Ways to Lessen your Dog’s Anxiety at the Veterinary Hospital
Any time your dog has a fearful experience, it is permanently recorded in a portion of the brain called the amygdala. The next time your dog is reminded of that experience, all the same fears and anxieties will immediately come flooding back. Think of it like PTSD in dogs.
Our goal is to make sure your dog never has these negative experiences in the first place. If they already have a known fear, we want to try and teach them that it is not going to happen again. This can be accomplished by a combination of pro-active management of their environment, special handling techniques, and in some cases medication.
Most dogs will develop positive associations with people and places at which they receive tasty treats. By having an empty stomach, your dog will enjoy our treat rewards even more! If they are not very food motivated, bring a favorite toy instead.
Bring your dog in for just a social visit. Let our staff love on him/her, give treats, and let them see that good things happen here too. We recommend you call before stopping by to make sure the staff will be available to shower your pet with love.
MAKE THE CAR RIDE PLEASANT
If your pet gets nauseous or scared in the car, they will already be distressed by the time they get to the hospital. In many cases we can provide medications to minimize or eliminate motion sickness and anxiety so they arrive happy. And read additional tips on the best way to transport your dog.
ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME
Many dogs become more anxious if they are rushed through an unfamiliar environment and procedures. By allowing yourself plenty of time, it allows your dog to slowly acclimate to each step.
PRACTICE HANDLING AT HOME
Part of what can make a dog uncomfortable at the vet’s office is that it is not used to being handled so extensively. You can get your dog used to this by simulating exams at home – lift their lips to look at their teeth, look in their ears, handle their legs and feet, gently prod their abdomen, etc. With gentle repetition, it will become no different than being asked to sit.
Products like Adaptil™ are hormones that can have a calming effect. This can be sprayed in your dog’s crate or on a bandana that they would wear around their neck. This can be purchased at Four Paws prior to your visit and applied at home.
Dogs with more severe anxiety can greatly benefit from calming medications. Sometimes these medications are given in the hospital, but they may also be given at home 1-2 hours before your visit. Please speak to one of staff directly if you think your pet may need this kind of assistance. It is much better to use these medications than to force your pet to do something upsetting by brute strength.
Hopefully by using these techniques, your dog will soon find a trip to the vet’s to be a fun outing!