A lot of people recognize that their pet hates going to the veterinary clinic and we often see 3 different types of responses to a visit. The “nervous nelly”, “wiggly worm” and the “angry bird”.
My dog is nervous/anxious at the vet-what can I do to help them?
- This is the dog that tries to melt into the table, may urinate or shake the second they step foot in the clinic.
- Make every visit a positive one! Dogs that are shy will worsen if every visit is about vaccinations or some other medical procedure. Having your pet come in for a treat visit where something simple is done like checking a weight, getting a cookie and petting from the staff and going home is so helpful. This helps take away the immediate negative association of the veterinary clinic a shy dog can have. If you only ever come in for an injection an anxious dog will never feel comfortable.
- Work on obedience training; this helps build a dog’s confidence as a behavioral command yields a positive reward. A dog that knows what is expected of them feels comfortable.
My dog can’t hold still and squirms for the exam!!
- A lot of time when a dog won’t hold still for an exam our immediate reaction as the owner is to step in and hold our own pet to provide comfort. This rarely helps the situation as dogs respond to our emotions and often their anxiety is heightened from the owner’s. The tendency is to talk fast and higher pitched to soothe when this actually feeds the fire.
- Allow a trained staff member to restrain your pet so you can be the moral support. A calm, well-trained staff member will use good technique in holding that is safe for your pet and the veterinarian. This helps keep the tone of the examination soothing and prevent you the owner from being harmed.
My dog is aggressive which we never see this at home!
- A lot of dogs will exhibit aggressive tendencies in a room in order to protect their owner. These dogs reflect their anxiety by worrying what we may do to harm the owner. Dogs like this respond very well to having any procedures or examinations done away from the owner. The second we take this dog out of the room they are completely different as the need to protect you the owner is gone. This means this dog can get an excellent exam or have any procedures done safely and stress-free.
- We also see dogs that aggression isn’t from a protective stance but a fearful one. This is usually a dog that has not had much socialization or experience in environments other than the home. A lot of times these pets may require sedation or anti-anxiety medication to take the edge off and facilitate medical care. These dogs can also benefit from a cookie visit, training and socialization exercises. This takes a lot of dedication from the owner as they have to be willing to work on this at home and even get an experienced trainer to help tailor a behavioral modification plan.
Don’t feel guilty or upset if your pet falls into any of these categories!
- A lot of times a dog’s behavior can be attributed to breed, prior events or previous owner’s that these bad experiences are at the forefront for every visit. Recognize that your dog needs some help and ask your veterinarian what you can do because ultimately you both have the same goal of wanting to provide your pet with excellent medical care. Any veterinarian will be happy to have this discussion!