This post may contain affiliate links.
This blog post was published in March 2016; it has been updated with new information given the COVID-19 restrictions any of us are experiencing.
We have four dogs and two of them are terrified of the veterinarian; the other two are attention hogs and love any opportunity to get love from humans. This was never an issue because I went into the vet's office with my dogs. They stayed by my side, we see the vet, treats are given, I pay the bill, and we head home. But now, I park my car, call the vet's office, they come out and take my dogs inside without me, and it's not pretty. Not at all.
Prior to COVID-19, I believed that the best way to help a dog get over their fear of the veterinarian is to make trips to the vet that aren't scary. Years ago, a veterinarian suggested that bring my dogs by for a treat and to say hi, so I began a habit of taking my dogs to the bet to be weighed. This ended because life got too busy and I dropped this helpful habit. Now, it just seems disrespectful to interrupt my vet's busy day to help teach my dogs that she's not scary.
In this post, I'm sharing what I'm doing to help my dogs with their anxiety when we go to the vet's office. Please keep in mind that these are the things that work for me when going to a scheduled veterinarian appointment.
1 – Go for a Long Walk
Before a veterinarian appointment, I take my dogs for a long walk. Either near our home or near the vet's office, whichever is best based on how much time we have. If the reason we're going to the vet prevents a long walk (i.e. an injury), then we go for a drive with a couple of stops to smell near the car. Yes, this seems like a lot of work, but it works with my dogs. Going for a walk (or drive) is a great distraction for the dogs, knocks the edge off their anxiety, and makes them a little more cooperative when we reach the vet's office.
2 – Use a Supplement for Anxiety
There are natural supplements that alleviate anxiety. WINPRO offers a chewable supplement called FOCUS that helps with calming. Another option is Ewegurt, which is a supplement made from sheep's milk, which helps with calming. And a third is chamomile. Yes, dogs can have chamomile. I order this herb from KairosforDogs.com and add a spoonful to their meals in the evening to chill everyone out. When using these supplements, I give them two hours prior to a veterinarian appointment and follow up an hour before the appointment. Neither supplement works as a tranquilizer, they just take the edge off for my dogs so that they are calm enough to walk into the vet's office with the friendly vet techs (and not me).
3 – Essential Oils for Calm
I love essential oils and have more than 150; but I only use a few on my dogs. AnimalEO is a line of essential oils formulated by Dr. Melissa Shelton. My favorites for calming are:
- Sunshine in a Bottle
- Boost in a Bottle
I apply 6-8 drops on my dogs' back, starting at the tail and moving to the neck) and then massage the oils into their coat, which also serves as a relaxing body massage that the dogs love and helps me check for lumps, bumps, and other things that their vet needs to check out.
On the way to the vet's office, I diffuse lavender or another calming oil in the car.
4 – Send Favorite Treats Inside
And, sending my dogs' favorite treats inside is always a win for my pack. But what's even more fun is getting to have the Milk-Bone dog treats offered by the vet staff. Treats are treats and because none of my dogs have dietary issues, I don't mind if the vet techs and their veterinarian give them a treat that I don't buy for my dogs. It's a couple of treats – no big deal. And they're being given to instill calmness in my dogs and improve their relationship with their veterinarian. So, if a couple of Milk-Bone dog treats make the visit go more smoothly, then I'm happy to turn a blind eye. And, to be fully transparent, I may have dipped in the dog cookie jar at the vet's office a few times. The dogs love them!
What About CBD Oil?
One of my dogs is on CBD oil almost daily. Rodrigo is 10-1/2 years old and he's slowing down. Arthritis has caught up to my boy and, this time of the year, he has other triggers that have him on edge. We recently lost my sweet girl Sydney, his sister – this is the first time that they've been apart other than vet appointments or me taking one for a drive or walk without the other. And Fall brings windstorms, some heavy rains, and the occasional thunderstorm.
I give Rodrigo one to two capsules of Canna-Pet twice daily to alleviate his anxiety. One capsule helps with day to day anxiety, I add an additional capsule when I have a heads up on storms. It works wonders on him.
So, why don't I give my dogs CBD oil prior to a veterinarian appointment? I don't give my dogs CBD oil prior to a veterinarian appointment because I worry that the CBD oil will alter their blood work results or that CBD oil mask injuries or behavior. This could make it more challenging for a veterinarian to diagnose the issue. If you'd like to use CBD oil, check with your veterinarian first.
What About Dogs with Severe Anxiety?
I'm not sure how our system would work for a dog with severe anxiety. Although our dogs have fears, their anxiety doesn't morph into destructive or dangerous behavior – they just shake and want to crawl into my lap. I'm mostly trying to alleviate their fears to help them make it through an appointment. My concern is that if I force them to consistently face a fear, their mild anxiety will blossom into a serious problem. So I use these products so that we can make it through a vet appointment without the shaking, expression of anal glands (Zoey), or piddling on the floor (also Zoey). Thankfully, Zoey hasn't had these issues in years. So I must be doing something right.