After making that doctor appointment you’ve been putting off, the dread begins to build. We’ve all been there. No matter how awesome your doctor is, no one jumps for joy at the thought of sitting in the examination room.
But did you know dogs can feel that same anxiety when going to the veterinarian? Dogs may not speak the same language as us, but they can pick up on shifts in your mood and they tend to know when they’re being rounded up to go somewhere.
One of the keys to de-stressing your pet’s trip to the dog-tor is to try to stay calm yourself.
When humans transition from one emotion to another, our body language changes, different hormones are emitted, and our tone of voice alters. Research shows that your dog can pick up on these shifts, so it’s up to you to set the mood. When you’re happy, Fido knows to be happy. When you’re anxious, Fido begins to feel less secure in their environment. It’s not an easy ask, but it’s one that works.
So, the first step to helping your doggo be at ease for their trip to the local vet is to set a positive, calm tone. A shift in your mood may not be all it takes to get your pupper comfortable with their upcoming visit, though. And that’s okay.
Similar to humans, each dog comes with their own personality, characteristics and needs. There’s an array of calming methods you can try to get your pet ready for their upcoming vet visit.
Science tells us that dogs think through their nose. So, try adding calming pheromones to your home and car before the appointment. Synthetic pheromone products release dog appeasing pheromones (DAP) to provide your furry friend with a sense of calm and well-being.
There are a wide array of synthetic pheromone products including Adaptil Calm Home diffuser or ThunderEase Calming Dog spray. You can also find pheromone edible treats or wearable collars. There are different pheromone products for different species so be sure to pick up one labeled for dogs, though!
Lastly, note that there’s not a one size fits all for Fido in this category. It’s worth exploring different pheromone products specifically designed for dogs. You may notice your doggo relaxes better with a diffuser or they may really warm up to a pheromone releasing collar.
Overcoming Car Anxiety
Do you or someone you know get nauseous while riding in the car? Many dogs struggle with motion sickness as well. What you may have thought was a fear of the car may be your doggo’s way of saying, “This contraption makes me feel sick when I get in it.”
Help your dog feel more comfortable riding in the car by facing them toward a window. Many veterinarians say it’s comforting to most dogs if they can see outside during the travels.
Also try limiting food at least a couple of hours before car trips to help prevent tummy woes. If you have a dog that truly gets motion sick – it is best to ask your veterinarian about antinausea medications, as motion sickness may lead to a behavior problem and an increase in fear and anxiety if it continues to occur.
To soothe more mental anxiety with a long-term approach, we recommend teaching your dog to love the car. It’s best to start when they’re puppies, though. Your mileage may vary with older, set-in-their-ways dogs. If your dog isn’t used to regular trips in the car, they may only associate the car with a trip to the vet. Start to take them for short rides to other, happier places. Get a pup cup. Go to the dog park. Eventually, the car will be a good thing, in their mind.
Fight the urge to pet
It’s human nature to want to comfort your pet when they’re nervous. We totally get it. However, try to resist the urge to pet them and tell them everything is okay. Oddly enough, these actions show your dog their nervous nelly feelings are warranted. It’s like rewarding them for their anxious behavior.
Create a stress-free environment by showing your pet they don’t have to be sick to go to the vet. Call your veterinarian to see if you can stop by just to have the staff pet your dog and give them a treat. By doing this a few times, you’ll teach your furry companion that changes in their environment do not have to be stressful. The vet can be a rewarding place with people that care about them.
Comforts of home
When loading the car, don’t forget to take along your pup’s favorite items. This could include favorite treats, a favorite blankie or their favorite toy. Not only are these items comforting for the car ride, but they can also be soothing while at the vet.
If your furry friend isn’t relaxed enough by these gestures, ask your vet if they can give them their favorite treat. This friendly action could help get your animal and the vet off on the right paw.
Take it slow
Some dogs will take one look at their surroundings and let you know they’re not going anywhere. However, the key is to not drag your animal out of the car and do not yank on their leash. Be gentle when removing them from the car or carrier.
If your dog is known to experience conflict, fear or anxiety while either riding in the car or visiting the vet, talk with your local veterinarian ahead of time about additional options to make visits more pleasant. These are common situations that your vet deals with on a regular basis. Your veterinarian can help ensure your pet’s visit is the best possible experience for everyone involved.
With time, we hope you see positive progress during Fido’s vet visits. Like most situations, patience and understanding will be key.
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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.