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Why Does My Dog Get Scared At The Vets?

Sally Gutteridge
Why is my dog scared of the vet? It’s a common question and one which can cause lots of distress. There are many reasons a dog can become scared of the vet. They might have had a bad experience for example been necessarily forced into a muzzle without physical and emotional preparation. They may have been at the vets because of a traumatic experience which ended with necessary treatment. 

My own vet told me recently that all the dogs were behaving differently since human clients were not going into the building. Due to the Coronavirus rules we are currently having a telephone consultation first, then waiting outside the surgery and the vet is taking animals inside for treatment then bringing them back. She said that the whole place seemed much more relaxed since the waiting room had been completely empty and the behaviour of the animals had become more relaxed too.  

Whilst anecdotal, this response the a necessary change, led me to consider all of the factors which make our dogs scared of the vet. It’s usually in the waiting room that the stress begins, certainly from watching the dogs in there. Could they be reading the stress in others and inheriting it through observation? Even if they have never been through a bad experience at the vet? Are they chaining the learning from previous vet visits together and when we do the same thing for every visit – their expectations are set from day one? Are they sensitised and more sensitised with every visit because nothing about the proves ever changes? 

Co-operative veterinary care is at the forefront of all the mind of all good veterinarians. No excellent vet wants their patients to be scared and forced. If your vet isn’t kind, gentle and keen to take things at your dog’s pace – it might be time to get a new one. If your dog is scared of the vet there are also things you can do at home and take your time doing. Co-operative husbandry, muzzle desensitisation and even mock examinations using positive reinforcement are all good preparation for the vet visit. 

After all if we went to the doctors and they started touching us without explanation or consent – we might be scared of our healthcare too.  

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