Success at the Vet’s Office©

Whether your dog is young or old, big or small, before you take him to his next vet’s appointment, there are many things you can do to help make the experience go smoothly. By practicing these simple procedures at home, you can greatly reduce the stress level of your dog while visiting with the vet. The first exercise is to play with your dog’s feet. While your dog is relaxing, calmly begin petting him. Slowly and gently move down one of his legs. Pay special attention to the foot. Touch each toe, and each toenail. Touch all of the pads. This may tickle, so be prepared for him to pull his foot away! Spread the toes apart and touch in between each digit. If you are successful with the first foot, move on to the next, until you have massaged all four. This exercise will come in handy should your dog need something as simple as a nail trim, or something more involved such as the repair of a pad laceration. While at home, you can also manipulate your dog’s ears. Gently massage the ears from the base all the way to the tip. Once your dog accepts this, begin massaging the inside of the pinna (the flap). Do not put anything into the ear, you may cause damage. This massaging technique will help accustom your dog to the sensation of a routine ear examination and cleaning. Another area of your dog which needs special attention is his mouth. Many veterinarians will perform an oral exam on your dog. They will inspect your dog’s teeth, gums, tongue, and overall appearance of the inside of the mouth. This procedure can help detect abnormal tissue growth, tartar buildup, gingivitis, broken teeth and many other ailments of the mouth. Begin this exercise at home by gently stroking your dog’s muzzle. Slowly lift his lips on both sides of his mouth and gradually introduce slight pressure to his teeth and gums with your fingertip. Once your dog accepts this procedure, move on to opening his mouth. Do not hold his mouth in an open position for longer than a second or two. You just want to open it gently and slowly, and then allow him to close it immediately. Finally, pay special attention to the tail. Amongst other things, manipulation of the tail will allow your vet to take your dogs temperature, perform a rectal exam, and examine a female in heat. Begin by gently stroking your dog’s tail from base to tip. Then apply slight pressure by squeezing the tail as you move from base to tip. Once this is accepted, lift his tail by grabbing the base and

slowly lifting. Only lift the tail until it is level with the dogs back. Raising it any higher can possibly cause damage. While performing any of these exercises, always remember to keep the workouts short and fun. Stay calm, and don’t forget to praise, praise, and praise!! Your dog should enjoy these workouts, as should you!

Part 2 Start HERE!

So, now you’re off to your veterinarian’s office for your pet’s appointment! Once there, many owners like to restrain their dogs while they are on the exam table. Many times, this can be extremely helpful to the veterinarian, or to the person performing a procedure. However, if not done correctly, the improper restraint of an animal can cause more harm than good. Many dogs, when under stress, or in pain, are likely to snap when having even routine procedures done at the vet’s office. When a dog is restrained properly, there should be a high level of safety provided for the veterinarian, the person restraining the dog, and the dog himself. If you are an owner who prefers to restrain your own dog, please keep these helpful hints in mind the next time you visit with your vet! First and foremost, remember to always remain calm in the exam room with your dog. Dogs are extremely intelligent animals and can take subtle cues from you that you may not even know you are giving. If you are nervous, most likely, your dog will be nervous. However, if you remain calm and relaxed, your dog is more likely to remain relaxed. When restraining your dog on the exam table, you should have the dog in a firm, but comfortable position. The most practical position is to wrap one arm under or over the dogs’ mid section (depending on the size of the dog), and wrap your other arm around the chest of the dog, also using this hand to restrain the head. Pull the dog close to you. In this position, it should be virtually impossible for him to bite you while restraining, or the person performing the procedures. This position will also prevent your dog from jumping off of the exam table, which could cause damage to him. If, at any time you are uncomfortable, or you just don’t want to restrain him, request that a technician or an assistant help during the office call. They are trained for this and can usually restrain even the squirmiest of dogs! While your dog is being examined or treated, do not sweet talk or pet a dog that is growling at the veterinarian or staff. By petting him, you are reinforcing that negative behavior; you are not calming your dog, as you might think. Instead, give a firm “No” and reward him with petting when the growling has stopped.

If the safety of the veterinarian, the staff, or yourself is in question, you may want to consider using a muzzle. As I said, many dogs who are not normally aggressive, may try to snap when under stress or in pain. A muzzle does not hurt your dog in any way. It offers some added protection to everyone that needs to approach your dog, including you, the owner. Muzzles can often benefit the dog, as well. Once muzzled, many dogs tend to relax to the point where an exam or a specific treatment can easily be performed. It is as if they know they can’t “win the battle”, so they do not even try. They accept what needs to be done, and they let it get done. Teaching your dog obedience can be extremely useful during trips to the vet. Not only does it give you better control over your dog in a public situation, it gives your dog something to focus on during its examination. If your dog is in a SIT position, he is less likely to jump around and to try and avoid what needs to be done. He will be focusing on his SIT, and hopefully, focusing on you! Practice, practice, practice at home! Don’t wait until you are at the veterinarian’s office to try these things. While you are at home, hold your dog in the restraint position for a few seconds at a time, release and praise. Extend the amount of time you hold your dog as he begins to tolerate it. If your dog needs a muzzle at the vet, buy one for home, and practice. Put the muzzle on for a split second, remove and praise. Again, increase the time as your dog begins to tolerate the muzzle. Always stay calm, and keep the practice sessions short and fun. So, the next time you pack up and head out, remember, keep calm, stay relaxed and be prepared! It can be an enjoyable experience!

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