Making Veterinary Visits Less Scary

One of my goals as a veterinarian is to make visits to the hospital enjoyable for pets. That is no small task.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Sometimes a stuffed toy or unwashed t-shirt, even for outpatient visits, can make all the difference.

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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.

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Thundershirts – not just for thunder anymore!

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Pheromone sprays – not just for kitties anymore!

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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!

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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?

74 thoughts on “Making Veterinary Visits Less Scary

  1. We actually had the opposite problem early on. Jayne was so excited to see everyone, a vet tech and myself had to hold his attention while the vet vaccinated him. Now, he’s calmer overall and visits aren’t as crazy exciting, but he still thinks everyone at the vet office is his play buddy.

  2. Well, I solved the whole problem of vet visits. I have a Visiting Vet who comes to my house and does all my fur babies. So much easier, no stress and I’ve recommended her to a number of my family and friends, and they love it too……costs a little more, but well worth it

  3. We go visit the vet just say hello and check weight. That way they learn it’s a nice place that doesn’t stick them with needles each time they walk in.

  4. My Shih-Tzu loves to hear “Wannagotothevet?” cuz he know it means a “ride” and that is his favorite word of all time.

  5. My girl goes in monthly due to a medical condition and she walks in says hello, then tries to do that to me to say “Can we go home now Mum?”

  6. We atarted taking our Aussie to the vets office every week or so, when he was a puppy , just to get weighed..so he got used to it, Now, a year later, he goes in with out being on a lead..no big deal!

  7. mine whines when we arrive @ the vet, & when she sees him, she sits & waves her front stick legs up & down. She LOVES the vet!!!!! I started her out right away going there often, for weights, etc. And she would always get a treat & lov’n

  8. Bella loves the vet. we have been with the same vet from day one and she is a favorite there.. How many times have i left her there and it was me crying my heart out at the reception and her walking and bouncing wagging her bit of a tail towards the kennel ward.. For her is just a party!

  9. Our senior black lab turns into a social butterfly at the vet’s office. She can look like she’s on her last leg & very sick a to home and even in the car, but when she gets in the door of the vet’s office it’s like she’s a different dog. She loves our vet because she gives her so much love & attention. All of our dogs are like that since we switched vets. I think it depends who you go to sometimes.

  10. Our dog, Gunner, loves going to the vet! It’s crazy. To him it’s like the coolest place on erath. haha What’s not to love? Nice people, new friends (he loves other doggies), and treats to boot!

  11. As soon as we turn the corner that our vets office is on, our dog jumps to the back of the van and doesn’t want to get out. Once inside she hops up on the scale and then just stays close to Mom and Dad until the check up is over! A bit of stress going but once there she is fine.

  12. She tries to run out the front doog every time I turn my back. They’re fantastic about it, so they take her off my hands.

  13. My late Lab loved it too. Thought it was a social event and would dance and prance for everyone. My Lab now isn’t as thrilled but he’s ok

  14. My dog doesn’t love it but doesn’t hate it either….I had a dog growing up that absolutely hated the vet. She used to try and claw her way out everytime, I always felt SI bad for her.

  15. My girl hates it, she shivers and crawls up on my shoulder and doesn’t wanna come down until we’re out of there… She’s luckily very seldom needed to go there, so no acclimatisation’s been needed.

  16. We have a mobile vet….it’s great! If he’s running late, no big deal and the dogs are just so calm.

  17. oh, & she just went in Monday for heartworm blood test. She’s 11, but is STILL able to jump on the exam table! <3

  18. As soon as meg my colliexlab gets into vets she starts pulling and scrabbling to get out the door!! Why? She never had a bad time at vets but hates them and often wees on the floor!!

  19. Mine hates it!!! She was a very sick puppy. Her whole first year we were in and out of the vet a lot. And each time was always very stressful and heart breaking. She likes the people before going into the rooms but, she knows once she’s in the room it’s different. It’s not a good time for anyone. She has to be muzzled. I’ve tried treats and visits and even my trainer. She’s just been through too much.

  20. First time we took Gracie to the Vets, she took her temperature and not orally and she was far from impressed with it or me for letting it happen lol

  21. A visit to our vet is a social event for our bull terrier. They take her in the back to visit with all the techs. She hates to leave..

  22. lets see denzel would happy help the vet with there meds never seen a dog that would quite happy vist tgre lo bonie would jump all over thrm and shout at them lol

  23. the galgos and Gaia don;t mind, sid is anxious as usual around people he doesn;t see often and our 65 kilos mastin girl tries to hide behind my legs :s

  24. My two springers love going to the vet. 1) Out of the house 2) Ride in the truck 3) lots of attention from people besides me

  25. Mine is a mess, a terrified mess. Going to the vet with Jackson is not something I ever look forward to.

  26. When one needs to go i take all 3. That way they go and nothing happens so its not always a visit for them. They probably think of it as Russian roulette

  27. My boxers love it. They are so excited for the car ride and then once we get there they are so excited to see the girls that work there that they can’t stand it and they get excited when the vet comes in the room.

  28. she rushes in there, then once she realises where she is wants to rush out again. At first she wouldn’t go on the scales now she sits on there to get out of the way if it’s busy. She also tries to punch her way out of the vet’s office when she’s had enough of being in there.

  29. Mine doesnt mind one bit. She has a fan club and gets treats!! She loves all the attention. Its funny when I take care and there are ppl waiting, they immediately move away their tiny dogs n cats. Lol!!

  30. Vickie I do the same with my boxers if Eli has the appointment then Garrett goes to and vise versa. They love going to the vets. The staff is awesome they love our boys as much as the boys love them.

  31. No real problem. My vet is very gentle & quiet & always sits on the floor with my girl while he checks her out. I made a point of taking her for a meet & greet when she was little so that her 1st visit didn’t involve needles & then took her in regularly for weight checks so it’s never been a big deal for her. Even now if I have to go in to pick up something (she’s on eye drops currently for an allergic issue) I take her with me so it’s just a visit – she doesn’t actually have anything done to her. The other staff will often come around the counter to say hi to her as well so it’s a pretty social visit for her.

  32. First I set myself in a very calm state like we are going for a stroll in the park. I don’t set my dog up for failure by me getting all upset and nervous about the vet trip. My vet does make it friendly with all the employees having treats on them. Oh yeah and my dog is a pitbull and she is very sweet, however sometimes they allow me to hold her for shots and blood draws – out of probable fear of a bite I am sure… It is always a good experience because I stay in a good frame of mind for my dog to be that way too.

  33. unfortunately my boy hates it, being an epileptic and diabetic, with regular day stays and plenty of needle sticks, he is not happy and visibly trembles, but he is never aggressive and the vet nurses love him and give him lots of hugs

  34. My Golden Retriever Lucy Loveless wedged herself under the seat of the car once. I finally got her out–pulling on her–and when we got inside I noticed she was bleeding. She hurt her leg on the seat and ended up having 10 stitches in her leg. Of course, I did not mean to hurt her. Poor Baby!

  35. My puppy Barney loves going to the vets. He sees it as an opportunity to play with other dogs and loves all the fuss made of him by the receptionists!

  36. I don’t have an issue at the vet’s. That’s the one place my 150 lbs Great Pyrenees is calm and easy going. It’s on dog walks that is a different story

  37. Jack & Bitzi just went yesterday and they just LOVE it ….all these people & dogs came to see them! 🙂

  38. I think my kitten Hesher is neutral as of right now, which I’m fine with 🙂 I try to make vet visits enjoyable by bringing treats and a toy. And it helps that my vet is awesome!

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