A vet visit is not typically high on any dog’s list of favorite things. For some, it can be so terrifying that it’s almost impossible for veterinarians to provide important care. As a conscientious breeder, you are in the best position to set puppies up for success during the many vet visits that all dogs will make throughout their lives.
The things that you are already doing will go a long way toward preparing puppies for stress-free vet visits. Early socialization, exposure to new sights and sounds, meeting different people, and handling of feet, faces, mouths, and bodies all help puppies grow to be well-adjusted adult dogs. Even a quick road trip to meet the staff and get some treats goes a long way to puppies having positive associations with veterinarians.
Advise your buyers to include vet visits in the continued socialization of their puppies. Ideally, fun visits with no exam or shots, so the staff can give treats and make a happy fuss over their new friend.
Less Stressful Vet Visits
Increasingly, veterinary practices are incorporating aspects to make patients feel more at ease. These include using food to distract and reward during exams and playing soft, soothing music on speakers throughout the facility. These have a soothing effect on both animals and staff. This is important because animals, especially dogs, are good at picking up on human stress.
Many veterinary offices are painting exam rooms in a soft color instead of glaring white. Some also have installed non-slip mats or rugs. This helps give dogs better footing than they would have on the slippery stainless-steel tables and slick floors. Pheromone sprays may be used, either through a diffuser or by spraying on a mat. Although we are talking about dogs, all animals are taken into consideration. There may be rooms reserved just for cats that may be afraid of dogs.
Some practices have staff certified by Fear Free®, an organization that offers courses to help professionals learn how to make pets feel safe during visits to the vet. Trisha Wilson is the patient care advocate and inventory manager of Shiloh Animal Hospital, a Fear Free practice in Morrisville, NC. To become certified, Shiloh staff must complete an eight-hour online module through Fear Free.
“We’ve made it a priority for almost all of our staff members to go through at least the level one training and to be familiar with the materials,” Wilson says. “This gives our staff the knowledge they need to then help implement the techniques.
Puppy Success, Not Stress
Wilson adds that they also love using food as a means of distraction. Vet visits include peanut butter, treats, or baby food, assuming the owner authorizes it. They also utilize speakers in exam rooms and kennels with the soundtrack Through a Dog’s Ear, which has been clinically proven to reduce stress. When it comes to restraint, Wilson advocates a “less-is-more” approach. Sometimes, that can mean getting creative. For example, some dogs are agitated by being held, so staff must find ways to work around that.
“Since obtaining this knowledge, we’ve noticed that owners are becoming more educated about what a Fear Free experience is, and why we sometimes don’t just ‘get it over with,’” says Wilson. “Pets are also set up with an experience during which they’re not afraid of nail trims or whatever else. That’s because they’ve taken that anxiety down to actually cooperate some. The lasting impacts are best realized when you don’t have an anxious experience down the line. It’s likely because you took care of the pet along the way to prevent it.”
A big part of taking care along the way is early conditioning by caring breeders. It’s important to educate buyers on how to instill confidence and trust in their new puppies. This job is made easier by urging them to continue with the good work they have already begun. Because when puppies can experience vet visits with less stress, everybody wins.