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10 tips for a stress-free visit to the vet

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
10 tips for a stress-free visit to the vet

Going to the vet can be stressful for your pet – and you! But being prepared is the key to ensuring a stress-free visit for both of you. Follow these tips for success.

1. When selecting a veterinarian, remember that all veterinary hospitals and veterinarians are not the same. Make it a priority to find one that matches your ideal of customer service, quality and philosophy. It might not be the closest to your home but the drive will definitely be worth it. Look for a veterinary office that is calm and inviting, to ensure a stress-free experience. The more comfortable you are, the more accepting your dog will be.

2. When scheduling your appointment, tell the receptionist what you are coming in for and if your pet has a certain symptom. Most veterinary offices will schedule longer appointments for sick pets or attempt to get sick animals in earlier in the day to get problems dealt with as quickly as possible. Make sure you arrive on time – your veterinarian will appreciate it and this helps to keep the schedule running smoothly.

3. While most veterinarians will try to stay on time, keep in mind that emergencies happen, and be patient if you have to wait. Think about how you would feel if your dog needed emergency care.

4. If your pet has never been to the vet before, try a few practice trips where all you do is meet and greet. This is a great thing to do for your puppy, and the hospital staff will most likely give her some treats to reinforce a positive experience.

5. Before the appointment, keep a diary of your pet’s actions and behaviour, and make a list of questions. This ensures you remember everything you want to ask. Know what type of food your pet eats. Bring the bag or recipe with you in case it’s relevant. Bring a list of medications, including prescription drugs, herbals and supplements – you may also wish to bring the bottles in case your veterinarian asks for them.

6. Bring a stool sample. All vets are fascinated by poop — it tells us a lot about our patients! You can collect a recent specimen in a clean plastic container. Don’t forget the lid.

7. Whenever possible, stay with your pet during the examination to help calm her. She knows you best and will feel better having you around. Stay calm and relaxed during the exam so your dog feels reassured. Breathe deeply and relax. Remember, a few moments of discomfort for your dog could prevent her from developing a preventable disease. Or it might detect a hidden illness that your veterinarian can treat early.

8. Turn off your cell phone in the exam room. It is difficult for your veterinarian to examine an animal if you’re engaged in a phone conversation or texting, or if your phone is constantly ringing or buzzing. It can be an additional source of concern to your pet as well.

9. If your pet is particularly anxious, try Rescue Remedy or another flower essence or herbal calmer before your visit. Rescue remedy is given orally, wiped on your dog or diluted with water and sprayed in your car. DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) collars may also help to reduce stress.

10. While your dog many never love going to the veterinarian’s office, with a little patience and preparation you can certainly set the stage for a stress-free experience.

Questions to ask your veterinarian

  • Is my pet at the appropriate weight?
  • Am I feeding the appropriate food? If not can you give suggestions and amounts?
  • Which vaccines (if any) does my pet actually need?
  • What is the best parasite preventive for my pet given his/her lifestyle?
  • What tests/wellness procedures does my pet need given his age?
  • How much exercise should my pet get?
  • Can you recommend a good groomer, boarding facility, trainer?
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Dr. Janice Huntingford is a 1984 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, and a Board Certified Specialist (Diplomate) in Canine Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine (DACVSMR), only one of three in Canada. She is certified in Animal Chiropractic, Animal Acupuncture, and Chinese Herbal Medicine, and is a Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner. In 2007, Dr. Huntingford opened Ontario’s first salt water canine therapy pool and canine rehabilitation centre at her clinic, Essex Animal Hospital, in Essex, ON.


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