Waiting at the Vet's Office

Today Tom had a veterinary appointment.  Not routine but nothing major, likely a simple skin infection.  10 days of antibiotics will hopefully do the trick.  Thankfully.

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Tom in harness and leash lying down in his safe place, positioned between my 2 feet.

I find waiting at the vet’s office hard.  Emotionally hard.  I’m not just talking about when seeing a person clearly upset having had to make a difficult decision there, though that is always heart wrenching.  I’m talking sitting waiting at the vet’s office observing, overhearing people interacting with their pets is hard.  Really emotionally hard.

The people who know their pets are stressed but have no idea how to really help their pet feel safer at the vet.

The dogs and cats feeling overwhelmed, scared.

The animals enduring a stressful procedure or event such as getting on the scale or getting a vaccine and no one valuing how hard that was for them.  No real praise, no real support.

Today the hardest for me was right before we were called into an exam room.  A dog was given an intranasal kennel cough vaccine in the waiting room while Tom and I waited.  It was clearly hard on the dog.  After it was administered, the owner ignored the dog.  No engagement, no acknowledgement, no praise, no offering of a pet or a treat.  Just ignored while the dog tried to make it clear that he really just wanted to leave right now please.

I wanted to cry.

It doesn’t take much for a pet owner to have some sympathy for their pet.  To think about how to make this experience easier on them.  To acknowledge all their animal is doing right and how hard they are trying to tolerate it all.

It takes a little more to actively practice low stress handling and husbandry practices with their dog or cat.

It takes a little more than that to practice vet visit prep exercises before hand at home.

It doesn’t take much for a veterinary practice to offer such information and resources to their clients as standard practice.  To empower and encourage each and every client to support, sympathize and help their pet feel safe.  To train their staff and organize their clinic in scientifically valid ways to increase comfort for the animals.  The late Dr Sophia Yin’s company has some of the most widely and well known resources for low stress handling techniques in the veterinary setting.

But all of those things help immensely in increasing a dog’s comfort at the vet and immensely in increase you dog’s feelings of trust and safety toward you.

There are little thing every dog owner consider to make the veterinary setting easier on their pet.  Some of my go tos are:

  • Stop in for a weight only check so the vet doesn’t always mean unpleasantness to your dog.
  • Always bring you dog’s favorite treats with you and give them to your dog generously during your time in the clinic.  Always bring more than you think you might need.   If your dog can’t have food due at that appointment to a procedure or medical reason, bring their favorite toy.
  • Practice having your dog stand or sit still on a bathmat or towel at home.  Bring the same bathmat with you to the visit, place it on the scale then ask your dog to sit or stand on it as you’ve practiced.
  • Train a nose to hand or chin to palm target behavior on cue.  This can be very helpful during exams giving your dog a focus point and place to keep their head.
  • Praise your dog and stay mentally engaged with them throughout the time you are in the vet hospital.
  • If your dog enjoys physical touch and massages, pet and massage them while you wait.
  • If your dog thinks the waiting room is stressful, wait in the car or parking lot with your dog, asking the staff to come notify you when it’s time for the vet to actually see your animal.
  • If your pet is stressed, singing to them can often have an amazingly positive effect I’ve found.  Hum a nice quiet melody while you talk in a relaxing tone to your dog or cat.
  • If your vet has a history of needing to muzzle your dog for added safety, condition your dog to be comfortable wearing a muzzle at home.  You want your dog to see the muzzle and feel, “Yay!  Muzzle time!” not experience fear, anxiety or discomfort.
  • Empathize and sympathize with your pet throughout the experience.  Acknowledge that you know it’s hard and you appreciate all that they are doing to get through the appointment.  And of course remind them you love them very much.
  • Advocate for your dog.  Ask for little de-stress breaks during the exam.  Play little targeting or sit down games while you are talking to the vet.  Ask the vet to move things around in the exam room to increase your dog’s comfort.  For example today I asked the vet technician to grab a no-slip mat for Tom to sit on when we had to do his skin scraping so he’d feel secure sitting there during the procedure.  I knew the slippery linoleum floors would make it harder for him to sit upright and feel safe.  The technician was happy to get it for me and the procedure was done easily with as minimal stress on Tom as possible.
  • Ask for help or further resources to aid in reducing your dog or cat’s stress.  There are many behavioral techniques and skills that can be practiced and conditioned to further help your pet feel safe, secure and cared for during medical events.

Knowledge and awareness are empowering.  Vet visits don’t have to be traumatic for our pets.  Each of us can do something positive about it.

via Daily Prompt: Sympathy

0 thoughts on “Waiting at the Vet's Office

  1. To add to the advocate for your dog point, I would also say ask about what’s involved in various procedures and ask if there’s a different way they can be done. One thing I’ve heard is, “We’re just going to take him in the back to draw a little blood.” I’ve learned to ask, “Can we do it here in the room?” Bax is much more comfortable with us and we’re able to hold him and help to manage any anxiety he is feeling. I’m grateful that our vets trust us and respect our dog to do what is best for him.

    1. Excellent reminder Julia! Yes I fully agree, it’s always good to ask and find alternatives. You know your pet best. Bax is lucky to have you and it’s great your vet is on board. Thank you for commenting and reading 🙂

  2. Wow, this post made me sad in so many ways and also very grateful. Our dogs pull me up the stairs to get into the waiting room. They love going there. Even a post-surgery check up is something they look forward to. The staff there are wonderful and when either of our dogs arrives they come steaming from “out back” for a joyful greeting. Recently, my older Dane needed a series of x-rays. I was encouraged to go out back and be there to make sure he was as comfortable as possible. He recently had aspiration pneumonia due to megaesophagus and needed a midnight emergency visit and I truly thought we would lose him. I was distraught and asked if I could stay with him there overnight if he needed oxygen and I was given the ok, though it never got to that point. The next day they called every two hours for an update. Wow, we really are very lucky to have such a wonderful team of vets, techs and support staff. This post has made me feel very thankful, indeed.

    1. Sounds like you have an amazing vet and clinic. You and your dogs are very lucky! I really like my vet but she is not the clinic owner and the owner’s rather old school outdated in terms of behavior support and low stress approaches. They recently redesigned the clinic and its such a worse set up in terms of animal low stress design it’s rediculous. I’m glad your clinic and staff are so on board with low stress handling, that’s awesome! 🙂

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