visit. Your Pet is taking their lead from your body language and following your emotions. After the visit, do something fun like going to your dog’s favorite park. If your Pet needs to rest at home, give your Pet a special treat so he will associate the trip with something rewarding
Keep in mind that, in the beginning, appointments for fearful Pets will take longer. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. As your fearful Pet learns that going to a veterinary hospital that practices low-stress handling is not frightening, but rather is a source for delicious treats and gentle care, subsequent visits will take less and less time because your Pet will get over its fear and come to enjoy seeing the people at our veterinary hospital.