One of my goals as a veterinarian is to make visits to the hospital enjoyable for pets. That is no small task. Either pets are there for wellness care or sick care, and neither is inherently fun. Yet most of my patients love coming in. If yours is one of the poor dogs who does not love the visit, what can you do to make it at the very least tolerable and at the best (hopefully eventually) very fun?
Visit the veterinary office just for fun – stop by and get cookies and love and attention. When a visit is truly needed, sometimes these fun visits will make that next visit not quite so scary.
Have the veterinary team offer your dog treats. If he or she is picky or has dietary restrictions, bring treats from home. Even when dogs (and cats) do not accept treats, they usually appreciate the kind gesture.
Figure out whether your dog is more comfortable having exams and procedures done while you are present or without you. As strange as it sounds, when some dogs do not have to “worry” about their person, they relax and have a much smoother visit. Try both ways if your dog is nervous, and see which works best.
Do not let it hurt your feelings if the veterinary team asks to muzzle your dog. Everyone hates to see their dog in a muzzle, but dogs do not have the same negative feelings about muzzles that we tend to have. Procedures can be done much more safely and quickly when a scared dog is muzzled. Oddly enough, muzzles can even be calming, as they seem to gently apply pressure to the same points that Gentle Leaders and Halties do – which can be very relaxing to a dog who is nervous.
Ask your veterinary team if sedation before a veterinary visit would be a wise and safe option. Sometimes, medication can be given that will take the edge off of the scary situation. If a dog has enough calm visits, even if medication is needed to make the visit tolerable, sometimes positive memories can start to be connected to the veterinary hospital!
Sometimes a stuffed toy or unwashed t-shirt, even for outpatient visits, can make all the difference.
Comfort your dog! Unfortunately, it is still a common misconception that comforting a dog in a fearful situation will reinforce the fear. It will not. In this case, it will hopefully calm your dog and help him or her realize everything is going to be okay.
Thundershirts – not just for thunder anymore!
Pheromone sprays – not just for kitties anymore!
In some cases, procedures can be spread over more than one visit. If a visit is just remaining scary, despite everyone’s best efforts, it may be time to call it quits for the day and try again another day. Our goal in life – as your dogs’ veterinary team and as their family – is the well being of your dogs, and it is worth whatever it takes to achieve that!
May your dogs’ every veterinary visit be fun, and if it is not fun, may it at least be tolerable.
How do your pets feel about veterinary visits?