Reduce stress during visits to veterinarian

Have you ever heard the Mark Twain quote about golf? It goes something like this – Golf is a good walk spoiled. A ride in the car to a veterinary appointment can be just like that for your dog – a good ride spoiled.

Vet visits don’t need to be difficult for either you or your dog if you follow a few basic steps to make the visit go smoother and faster. These tips will help lower stress for you, your dog and, incidentally, your veterinarian, too.

Helpful tips for the dog owner:

Collect any paperwork that might be helpful – If this is a first-time visit to a new veterinarian, bring your dog’s full health record. If this is a repeat visit, make sure your vet is aware of any prescriptions your dog has in addition to any over-the-counter medications she may have taken.

Make a list – Write down any questions or concerns you may have about your dog’s health and address them with your vet after the initial examination. This will help keep you on point even if your dog is reacting poorly to the unusual surroundings.

Be prepared – Educate yourself about the vet procedures for a basic visit. If your dog has shown a tendency to bite under stress, make sure your veterinarian is aware of that. Bring the best dog treats you have to reward your dog during the exam.

Be in touch with your dog’s health – Keep up with weekly grooming by checking your dog’s coat, ears, eyes, mouth, teeth and paws. This will ensure that you catch any problems before they become stressful emergency situations.

Helpful tips for your dog:

Walk your dog before the appointment – This will allow her to eliminate before the appointment and make her just a bit more comfortable. It’s not a bad idea to collect a stool sample at this time just in case the vet should need one.

Arrive to the appointment early – Allow your dog to take a nice walk around the building to acclimate her to the area and the unusual smells.

Use your dog treats – After entering the building, allow your dog to explore a bit and get comfortable. Before the first signs of nervousness, ask your dog to perform a few basic commands and reward her with praise and a treat. This simple task will redirect your dog’s focus to more positive thoughts. Refrain from acting nervous and try not to “comfort” your nervous dog too much. Your calm, normal behavior will reassure your dog that all is well.

Play keep away – Keep a good distance from the other patient dogs. A dog under stress can bite unexpectedly, which definitely would raise the level of stress in the room. Furthermore, exposure to sick dogs might transmit illness.

Stay calm – Dogs are amazingly perceptive to our emotions. Your nervousness and fear will telegraph right down the leash and into your dog’s psyche.

If your dog already is stressed and fearful during vet visits, try dropping into the clinic with your dog just to chat once in a while. This will help your dog desensitize to the unusual surroundings and acclimate her to the clinic’s personnel. A series of positive visits can go a long way toward helping your dog feel more confident when a real veterinary emergency occurs.

Julie Winkelman is a certified pet dog trainer and a certified dog trainer. Reach her at

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