Going to the vet is really hard for a lot of dogs (and cats, too!). There are things that you can do to make the visit as comfortable as possible for your animal. Here are a few:
- Work on the exam at home. Practice holding and looking over your dog just like a veterinarian would. The big difference is that YOU have the time to make it a completely positive experience for your dog and often times, veterinarians don’t. Practice at home first, then you can move to unknown areas (like a pet store) and heights (picnic table exam, anyone?). Make sure to look in your dog’s ears, eyes, mouth, and lift up their feet. Run your hands all over their body. Depending on how your vet examines your dog (and how tolerant your dog is), have a friend your dog doesn’t know very well hold the dog like a veterinary technician would.
- Bring high value treats (REALLY stinky and gross) and use them. When your dog walks into the vet’s office, immediately ask for attention and easy-to-accomplish tasks for them (what is easy for each dog varies, but I typically use touch, along with sit, down, and shake.)
- Comfort them. Don’t just sit in the exam room and mess around on your phone. Take time to do some ear slides or other TTouch. Touching Jonah at this point doesn’t help calm him, so I spoke to him calmly while we were waiting for his veterinarian. It seemed to take his mind off of where he was.
- Treat in the exam room (even while the vet is examining, if they are okay with it).
- BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR DOG. Veterinarians often don’t have a lot of time and may not be well-versed in dog behavior. Dog’s mental health is unfortunately often overlooked in the veterinary world. Jonah is looking through all of those pamphlets for one on anxiety, and it turns out there isn’t a single one on behavior issues.
- If you see that your dog is very uncomfortable, SAY something. If you are worried that your dog may bite–ASK for a muzzle before the exam. Although this protects the veterinarian, this is mainly to protect your dog from having a bite on their record, needing to go through a rabies quarantine or being deemed ‘dangerous’ by the city you live in.
Based on Jonah’s body language and expression in the first two photos, can you tell which was taken at his initial vet visit and which one was taken a month later? I bet you can.