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Fear of a Visit to the Veterinarian’s Office: Does Your Dog Run and Hide? Ease His Anxiety!

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Party Marty here, the fun-loving feline!  No, it is not Friday. It’s Tuesday, but I decided to give that mangy mutt, Jessie, a day off from posting on the blog so that I could speak my mind and enjoy the results.  Today’s topic?  When your dog is afraid of going to the veterinarian’s office.

Just as you probably despise going to the dentist or to the doctor, your dog may become apprehensive about going to the V-E-T. (I had to spell it…you know…just in case that dog in the house heard me!)

Dogs seem to have this sense of when it is time to go to the vet’s. While some dogs are rather chill about it all and just ease through the appointment as if nothing is amiss, other dogs tend to run for the hills at the first indication you are even taking them to the vet’s office.

According to, you probably are sending signals to your dog well in advance of the actual appointment with the vet indicating it is time to go.  Perhaps you get that reminder post card in the mail. (Your dog can easily recall what that card smells like and make the association!)  You may be on the phone making the appointment, relaying your name and your dog’s name in the same sentence. Your dog’s ears perk up. “Oh, no!” he is thinking! “Not again!” And then he dashes off upstairs to hide under the bed.

Even in the little things you do the day of the appointment prior to getting in the car to leave send heavy signals to your dog. He knows what’s what and can anticipate that this is not going to be a walk in the park but a ride to hell. Well, not really, but in his mind, he would rather be anywhere else but where you intend to take him!

So, what can you do to reduce his fears and eliminate the anxiety? When your dog is in a calm and submissive state, practice some of the procedures on him that the vet does – such as feeling his belly and looking into his ears and his eyes. Lift up his lips to look at his teeth and hold each of his forelegs for a few seconds.

Then there is the fear of stepping onto the scales. No, not for reasons like humans have (“OMG! I have gained a few pounds!”), but because the darned platform tends to wobble. So, prior to taking your dog to the vet, if he is small enough, place him on your scales at home. If he is too big, put upon on a low coffee table and make the legs temporarily wobbly by placing something like a matchbook under a leg…of the table, not the dog.  Be sure to stand nearby, but allow him to feel the wobbling table underneath him and assure him everything is okay.

Then there is that high exam table. Good grief!  That would make for a long drop if he fell from it! If you have a high table at home, you can practice getting him comfortable on it. Avoid using the kitchen counter or dining room table, however.  People prepare food and eat there!

If your dog doesn’t take to the high table, then train your vet!  As him or her if it is okay if he/she examines your dog on the floor. Good vets will have figured this out anyway, but it never hurts to ask!

The main thing is to keep your dog calm during the visit. I know – easier said than done – but with a little practice and pre-planning, the anxiety can be reduced. And with you as his calm and confident pack leader, he will soon come to realize that this is not such a big deal after all. Of course, make sure some treats are involved at the end!



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