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HELP! MY GREYHOUND IS AFRAID OF GOING TO THE VET!

DOG AT VETERINARIAN'S OFFICE

Vet visits can be stressful for the beings on both ends of the leash! If we are upset or concerned about having to pass our Greyhound off to vet staff at the curb, our dogs may feed on that anxiety. Our dogs are incredibly responsive to us, often feeding off our emotions. According to Companion Animal Psychology, 30% of dogs are highly stressed while sitting in the waiting room at the vet's office. And why wouldn't they be? Everything is new and they are unsure of what is going on. So, whether your vet’s office is fully open or on COVID restrictions, try to remain calm and confident. Not only will this help your dog to have a better vet experience, but it will also help the visits to be less stressful for both of you. The following tips will help prepare you and your dog for your next trip to the vet’s office.

VISIT FOR FUN

Whenever possible (depending on the level of lockdown your community is experiencing), make casual trips to the vet clinic when you don’t have an appointment. It’s helpful to call ahead so the staff knows what to expect when you arrive, and to make sure you don’t walk into an exceptionally crowded office. Most vet clinics are very amenable to these informal hello visits and welcome people to come and desensitize their dogs there.

While at the office, give your dog a treat, allow the receptionists or techs to give your dog treats, and cheerfully exit, remembering to thank the staff for their help. Making the vet clinic fun and a regular place to visit reduces the stress associated with being in the clinic. Even if you can’t go in right now, it’s still useful to take your dog out so that they are not always going to someplace unpleasant in the car.

PRACTICE TOUCHING

Not every dog loves being handled. Some don’t enjoy their ears or feet being touched, while others don’t like having their mouth examined. Getting your Greyhound accustomed to some of the treatment they will likely encounter at the vets is another great way to make a vet visit a little easier on your hound.

In a routine exam, a veterinarian might look in your pup’s ears, eyes and mouth, listen to the heart and lungs, touch and probe the belly, manipulate joints, look under the tail, take their temperature and check paws, teeth and nails. Pets that are frequently handled like this are less likely to perceive touch as invasive and may even regard the behavior as affectionate.  

In addition, when you regularly spend time poking and prodding your own dog, you’ll be more likely to spot changes such as lumps, swelling, and tenderness that may indicate health problems. Note sensitive or problem spots so you can alert your vet.

When practicing these above tips, be generous with the treats. Treats are excellent for developing positive associations and the more they are rewarded for the acceptance of touch, the more accepting they will be on the examination table.

DON’T WAIT UNTIL A MINOR ISSUE BECOMES MAJOR

To go or not to go to the vet can be a stressful decision. The stress rate skyrockets after normal business hours when your regular vet is closed and you’re considering the nearest emergency facility.

It can be tempting to take a wait-and-see approach to seemingly minor medical issues. This isn’t always a bad choice, if you’re familiar with what’s normal for your dog, and you are in a position to closely monitor him for changes. Pay attention to the big picture and watch for other potential problems. Vomiting and lack of appetite in an otherwise alert, bright-spirited dog could indicate nothing more than his body attempting to rid itself of a dietary indiscretion. Vomiting along with drooling, panting, and general restlessness is a classic sign of bloat, which is an immediate veterinary emergency.

It’s one thing to feel confident in your ability to manage minor issues that crop up after hours in an effort to avoid the higher cost of emergency care. But sometimes waiting can makes things worse; for example, taking a “wait and see” approach with a dog’s limp, thinking it is due to a soft-tissue injury, when the limp actually resulted from a slipped disc, or worse, can result in a drastically worsened injury. By the time you realize it’s not getting better, a dog in this situation could be facing a dire prognosis and you’d be facing a much higher vet bill.

HAVE A FINANCIAL PLAN

Speaking of which, nobody likes to be hit with an unexpected vet bill, but accidents and illnesses happen, and it’s important to be prepared. If you are worried about paying for your dog’s vet bill, that anxiety will spread right down the leash to your dog.

Pet insurance can be a great way to ease the financial sting of costly vet bills. Today’s pet insurance market is broad enough to offer a variety of coverage levels, ranging from plans designed to cover major emergencies with relatively high deductibles and lower monthly premiums, to more comprehensive plans including wellness coverage and lower deductibles, but with higher monthly premiums. It can be a relatively inexpensive way to secure the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are better prepared, financially, to provide for your pet’s medical needs.

If insurance doesn’t feel like the right choice for your family, there’s CareCredit, a credit card designed specifically for health care financing, which offers 0% interest for 6-24 months on an initial charge of at least $200.  Note: the interest rate is high, so you do want to pay it off before the end of the promotional period. More details and options here https://bit.ly/financing-a-big-vet-bill.

COMFORT YOUR DOG

Contrary to what you may have heard, it is fine to comfort your dog if he is feeling anxious. It is still a common misconception that comforting a dog in a fearful situation will reinforce the fear.  It will not, according to Shawn Finch, DVM. In this case, it will hopefully calm your dog and help him realize that everything is going to be OK.

If you think your dog will have to stay overnight, bring along a favorite toy or blanket he sleeps with, or a t-shirt that smells like you, which will give him a little extra comfort.

ANTI-ANXIETY PRODUCTS

Anti-anxiety products may be very beneficial to dogs who become stressed when going to the vet. These products are easy to find both online and in retail stores.

Rescue Remedy or Calms Forte are oral homeopathic remedies for anxiety, sold for people but safe for pets as well. Administer these ½ to one hour before your appointment.

You can also try Lavender essential oil for calming – put a bit on their bed, rub some on your hands then pet them, or sprinkle on a dog bandanna, and put that around their neck.

Adaptil (D.A.P.) is a synthetic appeasing pheromone that comes in a spray, diffuser, or collar. It may help to reduce stress in some dogs. Just note that you likely won’t see a huge change in your dog’s behavior, particularly if the anxiety is severe or has persisted over time. Some vet exam rooms already have DAP diffusers. Apply the DAP spray on the bandanna for portable use.

Calming wraps. Tight-fitting clothing can often help reduce fear and anxiety. The ThunderShirt, for example, provides consistent, reassuring pressure, which often helps dogs feel more secure. Despite the name, these wraps are not just for fear of thunder – they work in many anxiety-provoking contexts. You can buy a Thundershirt online or in pet stores, or click here for DIY instructions DIY Thundershirt: How to Make Your Own Canine Anxiety Wrap (k9ofmine.com).

Treats. If your dog will take treats, come armed with a baggie full of high value (highly desirable) treats. This might include cheese, liver, chicken, or whatever your dog loves the most. Keep in mind, they may be too anxious to eat anything while there, but it is better to come prepared anyway.

SUMMARY

As responsible, compassionate dog owners, we owe it to our canine friends to look after not just their physical health, but their emotional health and well-being, too.  Make the vet as stress-free as possible by reducing risk, comforting your dog when he is anxious, and creating a positive relationship with the clinic. Teach your pet that car rides are not all bad and stay calm.

Allow him to form positive feelings about being handled by practicing in low-stress environments and giving him plenty of his favorite treats while you’re there.  Whether it’s a regular wellness checkup or something more serious, these tips can help make a visit to your pet’s medical health professional less scary.

Greyhound with e-collar and leg cast

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