They just know. Like a child doomed to visit the doctor or (gasp!) the dentist, our pets seem to have a sixth sense about when leaving the house means a visit to the vet.
While some dogs actually love going to say hi to their friendly local vet, many most certainly do not. Why?
The first experience of the vet that most dogs have is during puppyhood and adolescence – when they get their vaccinations and go to be desexed. This is a time when, emotionally, dogs have a heightened response to fear. Anxiety about the vet can be inadvertently socialised into the dog at this time. Add to this the fact that dogs are intuitive and can pick up on the anxieties of other animals at the vet, a vicious cycle can ensue.
How do you know if your pet is anxious?
• Licking lips
• Tense face and body
• Trembling, shaking, fidgeting
• Fur shedding
• Sweaty pads
• Looking away/head down
• Tail between legs
Tips for a Stress Free Vet Visit:
• Take Fido for a walk first (as long as he is not injured or unwell). He will be calmer and happier. You could even walk him to the vet. But don’t only go that way when a vet visit is imminent! We have seen doggies happily walking along with their owners until they realise they are outside the vet – and the brakes go on! Even when the vet is but a place on the route and not the destination… like we said, they just know.
• Try to visit the vet during a quieter time of day when there will not be so many other animals in the waiting room. Stress is contagious.
• If you have a small dog that is anxious, consider using a carrier – but don’t just bring it out when a visit to the vet is imminent (this is a good tip for cat owners too).
• Remain calm yourself. Your dog will sense any anxiety you are feeling. Try to fake it if you are feeling anything but calm.
• Keep your dog on a short leash in the vet waiting room and give him lots of quiet, gentle attention and reassurance.
• Stay with your dog in the exam room. Your presence will be reassuring and calming.
• Make sure your dog has regular check-ups and is vaccinated every year. Visits on a regular basis, especially for non-stressful concerns such as vaccination, will instil a better expectation for your dog of visiting the vet. Even dropping in to collect flea or worm treatments with your dog but to not actually have a consultation will help. Think of it as desensitising your dog to the vet.