How to have a happy vet visit

Help your pooch feel better about vet visits, from arriving at the clinic to being checked in the examination room.

labrador looking up at vet

Visiting the vet is a fact of life for dogs and their owners. While some of our four-legged friends may not enjoy the experience, it doesn’t have to be traumatic for them. By following our advice, you can help your pooch feel better about vet visits, from arriving at the clinic to being checked in the examination room. 

Get your dog used to being touched at home

Start with somewhere they're comfortable with

Start at home by touching them on a part of their body you know they're comfortable with. This is often the chest or behind the ears. Leave your hand there for no more than three seconds, then give them a treat, and let them relax. 

Then try touching a new area

Gradually move your hand to a new area, perhaps the front leg, for a maximum of three seconds, and give a treat each time. If your dog looks uncomfortable at any point, stop what you are doing. 

Take it slowly

Remember to take this ‘touch and treat’ approach slowly. You’re aiming to be able to eventually touch your dog on their paws, lift up their tail, look in their mouth – all of the things a vet may need to do during an examination. 

Increase the time

Very slowly, you can lengthen the time you leave your hand on them, building up from three to 10 seconds. 

Tips when booking a consultation

Due to a rise in people getting dogs during the pandemic, vets across the country are stretched thin. This has resulted in many owners finding it more difficult to get a consultation for vet care, vaccinations and procedures. 

We recommend that if you have concerns about your dog, you should ring your vet practice directly for advice. While waiting to be connected, you can also use your vet’s online symptom check (if available), and our list of signs that your dog should see a vet, to assess how urgently your dog needs to be seen.

Tips for the waiting room

  • When you visit the vet with your dog, try bringing their favourite toy, blanket, or both. This should help them feel more relaxed and secure. 
  • If you can, sit well away from the door. Dogs can find it difficult to relax near this busy area, so the further away you can be, the better. 
  • It can also be helpful to make sure your dog is facing away, and spaced out from, other dogs. That’ll be easier if you make an appointment for a quieter time at the vet practice. 
  • Gently encourage your pooch to focus on you. This will help them avoid eye contact with other dogs, which is often a cause of tension or frustration within the confined space of a waiting room. 

In the examination room  

At the vet, you are your dog’s best friend, and they are relying on you to speak up for them. If they get stressed or begin to growl in the examination room, you could politely but firmly ask your vet to stop what they are doing.

Both your dog and your vet will thank you for speaking up. Ignoring your dog or telling them off could make the situation worse. 

Growling, or tensing up, are your dog’s way of saying ‘I am really uncomfortable!’ but your vet might be so absorbed with examining your dog that they don’t notice. It’s important to tell your vet what’s happening – after all, you’re the owner, and know your pet best. 

A dog may bite during a vet examination because the owner and the vet ignored the dog’s growling, and the dog felt they had no other way to show how unhappy they felt in that situation.

Being aware of the different ways your dog is communicating with you will help to make sure every visit to the vet is a happy one. 

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