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Keeping your dog calm at the vets can be a challenge for some owners as they may have very anxious and stressed dogs that do not enjoy being poked and prodded by a stranger! Much like we may not like the dentist or doctors they can feel the same way about the vets, but this is very hard for them to communicate across to us.
A good way you can get them used to being taken into the veterinary clinic is by taking them in just for a visit, not necessarily to get any treatment but just for cuddles and a treat from the receptionist. If you ask when the quietest time is during the day and incorporate it into a walk then the practice staff should be happy to give your dog a bit of fuss. This will help your dog understand that it can be a nice thing to go to the vet practice as they get attention and treats. The more often this is done the happier your dog will be and he won’t put on the brakes when you reach the door!
If you have an older dog that does not agree to going into the practice you can try different calming agents, a few popular ones you can buy over the counter at the vets are the products that release pheromones, such as Adaptil. These can come in diffusers, spray, collars or tablets. The pheromones that are secreted help calm your dog and make them less stressed for their visit. However this may not always work depending on the level of stress your dog is under. Some dogs need stronger medication than a pheromone and if you think this is the case for your pet then you must consult a vet who will be able to advise you on the best medication to give.
When taking your dog to the vet don’t make it seem like a chore and something that’s bad – if the dogs sense a bad vibe from you they will become nervous. Make it as fun and happy as possible. This will also help your dog realise that it should be a good experience and that they should not be scared. If you create a calm journey and relate it to something they enjoy it will be much easier for your pet – for example if you are in walking distance to the practice then incorporating the visit into the daily walk can make it a better experience.
When booking appointments try and plan certain routines in the day around this. For example, if your appointment is in the morning then try and hold off on breakfast till after you return home. This will help reduce the risk of car sickness and accidents in the car. It also helps in certain veterinary scenarios as well – for example, if they have to be taken in and sedated this is best done on an empty stomach. If you dog is anxious this could mean they empty their bowels more frequently. If he goes somewhere he is not meant to, for example inside the vet practice, try not to get angry and tell him off as the negativity that you project will cause them to become more anxious.
Another way to help reduce stress would be to minimise the amount of time in the vet’s waiting room, especially if it is busy with other dogs and possibly other animals. Try not to arrive too early to reduce this and if for some reason the vets are running late, go for a walk down the road. Some vets don’t mind if you wait in the car and then they will come and call you when they are ready. Remember that if you do decide to wait in the car, make sure the windows are down if it is a hot day as dogs are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat stroke.
Finally, another good way to reduce stress and make it a good experience is to use a rewarding system. Take treats with you and reward them for their good behaviour. Help them know they are not doing any wrong in the situation. As the vet starts to handle and examine your dog, offer rewards throughout. Use your voice and praise them as well, making sure you use a light and happy tone so they know you are not telling them off. If you stay calm then this will help your pet stay calm.
Once the vets visit is done try not to hang around for too long, take them home and play with them or take them for a walk. Don’t go home and then ignore them while you do the house work! Instead, make sure that they have fully settled back into their routine with plenty of fuss so that any stress they experienced has soon dissipated.
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Our network of trusted vets are a friendly bunch and will be only too happy to help you. Should your four legged friend need an extra nurturing hand – why not give them a call now to arrange your first positive visit! Find your nearest practice.