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Take the stress out of going to the vet!

Vet visit-associated anxiety 

What’s that you ask? I suppose it’s like people having ‘white coat syndrome’ when they go in to see the doctor. It’s sadly a fairly common problem in our pets, including greyhounds. This can be particularly challenging for pet owners as all you want is to ensure that your pets receive the best possible medical care.

Greyhounds are sensitive dogs that have been trained to race, and as a result, may be more prone to anxiety and fear in unfamiliar situations, such as a visit to the veterinarian. However, there are several things that you can do to help ease your greyhound’s anxiety and make veterinary clinic visits less stressful.

Photo by Tonia Kraakman on Unsplash

  1. Familiarise your greyhound with your chosen vet clinic

Familiarising your greyhound with the vet clinic can be a great way to help reduce pre-vet consult anxiety. I take a very slow approach to introducing nervous pets to the vet clinic, and have found that positive reinforcement (more on this later) works best.

This might mean bringing along some of your pet’s favourite treats and giving some to your pooch on the way to the vet clinic, in the car park before entering the clinic and whilst in the waiting room. You may choose to do this in several visits, gradually bringing your pet closer with each visit and positive interaction.

It’s best not to force an anxious pet into the clinic as this can increase their anxiety associated with the clinic and make their visit wholly unpleasant. What’s more it means that the treating vet will not be able to do a good job of examining your pet, which is not ideal. Bringing your pet in for ‘friendly’ visits before actual vet appointments can help. It can be a great way to break those negative associations that they may have with the vet clinic and reduce their anxiety on the day of the appointment.

2. Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can also be an effective way to reduce pre-vet consult anxiety in greyhounds. Reward your greyhound with treats or praise for good behaviour during the visit. This can help your greyhound associate the vet clinic with positive experiences and reduce their anxiety. Training treats, especially for the food-oriented hound can be really helpful when training. Remember to only give small amounts though, as too many treats can lead to an upset tummy.

3. Bring familiar items along for vet consults

Bringing familiar items from home, such as a favourite toy or blanket, can also help reduce vet visit-associated anxiety. These items can provide comfort and familiarity for your greyhound during the visit. Alternatively, some dogs do really well with a snug-fitting security jacket when they’re in unfamiliar or stressful situations.

4. Pheromone remedies

Natural remedies, such as calming pheromone sprays or pheromone collars, can be effective in reducing pre-vet consult anxiety in greyhounds. Talk to your veterinarian about safe and effective options for your greyhound.

5. Visiting the clinic at off-peak times

We won’t always be able to decide when we get to take our pets to the vet, but if there is a choice, for example when going in for a routine health check or vaccination, try and book times that are quieter so there are fewer dogs/cats/people in the waiting room that may add to your pet’s anxiety. I recommend telling the clinic beforehand that your pet is nervous, so that staff will give your pet the space they need and take things slowly.

6. Consider pre-visit sedative medication

Photo by The Tonik on Unsplash

Despite all our best non-medical approaches, some greyhounds just don’t cope well in a vet clinic environment, and despite our best efforts can become more anxious with each subsequent visit. In these cases, sedation may be necessary to help your greyhound feel more comfortable during their visit. Your veterinarian can discuss safe and effective options for sedation, if necessary. Most often, these medications are given 30-60 minutes prior to their appointment (and can sometimes even be given the night before as well as the morning of the appointment, too) to help settle their anxiety.

Having sedative medication on board means that your pet is less stressed, and can be better examined during the consultation, resulting in a more complete health examination and overall outcome.

Vet visit-associated anxiety can be challenging for greyhounds and their owners, but with the right approach, it can be managed safely and effectively. By using a combination of the above listed approaches, you can help your greyhound feel more comfortable during veterinary visits and receive the best possible medical care.

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