How to Have Fear-Free Vet Visits For Your Dog By Dr Claire Stevens
A 2019 study found that up to one in seven (14%) dogs displayed severe or extreme fear when examined by a veterinarian. This is characterised by exaggerated cowering and/or vigorous attempts to escape, retreat or hide.
This fear can make it difficult for pet parents to take their dogs to regular check-ups which means health issues can be harder to diagnose until it’s too late. There is also a risk that your dog injures themselves, you or the veterinary staff. The good news is that there are ways to keep your dog happy during vet visits. By following these strategies, you can avoid costly house calls, sedation and stressful trips to the vet.
Having the right vet can make all the difference for you and your pup. Getting your dog acquainted with the right vet and clinic from the start can make vet visits much easier. Here are some things to consider when choosing a vet:
- Know your vet’s specialisation. There are different types of vets, some may specialise in livestock or exotic animals, while others focus on horses or research. Make sure your vet specialises in companion animals and are experienced in working with dogs.
- Make sure you are comfortable with the vet’s animal handling skills. Gentle yet confident handling is an essential skill for veterinarians.
- Look for a well-maintained, friendly clinic. A clean and organised facility with kind staff members often indicates the level of care your dog will get.
- Ask for referrals. Other dog owners can provide more information about the vets in your area to help you make an informed decision.
Your dog will be much more comfortable if they are familiar with their environment. To do this, you can take your dog to visit just for fun. Call the clinic ahead of time to ask if you can show your dog around and give them some treats and reassurance in the premises for a few minutes. During the visit, you can introduce your dog to the staff and get them used to the sights and smells without having to endure any uncomfortable or stressful procedures.
Dogs that are not used to being groomed or handled by strangers may react negatively to vet visits. One thing you can do to make them less anxious is to conduct a mock vet examination at home. You can find instructional videos online to help you familiarise your dog with the steps.
Another way to make vet visits less stressful is to train your dog with tricks that can be helpful during a vet exam. Basic instructions like ‘sit,’ ‘drop’ and ‘stay’ can make your dog more manageable and make vet visits less stressful for everyone.
Training your dog to step on a small platform is useful when weighing them at the clinic. Cross-over tricks like ‘roll over’ and ‘shake’ are good for abdominal exams and blood draws, respectively.
Remember to reward your dog for desirable behaviour. Inform the vet beforehand so they’ll also have treats ready. Use extra special treats for vet visits to keep them happy. With a high-quality and delicious treat like Hypro Premium Kangaroo Tasty Chews, you can turn a vet visit into a special occasion for your canine companion. Don’t overdo it, though. Too many treats could cause an upset stomach and make your vet visit more challenging.
Dogs are intuitive and can feed off your energy. If you are anxious, there’s a good chance your dog will also be fidgety and unsure. Remain calm and your dog will follow your lead.
If your dog remains particularly distressed or anxious about vet visits despite your socialisation and familiarisation efforts, it’s time to consult an animal behaviourist or work with a trainer to correct behavioural issues. You can also opt for house calls until your dog is properly trained and socialised to avoid unnecessary hassle.