My name is Kim and I have been an Animal Health Technician (AHT) at Royal York Animal Hospital since 2001. I am also very involved and passionate about dog training. Nine years ago I started flyball with my now 10 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, “Jasmine” and then “Zip” my 7 year old Whippet Mix. Jasmine and I also dabbled in agility and now that has turned into an obsession for me with my youngest dog, “Switch” a Border Collie mix. Also at my home and usually on the couch is Casey, a 12 year old Lab mix breed rescue. I have had many struggles with my current and past dogs and it has fueled my desire to learn as much as I can about dog training and behaviour as well as the fact that I have found that dog training is just plain fun!
I wanted to write a blog about the stresses of bringing your dog to the veterinary hospital. This may seem such an ordinary thing on the one hand but it can be stressful for more dogs than you think. As a technician, I see it every single day I am at work! While some dogs come racing through the front door and are excited to say hello to everyone, there are almost as many that are a little less enthusiastic and some are even fearful. Not every dog thinks that coming to the vets is a fun experience.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to prevent or decrease stressful veterinary visits for both you and your dog. Ideally you can start preparing when your dog is a puppy but it is never too late.
Tips to prepare your dog for a less stressful to the veterinary hospital:
1. Come by the veterinary hospital for a “visit”
Just drop in to say hello when your dog doesn’t need to see the veterinarian. Have you dog sit on the weigh scale for some favorite treats, have a visit with some of the hospital staff and then go on your way to the park.
2. Practice “physical examinations” at home
Have your dog sit quietly and then gently lift his ear flap, look in the mouth, pick up a paw, run your hands along the entire body and legs. Use some tasty treats and make it a fun game.
3. Get them comfortable with crates/kennels
The reality is that most dogs at some point in their lives will have to be admitted to the hospital even if it is for a short period of time. Their visits can be much less stressful if they are comfortable in a crate or kennel. Having a dog that is relaxed and comfortable in a crate also makes housetraining much easier and keeps your pet safer when travelling in the car. As a technician I can tell you how heartbreaking it is to see a really sick dog who must be hospitalized and needs to be in a hospital kennel for treatment but is so completely stressed out just from being in the kennel. Conversely, dogs that are comfortable in kennels have a much easier time adapting to the added stress of hospitalization and treatment.
Waiting room etiquette:
- EVERY dog should be leashed while in the WAITING ROOM from the bouncy puppy looking for friends to the experienced, award- winning obedience dog. Often other people’s dogs are part of the stress factor for your own dog or vice versa.
- A veterinary hospital is not the place to socialize dogs. Many pets are already stressed and as a result may be fearful & irritable. Some are sick or injured. Ideally we recommend a 4-6ft traditional leash and not retractable leashes which can become tangled around fingers and bodies causing harm or allowing your dog to approach others that may not be quite as interested in making friends.
- Please also be respectful of cats in carriers as an inquiring nose, no matter how friendly, can be terrifying to the carriers occupant.
In the exam room:
- Once in the examination room allow your dog to sniff around and familiarize themselves with the room.
- Stay as relaxed as you can yourself as dogs are experts at picking up on our moods and body language. The more relaxed and upbeat you are the less stressed your dog will be.
- A bandana sprayed with Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.) (ADAPTIL) can decrease anxiety in some pets.
I hope this article has been helpful and I hope to see you and your happy, relaxed dog at Royal York Animal Hospital soon!
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