how to | training | 1 Min Read

10 tips and tricks for less stress at the vet

The doctor. The dentist. The physiotherapist. None of them are super fun for us humans. So it's not hard to see why the vet can be a source of stress for your pet.

Maybe your canine just doesn't play well with others. Or perhaps they associate the doggie doctor with painful injections, sickness, injury or other issues. It can all strike fear in the mind of your pet when you rock up to the vet.

But there are some things you can do to help your pet feel calmer and safer when you take them for check-ups. Here are 10 great tips for keeping your dog calmer and happier when you go to the vet. 

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  1. Get them comfortable with the car
    Your dog might not love cruising in the car. So when you try to get them buckled in, it can cause panic before you even hit the road. That's why it's important to make sure car trips aren’t only associated with the vet. If your dog becomes anxious during car trips, it can be helpful to start a desensitisation program weeks to months before a scheduled appointment (obviously this won’t be possible in an emergency). Start by familiarising your dog in a stationary car with the engine off - make it a positive place by using treats or their favourite toy. Once your dog is consistently relaxed, try a short car ride to the park or somewhere else enjoyable. If your dog is calm during the journey, praise them or reward them with small treats where possible (this is usually easier if you have a friend or family member accompany you). If your dog whimpers and seems restless, ignore the behaviour and praise only when relaxed. Over the subsequent weeks, if your dog is tolerating short journeys, gradually increase the length of the car trips with the same approach. Ensure your dog is appropriately restrained during car travel with either a dog seatbelt or crate - this protects both them and you from potential accidents.
    For dogs that vomit during car rides, it’s better not to feed them for 2 hours before the journey. In more severe cases, your vet may prescribe medications to be administered prior to car travel.
    If your dog is visiting the vet for an illness or injury, avoid feeding them breakfast on the morning of the vet visit in case this interferes with your vet’s diagnostic tests or treatment plans. 
  2. Practise being an at-home doggie doc
    Vet examinations can make your pet uncomfortable. But one way to lessen their discomfort is by performing dog health checks at home. Try lifting their gums to see their teeth, touching their paws, lifting their tails, inspecting their ears and rubbing their tummy. During each session, reward your dog with a treat to create a positive association with being handled. 
  3. Chill vibes only
    Some dogs can be calmed with the use of Dog Appeasing Pheromones. These are generally sprays you can spritz into your car. They also come in electric diffuser form for use at home. 
  4. Break the ice
    Luckily for you, getting your dog to meet the clinic staff can be a lot easier than getting them to live with a cat. See if you can visit the vet with your pet a few times before the day of your appointment. This way your dog can meet the friendly workers and maybe even score a treat and a pat. It can also make the clinic seem less scary. 
  5. Get organised
    Good prep is the enemy of stress. And since your anxiety can rub off on your dog, you want to make sure you're calm, cool and collected the day of your appointment. Gather what you need the night before so you're not rushing around like a madperson when it's time to leave.
  6. Keep it quiet if you can
    Certain times of the day – often those before or after work – will be busier at the vet. So if it works with your schedule, see if you can go at off-peak times - typically late mornings and early afternoons are quieter. This can help you and your dog avoid the client rush and give you a bit more space, as well as fewer distractions.
  7. Take it outside
    If your dog gets anxious in the waiting room, feel free to let the receptionist know you're going to wait it out elsewhere. This can be better for you, your scared pet, clinic staff and other clients – it's a win-win-win-win.
  8. Who's a good dog?
    Positive reinforcement is one of your best weapons as a pet owner. And you're going to need to unleash plenty of it at the vet. Have lots of dog treats on hand and remember to reward relaxed behaviour. Give them a little something after the visit, too, even if it was just a short one. If your dog thinks vet = treats, it'll be a more enjoyable equation for everybody. Obviously if your dog is seeing the vet for an accident or illness, it’s best to keep the treats away in case they interfere with tests or treatments. 
  9. Host a home match
    Sometimes even the best laid plans are foiled. If the above tips don't do the trick, see if your vet does house calls. These might cost more, but the stress you save will probably make it well worth it. 
  10. Keep calm and carry or lead them on
    It's not just your pet who can wince at the thought of going to the vet. It can be intimidating! The needles, the procedures, the poking and prodding, the anxious wait for a diagnosis, the cost – they can all weigh heavy on your head and heart.
    But try to put on as brave a face as possible for your pet. As mentioned above, you know how clever your dog is – they'll be able to tell if you start treating them differently. And that can unsettle them even more.
Have you been able to master the art of keeping your pet zen before, during and after appointments? What are some of your favourite tips for getting your dog to and from the vet without losing their – or your – cool?
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