How to prepare your dog for a visit to the vet
Nobody likes taking their dog to the vet. It is definitely one of the worst things about owning a dog – coping with them being ill. We love our dogs and we want the absolute best for them, so deciding when to go to see a vet can be the first obstacle.
Is it serious?
Here are a few reasons why you need to visit your vet’s:
- Vaccinations/boosters – I’ve talked elsewhere about the importance of vaccinating your dog. Just as with people, it is life-saving and simple.
- Annual check-up – this is usually part of having their booster done and is equally important as it gives you a chance to discuss any minor issues with your vet
- Sickness and diarrhoea – probably the most common reason for visiting a vet. When you have owned dogs for many years you will know that dogs are sick pretty often and it is not an immediate cause for concern. It’s usually because they have eaten something they shouldn’t have done. Throwing up once solves it – no further action required. When it persists and/or is accompanied by diarrhoea, there is a need to take action. Again, experience shows that starving for 24 hours might solve it, or feeding a plain food like boiled rice.
A vet is essential if there is accompanying lethary, if the coat is ‘staring’ ie not shiny, but dull and flat. You should also go to the surgery if you know that something toxic has been eaten (raisins or chocolate for example). Or if you know that an object has been eaten (usually if you have a Labrador this will be the reason and socks will be involved).
You should be aware of the clinical signs of pancreatitis, as this is relatively common and requires hospital treatment. The most common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and decreased appetite.
- Injury – either self-inflicted or caused by others. This mainly includes any sign of limping or change in mobility. Again, experience may mean you can check for a cause (a thorn perhaps?) Or wait and see if it’s just a bruise or underlying muscle damage. You will gradually learn how tolerant your dog is of pain and whether they are behaving differently as a result of this injury. Sometimes rest is what is needed.
- Older dogs require more frequent care and management. Cat the Vet talks about managing our older dogs and asks people to fill in a survey about it. You would be amazed at how much care older dogs can take! Arthritis is probably the most common issue, but most dogs over the age of ten are on at least one type of medication.
Anxiety around vet visits is very common
Why do dogs get anxious when going to the vet? After all, they start off by going just for a check-up and a vaccination. I believe this is mainly because we are nervous. So when you go into your vet’s practice, please try and relax?
Try taking a breath before getting your dog out of the car? Better still, go and book in without your dog, then fetch them and go back in. Talk to the receptionists, who are always lovely. Take a moment to look around and see the setup, admire the toys for sale and see how the waiting area is arranged.
Dogs who don’t often interact with other dogs may feel really stressed by being in close proximity to other dogs, particularly if they are feeling unwell. If the waiting area is busy, wait outside with your dog and ask to be called in when they are ready to see you. Of course this has been happening anyway throughout the pandemic, but I have to assume when writing this that things are returning to more standard practice.
Treats on hand
As with everything else you do with your dog, make sure you reward them for being there. My dogs know that they get treats just for sitting in the waiting area. This morning Luna knew that if she stood on the scales she would get a reward, so she got weighed three times! Bless her.
You can’t reward every few minutes with treats, so make sure you make a fuss of your dog and talk to them. All of this should help you to feel calm as well.
When you get called into the consultation room, you need to be positive about going in, so your dog stays happy too. You need to chat to the vet about what is wrong and then be prepared for your dog to be examined.
I’m sure you spend ages every day fussing and stroking your dog, but how often do you examine them? You need them to be comfortable with you doing this, so that a vet can also do it. Here’s a video of me checking Quin over.
The more often you handle your dog in this way, the more relaxed they (and you) will be in the vet’s. Don’t forget the reward!
Visits without treatment
If you are passing your vet’s surgery, you might like to pop in to say hello and have your dog weighed. Again, the pandemic notwithstanding, you may not be able to do this if it is busy. But it’s worth taking your dog in, standing them on the scales, giving them a reward and leaving. Nice and calm, a positive experience for you both.
The final vet visit
Over 90% of dogs are euthanised. It’s the inevitable conclusion to living with our best friend. We know that when they are suffering, it is far better to let them go, in peace, than to prolong their agony. Fortunately, our very brave and highly qualified vets are able to make this process simple and painless for our beloved dogs.
Please do make the effort to stay with your dog at this time? It is far better for your dog and actually much better for you. Death is part of life, so you should let them go off to sleep in the arms of their most loved person. I’ll stop there. RIP my beautiful Sunshine, Quin’s grandmother, gone in March 2021.
With thanks to my vets at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group, who take such good care of us all.
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.