Visiting the Vet: Dogs Under Stress

Does your dog know that you will go for for a check-up at the vet before you have even brought out their travel kennel? A recent study has found that some dogs experience stress when visiting the veterinarian. Their stress in such situations can make it difficult to keep your dog healthy when they do not feel well, need shots, or are visiting for a check-up. It is important to bring your dog to the veterinarian regularly. Depending on their age, you may need to bring them to the clinic more often. Training your dog to associate a trip to the vet as positive is important to prevent emotional stress or aggressiveness in your dog.

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How Often Should You Bring Your Dog to the Vet

You should bring your dog to the vet regularly, and how often will depend directly on their age.

Birth to One Year: Every month for the first four months and the sixth month

Puppies must be brought in for vaccines every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. This prevents them from getting rabies, influenza and other diseases when they interact with other dogs and the environment. At sixth months, your puppy should visit the vet to be spayed or neutered.

One to Ten Years: Annually

Most dogs are recommended to visit the vet annually for a full body physical. During this period, your dog may need blood tests to make sure they don’t have heartworms. Lastly, your dog may need more vaccines to prevent illnesses (especially if they are outdoor dogs).

Senior Years (10+ Years): Bi-annually

During your dog’s senior years, they should be brought into the vet clinic twice a year to make sure their physical exams return positive results. Blood and urine tests may be needed to keep your dog’s kidney and liver healthy. During this period, any changes in your pet’s behavior should be shared with your vet to prevent any new problems from arising.

A recent study identified that some dogs feel stressed when visiting the veterinarian. Keeping your dog calm and relaxed can make your regular vet visits more enjoyable for you both.

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Signs of Stress in Dogs

Your dog has many ways to express that they are stressed.

Signs of Stress – Eyes

Dogs express that they are stressed through their eyes. When your dog is uneasy, the whites of their eyes may be more pronounced. You also may notice that they intensely stare or excessively scan the environment for threats. If your dog is normally sociable, but seems to avoid eye contact or turn away from people and other canines, he may be stressed. Excessive blinking, or the lack thereof, may also signal a stressed dog.

Signs of Stress – Ears

Your dog’s ears will also signal their level of stress. For example, their ears may become more erect if they are under stress. Alternatively, your dog’s ears may move back and lie closely along their head. Floppy eared dogs will rotate their ears back in a similar way.

Signs of Stress – Mouth

Your dog’s mouth will be another visible sign of your dog’s stress levels. For example, your dog’s mouth may close tightly or turn into a tense grimace in times of stress. A tense grimace may signal that your dog intends to growl, snap, or bite. Lastly, your dog’s whiskers will most likely be more erect when they are feeling anxious.

Signs of Stress – Behavior

Your dog’s body language will also change when they are under stress. They may bark, whimper, whine or growl to express distress. They may also lift a paw or shift their weight away from what is scaring them. Similarly, they may shrink or cower their body to feel more protected. Lastly, their activity levels may escalate, become defensive, or decline to a frozen-like state.

Stress at the Vet

A recent study suggested that a dog’s level of comfort at the vet is dependent on a variety of factors including the environment, their bond with the vet, and the dog’s personality. The study explored the stress experienced by dogs when visiting the vet. They tested how comfortable dogs felt about eating a treat, playing, and socializing both inside and outside of the clinic.

Dogs Are More Stressed at the Vet

The study found that dogs stressed at the vet enjoyed treats and playing outside of the clinic more than inside the clinic. Many owners notice this trend when they bring their dogs to the clinic. The study also found that dogs with behavioral problems reported by their owner, experienced more stress as compared to those that did not. Despite our assumption, dogs were found to be calmer around those they were less emotionally close to or less concerned about.

Training your dog to correlate the vet with a positive experience will help reduce their stress and make keeping your dog healthy easier. By keeping your dog calm, vet’s may more easily treat your dog in the case of an emergency.

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Reducing Stress in Your Dog

Short-Term Stress Tips

There are many ways to reduce stress in your dog. For short-term stress related to a new visitor or a trip to the vet, try the following ideas:

  • Give your dog one of the following calming herbs:
    • Wood Betony
    • Skullcap
    • Passionflower Leaf
    • Oat Seed
  • Give your dog calming aromatherapy
  • Take your dog on fun car rides
  • Choose a vet that connects with your dog
  • Offer your dog a treat
  • Practice at home
  • Remain calm yourself

Long Term Stress Tips

If your dog appears to be stressed for a longer duration, try incorporating these ideas and/or consulting with your vet.

  • Play and exercise regularly
  • Offer your dog high quality, homemade dog food
  • Create a safe, calm, and quiet space for your dog to rest
  • Maintain a balanced routine
  • Play calming music
  • Pet your dog and sit next to them

The next time you must head to the vet, try these stress reducing tips to make keeping your dog healthy more enjoyable and easy.

Do you have any special tips for keeping your dog calm? Share them with us below!

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