How to Calm Your Dog at the Vet – A Help Guide for Pet Owners

Trips to the vet office are every pet owner’s version of the first day at school. Instead of kids crying and reluctant to go to their classrooms, it would be whiny dogs who don’t want to step into the examination table. Every dog owner has experienced this at least once, especially with young pups. This leads us to this guide: how to calm your dog at the vet.

This simple post can save the day, especially for pet owners with very vocal dogs. Also, it will reduce the stress of the pooch when it’s time for their regular vet check-ups.

Why is my dog scared of the vet?

how to calm your dog at the vet
Photo Credits – Dr. Sophia Yin

Well, it’s not actually the vet, but what the veterinarian does that your dog hates. Usually, vets will inject medications, which can be very uncomfortable for your dog. This negative association makes every trip to the vet somewhat stressful for both you and the dog.

Aside from that, the vet’s clinic is a strange place filled with new smells, faces, and other pets. All these stimuli can be overwhelming for a canine, especially those who aren’t socialized well. In turn, some dogs will tuck their tails, hide in a corner, or use aggression to avoid the vet.

Also, dogs that aren’t used to physical restraint will hate the experience. Veterinarians would have to poke and press areas of your dog’s body to check for injuries. Also, you often have to go to the vet when your dog is sick or injured. So when your pooch arrives at the clinic, it’s assuming that it will feel sick again.

Just imagine some kids crying at the dental clinic. It’s the same way with your dogs, but more difficult.

Take note that for your dog to calm down, you, as the pet owner, should also know how to control your nerves. You should have enough patience to deal with your dog’s behavior at the vet’s office.

How to calm your dog at the vet

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Knowing how to calm your dog at the vet is important so the vet visit won’t be too stressful for your pooch. Here are some of the hacks you can use to make each trip to the vet a more worthwhile experience.

1.     Desensitization is the key

Desensitization or getting your dog used to the vet office is the most effective way of making them less stressed. The exposure to the stressor should be a gradual process and at the rate your dog can tolerate.

You can start at home by getting your dog used to physical restraint. This means you’re going to simulate how the veterinarian will place the dog on an examination table. You can start with simple ear and coat inspection while keeping your dog still.

Treats and rewards will help your pooch associate vet visits to something positive. 

During the first actual vet visit of your doggo, ask the veterinarian to do basic examination only. Shots and other painful treatments should be done on other visits. That way, your dog won’t be overwhelmed by the new stimuli.

2.     Make it fun

Sure, vet clinics are far from being fun, but there are some ways that your dog will feel happy while inside it. We recommend going to the vet casually even if your dog isn’t due for an examination. You can arrange these visits with the vet, especially if you have a very anxious doggo.

During off-peak hours, you can drive to the vet and let your dog sniff around. The staff would also be happy to play with your dog for a while if they are not busy.

Letting your dog visit the vet’s clinic socially will allow them to get used to it. This way, you wouldn’t have to drag your pet to the door on your next visit.

3.     Consider house calls

Highly anxious dogs can thrive on house calls. Instead of going to the vet’s clinic, you can look for a vet that can provide house visits instead. This is helpful, especially for dogs that had a traumatic experience in the vet’s office.

If you don’t know where to find vets that make house calls, you can use the Vetted Pet Care service. This platform allows you to search for vets around your area who can provide house calls. Right now, Vetted is available in Los Angeles, New York City, Orange County, and San Francisco.

 Take note that even if you find a vet who can accommodate a house call, you should still make the experience positive for your pet. You wouldn’t want your dog to associate your home to something negative.

4.     Use anxiety aids

Sometimes, you won’t have the luxury of time to desensitize your dog to the vet’s office. In this case, you can utilize anxiety aids instead. This can be medication or accessories that will help calm your dog.

Some of these include relaxing collars, sprays, herbal treatments, and medications that the vet approved. You should only use medications that will relax your dog, not disorient them. The more your dog becomes disoriented, the more aggressive and anxious it becomes.

You can also use a mild sedative at home before driving your pooch to the vet. However, you should keep your dog awake.

Take note that these are just temporary solutions. Training and desensitization are still necessary.

5.     Don’t be as nervous as your dog

While you’re trying to calm your dog, you should also check your anxiety. Always brace yourself for the unexpected. Your dog will try to run away, bark endlessly, and even bare its teeth. During these situations, you should know how to act to diffuse the situation.

Avoid triggering your dog’s anxiety. Move slowly and avoid shouting just to quiet your dog. Shouting and hurting your dog will only fuel the negative association of the pooch to the vet’s clinic.

If you’re on the verge of panic, just breathe deeply and don’t hesitate to ask for help from the staff.  Just pet your dog slowly and call its name calmly. A few treats can save the day here.

6.     Train your dog for some commands

Visits the vet becomes easier if your dog is trained for several commands. Simple commands like “Sit”, “Stay”, “Leave it” and “Come” will go a long way in the vet’s office. This will prevent you from physically straining your dog just to get it to the examination table. Take note that pulling the leash just to get your dog inside is a no-no.

While waiting for your dog’s turn at the vet, you can also practice these drills to keep the pooch occupied. It’s a great way to keep your dog’s mind off the stress of being on the vet’s clinic.

You can also bring your dog’s favorite toy to comfort the pooch during the vet visit.

7.     Don’t use a carrier just for vet visits

Another thing you should avoid is using a specific crate for vet visits. If you do so, your dog will hide the moment you show it to them. We recommend alternating between carriers and the leash. Make the trip to the vet as unpredictable as possible. That way, you won’t have to deal with the struggle in the car.

Also, if your pooch has motion sickness, we recommend taking them to short drives first. Also, go slowly until your dog has got used to it.

Aside from that, drive your dog to fun places like dog parks or the pet store. This way, they won’t associate car rides to going to the vet.

8.     Prepare some treats

Tasty treats always save the day. It’s a great motivation for training and it will also work wonders on the vet’s office. The treats will encourage your pup to follow you and to behave while being examined. Take note that this technique is more effective if your pooch is a little hungry. Still, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to starve your dog before going to the vet.

Each time that your dog responds to your command, give it a treat. You should also prepare a few to give your dog after the check-up with the vet. That way, your dog will be less reluctant on the next trip.

However, you should rely on treats alone. Some doggos shy away from food when they are stressed. Also, prepare for incontinence as some dogs may eliminate out of schedule when they are under extreme stress.

9.     Utilize the dog’s nose

One of the things that overwhelm your dog at the vet office is the new smell. Since dogs have a stronger sense of smell than humans, this is quite a normal reaction.

But instead of thinking about it as a problem, you can utilize this strong sense of smell to calm your dog. In the car, you can diffuse calming oils so your pet will settle down on your way to the vet. However, you should only use oils that are safe for your pooch.

Lavender oil is the most common option since it has a calming effect. However, you should use only one or two drops. Essential oils can be overwhelming too if you overuse it.

10.  Be present!

During your dog’s visit to the vet, make sure that you are beside them. Canines become more agitated if they can’t see anything familiar. Also, dogs with extreme cases of separation anxiety are best accompanied by their owners.

Staying beside your dog is important, especially if it’s undergoing painful treatment. Sometimes, your presence is more than enough to calm a scared and confused canine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much Benadryl can I give my dog?

A: If you’re planning to use Benadryl to calm your dog on your way to the vet, you shouldn’t go beyond 1 mg per pound of its weight. We recommend checking with the vet first to prevent any side effects, much so if your dog has an underlying condition.

Q: Does my dog really need to go to the vet?

A: Yes, routine check-ups at least twice a year is necessary to diagnose any potential health problem. Some dogs need frequent visits to the vet, especially if it’s being treated for a specific condition. As much as you can medicate your dog at home, nothing beats the expertise of a veterinarian.

Q: Do dogs know when they are going to the vet?

A: Some dogs can remember the route to the vet, though most don’t. Still, it’s important to prepare your dog so it won’t behave negatively once you’re in the clinic. Above, we discussed some tips that you can follow on how to calm your dog at the vet.

Q: Do dogs bite vets?

A: During stressful moments, even discipline dogs may snap and bite the vet. Although you are legally responsible for the harm that your dog may cause to other people, vets don’t usually press charges on the owner if the dog bites. After all, it’s an occupational hazard that they should have assumed prior to the encounter with the dog.

Q: What is a fear aggressive dog?

A: A fear aggressive dog is a common sight in vet clinics. This happens when the canine feels cornered or trapped around strangers or an unfamiliar environment. In this case, the dog may bite or exhibit other forms of aggression. You must be beside your dog to comfort it and prevent any negative situations.

Final words

Vet visits are one of the things that dogs dread. Still, there are many ways on how to calm your dog at the vet. This way, the visit will be more worthwhile for you, the dog, and the veterinarian.

As the pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make your dog feel safe. So when the pooch is scared of the vet, make sure that you’re there to appease their anxiety.

Is your dog scared of the vet too? How did you handle the situation? Share some tips with us in the comment section!