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Stress-Free Vet Visits - And 101 Golden Remedies

 Reviewed 24 May 2019 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> Your dog fearful or aggressive at the vet?

This topic has much wider implications than it seems

And that's why stress-free vet visits deserves its own Periodical.

"You probably already know that stress is a killer. Just about every major disease has stress as one of its contributing factors".

* This bit is a direct quote from Dr. Frank Shallenberger's teaser report "The World's Most Effective Way to Melt Away Stress" on his Second Opinion Newsletter website. Shallenberger is a mainstream-critical people doctor (MD, not DVM).

The statement however is not true, or at least not accurate. It should read: "Just about every major disorder has stress as one of its contributing factors", despite that stress aggravates diseases too.

In fact, STRESS triggers a LOT of defects, and causes even more disorders.

From a to v* - allergies to von Willebrand's defect - so many conditions start or worsen with stress!

* I couldn't think of something common that starts with z, sorry. wink

But you know what?

Stress is more than a killer. Stress is a terrorist, a mass killer both in people and in dogs in the western hemisphere:

More dogs and more people die from stress-related defects and disorders than from injuries and diseases COMBINED.


And even though in many cases stress does not cause the illness, it always makes it worse. Because: stress impairs all 12 body systems

12 body systems

In fact, body systems is a topic so helpful to understand in terms of dog health and people health, let's make it the topic of another MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL on its own.

All the health implications aside, the magnitude of behavior implications of stress you (hopefully) understood already in the All-for-Nothing Periodical The PRIME SECRET about Dogs.

Health and Behavior problems with their dog - for dog owners there's almost nothing else really. This is why stress indeed is the Number 1 thing to avoid if you want to have a happy and long life with your dog.

The less you observe this advice as regards accepted Pack leadership, the more time and money you will be spending at pricey dog behavior consultants and at the veterinarian! eek

And the more you visit the vet, the more important this Periodical is for you.

No, this last sentence is not entirely true: There is a point, when you visit the vet very, very often, where the vet visits will be routine for your dog, just like getting dinner. lol

At that point you wouldn't need this Periodical, as your dog will either be totally calm or totally thrilled to see the vet! And you will be totally out of money. rolleyes

Why Stress-Free Vet Visits Matter

That is a remote possibility though. Ask any dog body language educated(!) veterinarian technician: Most dogs show clear signs of fear or of aggression at the vet, with fear aggression being common.

Few dogs are calm and relaxed.

vet waiting roomThat's no surprise really. Imagine just for a minute you are a dog:

So one day, your owner suddenly takes you to a place where - you smell that(!) - there have been hundreds of dogs before. And you smell that all those dogs felt fear or aggression while they were at that very place where you are now with your owner. evil

Did you, could you, imagine this before I pointed it out?

Either way, you don't need to be a dog to add two and two together: You immediately understand that where your owner brought you, that must be a terrible place!

End of "imagine", even if you took less than a minute.

Side Effects of Vet Visits

Finally, don't overlook the side effects of stressed vet visits:

  • Where the vet doesn't feel safe with your fearful or aggressive dog, the vet will either give a general anesthetic or have the vet technicians restrain your dog before the examination
  • The first (anesthetics) is an avoidable intoxication of the body, with its possible health implications
  • The second (restraining) leaves you to deal with a psychologically traumatized dog, with its likely behavior implications
  • The vet office or clinic is not a good place to socialize a dog, a bad experience at the vet can trigger or perpetuate dog-dog aggression
  • A first stressed vet visit usually leads to the second being even worse

boy learnedOnce you understand all the above, you will better appreciate how important it is that we make vet visits as stress-free as possible.

The key requirement

The key requirement for us as dog owner is that we must be the dog's accepted Pack leader, so that the dog knows that (s)he can trust our decisions and actions. This of course presupposes that we can be trusted.

  • Thus we won't raise unfunded expectations, eg: "Oh my good boy, today you're going to have a wonderful time" when in fact the dog then learns (s)he's being restrained while being hurt.
  • And we won't use the vet visit for obedience training, eg: "Be quiet!" when the dog whines or barks because (s)he feels insecure despite our presence.

Think how counterproductive such behavior is. Don't assume "the dog can't understand this situation anyway", instead fully take in what this dog expert says:

In other words, the key is not to have a Pack conflict as experienced by the dog add to the stress at the vet. Become the accepted Pack leader before you visit the vet.

Early start

If you get/got a puppy, don't waste time. Make use of your chance to start early! On the second day you have your pup, immediately begin to prepare your dog for stress-free vet visits, as per these chapters here.

What this expert only indicates in this teaser audio snippet is scientific proof and explained in the respective Interview and Review. So, avoid harming your pup by delaying socialization, here with a veterinarian:

Start vet visit practicing on the second day you have your puppy.

DIY Vet Visits

Although you are not the vet, simulate a theater performance of being the vet: Do a full body check of your dog, similar to what a quality vet will do on the day of the appointment.

Do make your DIY vet visits a special occasion, let your dog feel that the full body examination is something special to enjoy. Sort of a treat at a certain point in time, on a certain day.

Be totally calm before, during, and after this exam treat.

This is what a good vet will check during the physical examination - and a quality vet will do more than the physical exam:

vet exam

For this exam the vet will use a few instruments, most of which a normal dog owner household doesn't have and doesn't need. With one exception:

A stethoscope is very helpful, particularly when we have a puppy.

And even though initially you will not know which sounds are abnormal, with practice and comparisons over time a stethoscope proves to be a great diagnostic DIY tool that costs next to nothing. So get one now and benefit forever.

DIY Dog Examination

Next, this is what we can - and should - do as DIY dog examination:

DIY dog exam

So, we will inspect the dog's body counter-clockwise, starting with coat inspection near the hip, moving via head, chest, and abdomen, and ending at the tail (for hygienic reasons the tail always is the last inspection).

And, not to miss any body part, we will systematically move once around the body, as shown in the image (between step 6 and 7, we ask the dog to roll over):

  1. Checking coat and skin of the upper body (from the hip towards the head) for parasites, rashes, lesions, hair loss, lumps and bumps
  2. Checking ears for mites, infection, discharge, and smell
  3. Checking eyes for dehydration, infection, clarity, and discharge
  4. Checking nose for discharge, rashes, and lesions, and checking mouth: dehydration, teeth, gums, pierced skin, and bad breath
  5. Checking chest for parasites, lesions, hair loss, lumps and bumps
  6. Checking shoulders down to legs and paws: parasites, rashes, cuts and lesions, lumps and bumps, calluses, toenails, interdigital space, and paw pads
  7. Checking abdomen for parasites, bruises, lesions, lumps and bumps, and hair loss
  8. Checking tail (anus and under the tail) for parasites, rashes, and discharge.

If you are the dog's accepted Pack leader, your dog will let you gently touch all body parts. You can't anticipate which part may hurt, hence always touch gently like the vet would.

In fact, this DIY dog examination is meant to replicate the experience your dog will make during the few minutes of the physical exam itself - while for all the other experiences at the vet (smells, stressed dogs and stressed people) you cannot much prepare your dog.

But staying calm during the exam will avoid stress, anesthetics, and restraining!

And, it may even make your dog curious for the next vet visit, yes. smile

scared GSDSome (but not all) veterinarians will allow you to be with your dog, subject to what needs to be done, and subject to what experience the vet had with prior dog owners.

In this case, gently place one hand on the dog's shoulder and the other hand gently against the side of the mouth.

If you are the dog's accepted Pack leader(?) this will calm your dog and prevent that the dog snaps at the vet or technician, say upon pinprick or when they touch a painful body part.

Note that with a really good vet and a well-prepared dog, your presence will even be sufficient during dental treatment - where all ordinary vets will sedate the dog.

But then, if you look well after your dog, dental treatment won't be needed anyway, except in case of mouth injury.

Preparing the dog with the DIY dog examination is the key here to avoid stress during the veterinary examination, as much as possible.

Canine Vital Records

Make sure you record all your dog's details in our unique Canine Vital Records sheet that you received earlier. Take the Canine Vital Records with you to the vet:

  • so that you can answer questions of the vet/technician
  • and so that you can add any new information you gather at the vet to your records to keep all dog information in one place.

Other Preparation

If you combine your DIY dog exam with a few minutes of dog massage, then there is no doubt that your dog will indeed experience the entire session as a treat!

* Two top books on dog massage (each with different strengths) are:

Finally, don't forget that all your (more frequent) dog care sessions also contribute a LOT to making your dog calm during vet visits: Ear care, Eye care, Mouth care, Paw care, and (to a lesser degree) even Grooming. That is, if you perform them in a calm way in a relaxing, quiet environment. wink


You probably guessed it: Regularity of your DIY dog exam - as well as regular vet visits: every 6 to 12 months MAX - is absolutely necessary in order to prepare your dog for stress-free vet visits.

A good rule of thumb is: Give your dog the treat of a DIY dog exam once a week - which is great for both dog vet preparation and diagnostic purposes.

With practice (after the first two or three times), the entire DIY dog exam as shown above takes less than 5 minutes. Even if you diagnose problems, it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes - during which you decide whether the dog needs to see the vet or not.

When to see the vet

For this decision, Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook is your foundation. At least if you find medical texts as easy as I do.

If not, you may prefer more illustrated layman books like the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health.

Preparation on the day

Next, what can we do on the day of the vet visit, in order to prepare our dog to stay calm during the upcoming experience?

  • As with ourselves, dogs too need sufficient sleep to be calm - so let your GSD get enough sleep in the night before the vet visit
  • Likewise, dogs need sufficient drinking water to be calm!
  • From SSCD to Collar Freeze and beyond, look at all the Sedatives under Energy Tools in the Dog Training Toolkit - there exist so many more tools how to make your dog feel calm and relaxed
  • Whether or not you perform our unique Feeding Routine every day, make sure you perform the Feeding Routine during the meal before the vet visit (and the day before as well) - this will help your dog enormously to copy your relaxed behavior during the vet visit
  • If you have time before the vet visit, 10 - 15 min dog massage will have a lasting calming effect too (see above)
  • Avoid food treats before the vet visit - and generally wink - food treats are a Stimulant, not a Sedative

How we behave at the vet office

Another important consideration is that we mentally prepare ourselves how we want to behave at the vet office - because that makes it much more likely that we then behave that way, instead of getting caught up in predictable stress factors at the vet.

Predictable stress factors - and how to avoid them

  1. On the vet's car park, many dogs will have relieved in the past (oh!), and your dog will smell that and will want to sniff. - Do NOT let your dog sniff there: very high infection risk!
  2. To avoid all this sniff stress, try to park rather nearby and let your dog sniff and relieve nearby. And when you then walk to the vet office, keep your dog on a really short leash. Obviously you must have done your Leash Training already.
  3. If your dog is not calm before you enter the vet's premises, perform some SSCD right there until your dog is calm. Since the dog is on a short leash, there's no chance to sniff anywhere.
  4. In the waiting area of the vet office, always keep your dog on the short leash, without pulling or such stress nonsense.
  5. If your dog is aroused in the waiting room, you can give your dog a gentle neck massage right there
  6. If another dog's barking, whining or whatever makes your dog stressed, perform the Collar Freeze right there until your dog calms down
  7. Make sure your dog gets enough drinking water while you are waiting at the vet, but to avoid cross-contamination I would always take our own featherlight fabric dog bowl with me, place it on my lap, pour some water inside from a bottle I take with me, and let the dog drink from that - rather than from some heavily used bowl standing on the floor 😕
  8. Do NOT needlessly ask your dog to "SIT!" - makes no sense, and all the less at the vet. Indeed, the SIT command must be one of the most stupid, useless things in the dog world. I wouldn't use it. wink
  9. If you have to wait and your dog wants to sit or lie down, you may want to place an old washable blanket on the floor next to you
  10. If you have a small dog or GSD puppy, you may well want to keep the pup on your lap - but not after having been on the floor eek
  11. I use antibacterial paw wipes, and not only for the paws. smile

All of this should happen in a calm way, being your routine behavior, thanks to your mental preparation NOW.

Note that this list is good to go to the average vet office - if you think that your vet's office is always hygienic then you may not need to follow each of the above points.

For any and all of this, you should now see why being your dog's accepted Pack leader really is the key requirement, as shown at the beginning.

If your dog feels unsure about your Pack position, or if your dog notices that you feel insecure (or stressed), then your dog will likely be stressed at the vet, regardless how much preparation as per above you may have done. neutral

What we do after the vet visit

A few notes on post vet care:

  • Checking the Canine Vital Records sheet: Any data to add, to delete, or to correct?
  • What was the vet's diagnosis? If applicable, what was the suggested treatment? Did the vet prescribe any lab medication? For what? Do we know enough to decide if we really want to buy them and use them on our dog? If not, we will do some research. Right?
  • What else did the vet have for us? Did he successfully sell us some kibble bags or gadgets or tick collar or dog health insurance, or whatever? Are we happy with that?
  • What dog care instructions did the vet give us? A lot of rest, or change in diet, or change in exercise regime, or does the dog need to wear or get something special for a while?
  • vet loveDid the vet recommend some "vaccination booster"? Did he discuss a prior titer at all?
  • Do we feel comfortable with this vet? Do we want to see this vet again?
  • How does our dog seem to feel about this vet? Was our dog treated well? Does (s)he look happy?

So, after the vet visit it's more about thinking than doing much.

What about a food treat?

Note that this is the last sub-topic in this section. While for many dog owners, handing out food treats before, during, and after a vet visit seems to be their first thought. wink

You will (hopefully) remember that I always mentioned why we don't use food treats in dog training - and that MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG actually appears to be the only such place. Note that even Doggy Dan Abdelnoor uses food treats, thankfully rarely though.

Instead, we sometimes (rarely) give food treats for other reasons, or indeed, for no reason at all:

  • Birthday, Christmas and similar festivities, anything to celebrate.
  • Or to mark a special event
  • Or maybe because I've got something healthy in the hand that would be good for the dog too.

One such special event is the day of the vet visit, so to say "happy that everything is alright with the dog".

So, AFTER the vet visit, a tasty morsel for the dog may on the agenda. But not on the vet premises, and obviously not if the dog must not eat after the veterinary treatment.

But note that the food treat is given regardless of the dog's behavior at the vet - so really not training/behavior related at all.

Instead, to mark the special event, rather than some pleasing dog behavior...

Welcome side effect: This will certainly help the dog to keep the day of the vet visit in good memory, such that the dog is even more likely to look forward to the next. wink

How to avoid that YOU get stressed about vet visits

This is a completely different topic as regards stress-free vet visits. But you may have thought of this when you read the headline earlier(?), so I will briefly address this aspect as well.

Your worry might have been: "How can I avoid that I myself get stressed about a vet visit, how do I know whether I should take my dog to the vet or not??"

Well, had you booked the Dog Expert Interview Series, you wouldn't get stressed about that. It literally saves years of learning and problems and worries! - I know because I regret that I didn't know all that earlier.

When to go to the vet

vet needed or not?If this is your worry, you basically need help to decide:

  • Will my dog's health issue self-heal if I give it time?
  • Do I have time if it does not self-heal?
  • If I waste time, do I risk my dog's healing??

Obviously, the more you hear and read about dog health and dog care and dog training, the quicker and better your decision when you need it.

If detailed sophisticated Interviews and Interview Reviews(!) are not your thing, you may want to refer to the helpful illustrations in the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health, or to the precise medical descriptions in the Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook.



  • Why are stress-free vet visits so important?
    • Most dogs are stressed at the vet (and many of these dogs show fear aggression)
    • Stress is the No. 1 killer both in people and in dogs in the western hemisphere!
    • Stress impairs all 12 body systems
    • All health implications aside, stress typically also has very undesirable behavior implications
    • A stressed dog is costly: dog behavior consultants and frequent vet visits cost a LOT!
    • We must help to avoid anesthetics and restraining of our dog wherever possible
    • For all these reasons, stress is the Number 1 thing to avoid!
  • The key requirement is that we must be the dog's accepted Pack leader!
  • Regardless of the dog's age, start immediately to prepare your dog for stress-free vet visits
  • Similar to the veterinary physical examination, we will perform DIY dog exams
  • Regular DIY dog examinations help with both proper dog care and preparing our dog to be calm at the vet
  • To help you identify areas of concern during your DIY dog exams, the Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, or easier (more illustrated) the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health may serve you well
  • To have your dog experience the DIY dog exam as a treat(!), you can add a dog massage session at the end - the Complete Dog Massage Manual is a great start to learning about dog massage
  • Make sure you have your Canine Vital Records sheet complete and at hand when visiting the vet
  • Preparation on the day of the vet visit: see the list above
  • How we behave at the vet office: see the list above (a box of the antibacterial paw wipes that I mention in the list above I always have in the car, and then simply take it inside the vet office)
  • What we do after the vet visit: see the list above
  • If you want to give a food treat, why not give the food treat to mark the special event, rather than some dog behavior? Ie I give the food treat AFTER the vet visit, regardless of the dog's behavior at the vet! idea

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    I have never thought of DIY health exams but it makes perfect sense. My first visit to the vet with Jordan, was on the second day I had her, so there was not too much preparation in that instance. But prior to her next visit I took her to the vet on two separate occasions and just went in, she met the vet and the staff, got a few pets, I gave her a treat, and we left. Nothing at all happened to her, and she got used to going in and out. We have no problem with her as far as the exam goes, and she is pretty calm when we go there. The one problem that we have is that she does not like being on the exam table. She feels insecure on it and although she will go on it because I tell her to, it is very obvious that it stresses her. Thankfully my vet has no problem getting on the floor with her. Although the office staff have offered Jordan treats after her exam, she never takes them, as she has been taught not to take food from non-family members. I have never thought of giving her a treat when we leave, but I will do so now just, as you say, to make it a special occasion. Thanks Tim, for all you do.


    Good stuff, Tim. I'll start the feeding routine to get a head start on being accepted pack leader and have two days of DIY health exams before she sees the vet. Since I'll also be socializing like crazy, I may have others do the pet exam also.

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