Dog lovers (me included) like to make our dogs happy and do things that they enjoy. We all know that if our dog hates the trip to the vet, we are less likely to prioritize it. The dogs that have to be dragged in our door are the ones that we see the least. And when we do finally see them, it is more likely to be when they are very sick, so our chances for an ideal outcome are lessened dramatically. How best can you prepare your dog for a wellness visit?
#1 – Teach your pet to not fear travel or the animal hospital.
Acting nervous yourself when you are about to go to the vet is the worst thing you can do. Teach your dog that going somewhere is a good thing. Take your dog with you to other places so that the car is a routine part of daily life. Create an association between travel and the grounds of the vet hospital using treats and praise. Every time your dog is with you, drive to the animal hospital and park there, doling out treats. Call ahead and tell the staff that you will come by and have them come out and praise your dog. Even go into the building, giving treats and praise all the way. Be sure to walk in the front door (sometimes the door is a hurdle itself) and reward once inside. Then leave happily.
Try not to reward fearful behavior. For example, if your dog is hiding and cowering and you talk gently and cajole him, you might be telling him that you are pleased with his fearful behavior. Instead, watch him carefully, when his ears come up or his posture relaxes then it is a great time to tell him what a good dog he is. These training techniques do take some time, but the time is investment in your pets’ long term health and happiness… and yours.
#2 – Bring your pet to the vet on an empty stomach.
This suggestion is twofold. Your pet will be less likely to experience nausea and motion sickness on an empty stomach during travel and he/she will be hungry when we offer our treat/bribes! I always carry treats in my pocket and there are treat containers on every counter at Applebrook. Many of my patients REALLY like the treats we have and will run to me and bury their nose in my pocket. If you can stop by for a treat any time you have your pet with you, it is a great idea because we like to see them at a time when all we have to do is visit.
Drum roll please. The BEST thing that YOU can do to make vet visits easier is…..
#3 – BRING A STOOL SAMPLE from home.
Your pet makes a stool sample every day and if you can bring a fresh sample along with you to see us, it will save your pet the dreaded “fecal loop”. The fecal loop is the instrument we have to use to obtain a sample directly from your pet’s colon. Animals understandably resent this intrusion and it is sometimes uncomfortable for them. Fecal exams are a necessary and important part of our diagnostic panel, so make your pet’s visit easier by bringing a sample along! We are all here because we love animals and we love for them to love us too!