Keeping your Senior Dog Calm at the Vet
Going to the vet can cause anxiety in any dog, but it can be quite traumatic for your senior. Older dogs can become very used to routine and rely on it to comfort them; it can be quite a shock when you must take them to the vet’s office for an exam. However, there are some things you can do to help ease their anxiety at their next vet visit.
- Avoid the waiting room. You can speak with the vet support staff and ask if you can wait in the car until the appointment, weather permitting of course. Sometimes while waiting for an appointment in the office their anxiety can build, waiting in the car until just before the appointment can help reduce this as they are in familiar surroundings.
- Use a calming treat or drops. There are many different calming treats and drops today that work in different ways to help calm your anxious senior dog. Some of these treats contain a milk protein that imitates the calming qualities of the milk puppies receive from their mothers and some drops utilize the calming ability of extracts from select flowers or a herbal formula. Check with your vet on which one is right for your dog and their needs.
- Use a pheromone spray. Pheromone sprays work by mimicking the pheromones nursing dogs release to calm their puppies. They have been shown to help reduce anxiety and are yet another tool to add to your toolkit to help keep your dog calm. You use them by spraying their blankets, bedding and the car prior to going for your vet visit to help provide a more calming environment for your senior dog.
- Bring a distraction. A treat, a toy, even a favorite blanket. If your senior dog has something which helps them feel more secure make sure to bring that with you.
- Book during off-peak times. Try to book your appointment at a quieter time, if possible, since it could be the noise and busyness in the clinic that escalates them. If you are unsure you can always ask one of the clinic's staff to give you a recommendation.
- Consistently book with the same doctor. If possible try and always book appointments with the same veterinarian so your dog can become familiar with him/her. This is not always doable, especially if the appointment is urgent, but when possible having your dog examined by someone they are familiar with will help with their anxiety.
Sometimes it isn’t just one thing, but a few things that work together to help reduce the anxiety your senior dog experiences, such as using calming treats in conjunction with a pheromone spray.
Talk to your vet about your dog’s anxiety, if they are anxious outside of vet visits, they may need something in addition to the suggestions mentioned. There are many different things you can try to help soothe your senior dog’s anxiety, don’t be discouraged if the first thing you try doesn’t seem to work, every dog is different, it may take time to find what works best for your dog's specific needs.
Emily Charlton is a lifelong animal lover drawing on more than 12 years experience in a veterinary clinic.