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Pet Preparedness Month - Prepping for Vet Visits

No doubt, the vast majority of pets find Vet visits stressful in some way.

Whether it's strange smells, being handled by someone strange, or having to stay for the day, or overnight.

The good news, is there are lots of things we can do to prepare our dog!

I would recommend finding out whether there are any Fear-Free Certified Vet practises or Vet staff locally to you.

'Fear-Free' is their 'middle name' (ie, it's second nature, and they always work in a way to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress (AKA 'FAS')!

The first thing to do, is to openly communicate with your Vet practise. Let them know if you feel your dog might be anxious during a visit, or if they've had a negative experience at a previous practise. Providing this honest feedback can give them the opportunity to set up their appointments to be as stress-free as possible, and make things safer for them, and for your dog.

Does your Vets practise provide Familiarisation or Social Visits?

These can be great, as your dog can visit without anything 'medical' being done. They can have a good sniff around and explore, inspect some of the equipment, and hopefully, even have some treats from the staff - a perfect way to help win your dog over, and start desensitising them to the environment! Repeat these visits as often as you can, ahead of any important visits!

Another beneficial thing to request, is longer appointments (if available). These may cost slightly more, but it will allow the Vet longer to carry out procedures and health check, and take things at a pace your dog is more comfortable with, rather than being rushed.

You could also ask if there are any quieter periods of the day, so there are less people and other animals around.

If your dog is reactive to other dogs or people, the practise may allow you to use a separate entrance, so you and your dog can bypass potential triggers - your dog will feel like a true VIP ('Very Important Pup')!!

Rather than balancing on the table, could your Vet check your dog on the floor, where they'll likely feel more comfortable and safer? Could you bring a non-slip mat or portable bed from home, which will have a familiar scent on?

To ease your dog's anxiety, you could support them with things like Pet Remedy, a natural calming product, which can be spritzed on a bandana, and even on your clothing! There are also pheromone products, and calming supplements - we love the valerian ones by Dorwest.

If natural supplements alone aren't quite enough, have a chat to your vet about Pre-Visit Pharmaceuticals (AKA 'PVP's'). These are calming/lightly sedating (nothing extreme, so don't worry!) drugs which can be prescribed, which you may be asked to administer the evening before, and the morning of their appointment, which can help take the edge off their anxiety, and make handling them a better experience for all involved!

It's important we advocate for our own dog, as we know them best. Watch their body language;

  • Has their body tensed up?

  • Has their tail stopped wagging, or doing a slow wag?

  • Are they showing the whites of their eyes?

  • Are they panting, not just because they're hot, etc?

Tell your Vet if you think your dog would benefit from a short pause.

I always 'arm myself' with a tube of doggy pate to provide a tasty distraction for my dogs, so they often don't notice that anything else is going on!

When our youngest went in to have X-rays, I made time to stay with her, both before & after. Because she's an anxious dog, she had doses of PVP's the night before, and the morning of her X-rays. Before having her general anaesthetic, she had a sedation, which made putting the cannula in her arm stress-free (this is an extra step they can take with anxious animals). To administer her sedation, because she's still not hugely happy wearing a muzzle, the nurse rolled up a fluffy towel, which I held around my dog's neck, whilst the nurse administered the injection - my dog was a superstar, and the whole process was as stress-free as it could be.

Muzzle training is always worth starting, particularly to prepare for emergencies, when we may not be able to put some of these steps in place, which will help to keep everyone safer.

So, to summarise some key points;

  • Advocate for your dog & be their voice

  • Book familiarisation visits

  • Schedule longer appointments

  • Bring bedding or a mat from home

  • Utilise natural calming products &/or PVP's when appropriate

  • TREATS! Always bring treats (apart from when instructed not to, ie before a procedure!)

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