Preparing Your Senior Dog to the Vet

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health, Senior Dogs

Many of us fear going to the doctor or dentist. The office can have an antiseptic smell and we often associate the visit with shots.

It’s no different for dogs. Although taking them to the vet is essential for their health and well-being, a visit can be distressing for our canine companions. Not only will they encounter hundreds of new smells, slippery floors, and strange people, but they may also hear barking dogs, meowing cats, and strange voices. The experience may be overwhelming for even the most mellow dog.

Preparation is the key! Here we offer some tips for the occasional well dog visit or a trip to the vet in case of an illness.

  1. Take your dog to the vet’s office just to get acquainted. New places can be scary just because they are new. Stop by occasionally and get him used to the smells and sounds of this new environment so it won’t be foreign to him when you go for the exam. Let him say Hi to the vet and the other assistants and techs who work there. Have the staff weigh him and allow him to sniff the exam room. This will help him associate the vet with something that is positive.
  2. Get your dog used to being touched everywhere. This is probably more important for puppies, but at home, when it is quiet, you can help your dog get used to being handled for a medical examination. Gently pat him on different areas of his body while he is relaxed. Mimic what your vet will do – touch his eyes, his ears, his teeth, legs, etc. Don’t rush and touch your dog as often as possible. The purpose is to help your dog learn to accept or even enjoy being touched everywhere. At the same time, you can check for lumps, swelling or tenderness that may signify a health problem. Some vets even recommend pinching him to get him used to a needle poke!
  3. Exercise your dog before the visit. A tired dog is a more relaxed dog.
  4. Take your dog for a car ride – not just to the vet. Some dogs never go for a car ride unless they are going to the vet. Your dog may associate a car ride with going to the vet and begin to stress the second you put him in the car. Take some practice rides and go somewhere fun, so he learns the destination of your car ride can be pleasurable.
  5. Teach your dog basic obedience in advance. While you are sitting in the waiting room, your dog will be more relaxed if he knows how to “sit”, “stay” and “come”. Keep him on a short leash and maintain control of him throughout your visit to avoid stress, injuries or skirmishes with other pets.
  6. Bring treats along. Treats can be important for reinforcing your dog’s good behavior. Be generous with your treats and let your dog know when he is doing well with verbal praise as well. A chew toy may be a great idea to keep him occupied for a longer period.
  7. If your dog is small, take him to the clinic in his carrier or crate. He’ll be more comfortable being in his familiar den, surrounded by his blanket and toys. The crate can also be invaluable if your dog ever needs to stay overnight at the vet hospital.
  8. Keep yourself calm. If you are nervous, your dog will pick up on this stress. Your dog can sense your feelings and he will stay calm if you stay calm. Your dog looks to you for safety and security.

Your veterinarian and staff will appreciate your preparation and your ability to keep your dog calm during his visit.