How Can I Make Vet Visits Easier For My Dog?


Whether your dog enjoys visiting the veterinarian and seeing the staff or you have to drag her into the office, there are a few things you can do to make your visits to the vet’s office easier for all concerned.  With so many unusual sights, sounds, unknown people and other animals, it’s no wonder that your pet can become overly excited or even fearful when you visit the vet’s office.  The suggestions below can help you manage your pet’s reactions and avoid a scene in the waiting room, by preventing it from becoming too stressful.  All it takes is a little planning ahead of time.

One of the most effective things you can do to facilitate your pet having a pleasant experience at the vet’s office is to socialize her from puppy hood.  Encourage her to meet lots of people and other animals (as long as they are current on their vaccinations).  Socialization helps a puppy learn acceptable behavior with people and other animals.  They discover social boundaries.  Your dog learns, as a puppy, that not every dog desires to be friends.  She learns to recognize the signs of a nervous dog or an unfriendly dog and to steer clear.  Hosting or taking your puppy to a “puppy party” is one way to assist your puppy in becoming more socialized.  Consider inviting several dog owners over for a visit and allow the dogs to interact together (with supervision).  Allow the dogs to play with each other and with the other owners.  Events like this help them learn the manners they need for their outings into the “real” world.  You can see if there are any potential problem areas and what you need to work on more with your puppy.   You can also take your puppy to parks and visit pet supply stores to have strangers meet her and pet her; let her meet unknown dogs and learn to read canine body language.  The larger pet stores all welcome your pet.  You and your pet are also welcomed at places like Home Depot.  These lessons will pay off in an adult dog that is confident and well-adjusted.

Too late, my dog is an adult and missed the socialization process

If your dog is an adult, you can still take the opportunity to socialize her.  The more interaction she has with other dogs and humans other than her family, the better.  One way to achieve this is to drop by the vet’s office “just for fun”.  It’s a good idea for you to get to know your dog’s veterinary staff informally.  If you can make an effort to talk to them when they’re not busy, or drop by and say hello when your dog is well (instead of only visiting when your dog is having an emergency).  I this way your vet and his staff will have a much better sense of who you and your dog are and how to care for you.  If you buy your flea preventive, heartworm medication or dog food from your veterinarian, spend a little time visiting with the veterinary staff when you stop by to pick it up so you can get to know each other.  Additionally, pet training classes offer a wonderful opportunity for you and your dog to interact with other dogs and people in a controlled environment.  You can also visit pet stores, places like Home Depot and dog parks.  Make sure that you control the interaction people have with your pet so as to not allow any negative feelings to be associated with meeting new people and going new places.

OK, I’ve done that, but my dog is still uncomfortable with visiting the vet.

If you have a small dog, consider using a portable pet carrier for her.  Pet carriers, or crates, can allow your dog to feel safe and secure, especially in strange places.  Not only does she have her own space, blanket and toys with her, but she is protected from larger or more aggressive animals.  If you have a larger animal you will probably prefer a collar and leash.  In situations where you are around unfamiliar people and animals remember to keep your dog on a short leash so she can’t accidentally provoke another dog or cat, and so they can’t get too close to her.  You have more control over your dog with a shorter leash.  You should not use a flexible or retractable leash in a waiting room setting.  They do not offer the kind of control you need over your dog around other pets.  Many pets in a waiting room are fearful and react badly to inquisitive pets, even to friendly, playful animals, so it’s important that you keep your dog close to you in the waiting room.

Another way to reduce stress at the vet’s office is by bringing your dog’s favorite treats with you.  Unless your dog is supposed to be fasting for a veterinary reason, such as for testing, or your veterinarian doesn’t allow food in the waiting room, then giving your dog treats while you’re waiting to see the vet is a good idea.  Most dogs respond well to treats at all times and it will ease any fear she may be feeling.  You can even practice a few lessons if you have been training your dog at home.  This will help keep your dog’s mind off any fears she may associate with the vet’s office.

As a last resort, you may wish to consider muzzle training your dog.  This may seem extreme but it can be handy at times when you visit a vet’s office.  Some veterinary hospitals will request you to muzzle a pet before bringing her to their office.  Muzzles can prevent dogs from harming other pets if your dog has ever shown a tendency to do so.  Muzzles fit around a dog’s mouth and prevent biting.  You may have to let your dog get used to wearing a muzzle since it can be irksome or even frightening at first.  Allow your dog to try on the muzzle at home before going to the vet’s office.  There are other reasons for a dog to wear a muzzle besides preventing biting.  Some dogs must wear them to prevent chewing or eating rocks and other objects.

A little extra advice…

It’s always a good idea to make sure that you keep track of your pet’s veterinary records.  You should know if your dog is allergic to anything and when she had her last vaccinations.  Knowing your dog’s veterinary history helps the staff and keeps her information up-to-date, reducing confusion.  It’s up to you to look out for your pet’s veterinary care.  Regular vet visits are important for many reasons.  Your vet will need to check for parasites, including heartworm; check her ears and teeth; know which shots are to be given, and so on.  Your dog will also need a hands-on examination.  All of these things will go much better if you are knowledgeable about your dog’s health at vet

With a little planning, you and your dog can visit your vet without fear or disaster.  Your vet can and should be one of your dog’s best friends.  Following these suggestions may help your dog relax and enjoy the visit as much as possible.


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