Not be terrified of the vet. - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 11:49 AM Thread Starter
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Not be terrified of the vet.

Bear had an appointment for vaccines and a check up. We have used the same practice from the start. He always went right in, was easily led to a room, OK with handling, etc .

6 -8 weeks ago, he had a vaccine for kennel cough, and a nail trim. I did not go back with him. I did not hear whining or crying. He happily went with staff. He came out, tail wagging, seemed like nothing happened.

Last week, we headed back for remaining vaccines and a check up. He shook and screeched. Was hysterical like he was going to the death chamber. There was no consoling him. Staff saw he was escalating. Took him to the car. Made a new appt, this time trazodone was added.

He had the meds 1.5 hours before the new appointment as instructed. No affect. No calming or sign of sedation. He ran up to and through the door, realized where we were, and that was it. Attempts to muzzle made him more frantic, he would not take a treat. Just generally hysterical again. Back to the car for him.
I talked to the vet for a bit.

First, although we were told he was fine for the nail trim, turns out his chart says he was muzzled. So, this new behavior is not totally out of nowhere. It makes more sense now, but how do I get him past it at this point?

We cannot go vaccine free. He is 15 mo, due for rabies and distemper, and neuter is coming up as well. Vet believes this will help. My emotions are mixed. Seems behavior after can go either way. Vasectomy is not done here (was an option I was considering. Never knew neuter was so controversial,).

But I cannot even imagine getting him in for that or the behavior we could see after.

I do agree with the vet that an anti-anxiety med may be needed (he was not ready to do that yet), but how do I sort out what's fear snowballing from a bad experience and what's a biochemical imbalance that requires treatment?

I feel I need to try a new vet. I like this one but don't like that I was mislead. I have no issues with a vet using a muzzle when they feel there is a potential threat. They cannot anticipate how every dog might react. But why lie?

Is a new place a reasonable step? Home visit not office? Could that help? Or is there a stronger med, to knock him out 100% to get these critical items taken care of in the short termhere so we can try to resolve the rest? I even offered to do the injections myself but it was a no-go.

Sadly, I just started 1 on 1 work with a trainer. (Group classes only got us so far) But until he is current, that's on hold.

Any ideas, help, similar experiences that owners got turned around and how they did it..needed badly.

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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 11:59 AM
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In hind sight I cannot give any sure fire advice. I made sure to take my pups to the vet to stand on the scales every month. Not only did I get their weight but they learned that they wouldn't get poked each time they came in. Now when we go in they stand on the scale right away as if to say, "OK, I stood on that thing can we go now". So if you choose a new vet you may want to take a few walks in just to say hi, get a treat and leave.

By the way I almost never go without my dogs. My doc is very quick with a needle so that doesn't seem to bother my dogs as much as the vaccine that gets sprayed up the nose. That is the one my boy dreads. That and blood draws.
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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 01:12 PM
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I don't know if the following would work at 15 mo and your vet staff has to be willing to cooperate. Here's what I did with my current dog when she was a young pup.

I was taking her around to hardware stores, restaurants with patios, etc to socialize her. Someone suggested including the vet into that rotation. I discussed it with them before hand but I would stop by with my dog with no appointment or scheduled shots, exams, or tests. Sometimes we'd meet the staff, she'd get a treat, and then we'd leave. Sometimes we'd wait in the waiting area and then leave. Once they even offered to watch her so I left her behind the desk and drove around the block and came back in. The only thing we couldn't practice was going into an exam room. They have to wipe down / clean the room between every dog and that was too much to ask.

Basically the vet--at least entering the vet office--became just one more place we went together where positive things like treats happened. It worked well until I moved and she had her teeth cleaned years later. Something about going under anesthesia made her wary of the building ever since. But other than her general nervousness (she's a GSD-Norwegian Elkhound mutt if that matters) I think she does quite well at the vet.

Before someone says it, yes there was a risk bringing a dog to a vet's office just like there's a risk of visiting a friend in the hospital. She was post 4 mo so had all the basic shots and it was a risk I was willing to take to try to avoid vet panic issues.

(Just in case, never say "It's OK" or "Good boy" if he is freaking out and panicking. You are just using your positive trigger word(s) to reinforce that freaking out is a good thing to do. The typical advice is to say nothing. Words at that point just confuse a dog and you can't explain that the blood draw or vaccination is for his long term health. If you can get him to be calm in the office, treat, calm praise, and leave. Try to just wait out freak-outs. You might feel silly entering with a dog and leaving but he is likely going to need that behavior reinforced a bunch of times before you should even attempt bringing him into an exam room for an actual appointment.)
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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by car2ner View Post
In hind sight I cannot give any sure fire advice. I made sure to take my pups to the vet to stand on the scales every month. Not only did I get their weight but they learned that they wouldn't get poked each time they came in. Now when we go in they stand on the scale right away as if to say, "OK, I stood on that thing can we go now". So if you choose a new vet you may want to take a few walks in just to say hi, get a treat and leave.

I did pretty much the same.....go to the vet's office....have her stand on the scale a few times a she'd get loved on by the people working there....a few treats and we'd be on our way.

I think the numerous visits with no exams might have made a difference....never know for sure I guess.


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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 01:44 PM
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OP... I think your problem started when as you said " I did not go back with him"....far too many practices IMO have so called vet techs that don't have a does my dog or yours any good if they're trying to "learn" on you dog if you've ever actually watched some of the attempts to draw know what I mean--you AND your dog are better off if you stay by his your case dull or inadequate nail clippers...or someone who didn't know how to use them....or someone who's simply afraid of large dogs--they always sense fear and react accordingly......there have been times when I've said ----"Stop !! what you're doing and we'll wait for the vet----I know he knows what he's doing !!" that harsh--mean--rude ???
yes to all the above....your dog can't speak to tell you what happened or what he feels....but in my case I'll always have their back---in the same way I know inside they'd always have mine.
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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 01:57 PM
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I'm a huge fan of the new Fear Free Handling movement among veterinary professionals. It's a certification process to teach techniques of distraction, de-escalation, counter-conditioning and stress reduction -- for both dogs and cats. I've watched the change in how the work in the room with the animal as one of my regular clinics got all the vets and techs certified, and it's absolutely lovely -- they have a big "bag of tricks" to explore to make things better for the animal, and it's a high priority for all the staff in these certified clinics:

The website has a directory you can search to find a certified vet. They also have a pet owner part of their site with videos of how to prepare and handle your own vet to make a vet visit easier.

Here's a video explaining the philosophy change for the clinics that are adopting it:
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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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Still struggling. After we found out the dog had a bad experience at the current vet with a nail trim about 8 weeks before we went for vaccines, and found trazadone not effective enough, we tried a second vet. Trazodone, gabapentin and acepromazine, then the next attempt phenobarbital and gabapentin and again -no luck. Even sedated, the muzzle is a no go. Waiting in the car in the parking lot of the second vet picking up meds, he was literally hysterical. Shaking, whining, trying to hide. He was inside that building only once and nothing was done.

I have a behaviorist coming for an initial visit Sunday. Hoping she can help. I really wish 1) that I had gone back with him, and 2) the vet had been honest. (Hindsight is 20/20).

Had I known, I could have been working on desensitization. (No sign of fear at all the day he had his nails cut. He happily went with the tech). Not knowing there were issues, it's definitely escalated. I called a couple mobile vets but they don't feel they can do anything at this point.

I can't get a vet to put him completely out, until they can listen to his heart. I can't give him the rabies shot as the state wont recognize it. Just want the vaccines, then there's time to work on this (about a year). Anyone ever had a dog so suddenly, heartbreakingly, and deeply fearful? What did you do?

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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 02:17 PM
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Hopefully the behaviorist will be able to help....the suggestions from the other members will work but it will take repeated visits and TIME....walk him around outside the vet practice back in the go home maybe stop at a chicken or burger place and get him a "treat"---next visit maybe inside to the front desk if there's someone working he likes get them to give him a treat-then take him home--next time weigh him when you go then leave and go may take several visits to even get him close to the front door...once again TIME and repetition...take treats that he likes with you give him some then leave and go home.....the point is he must have pleasant visits and plenty of them to get past his "toe nail" expierence...won't be easy but it's doable given time....I've never had to deal with what you're going through-but as I said before I stay with my dogs because of a "blood drawing" incident I witnessed years ago with 2 vet techs ??---the worst "vet phobia" I've had to deal with over the years is fear of the slick floors in a few.. which is even worse in an older arthritic dog.

Frankly I'm surprised none of the mobile vets were willing to pay a visit to your home on the dog's home to speak IMO that should have a good chance of working if handled right---further it may not be something your vet does but all the vets where we go will make "house calls" if given advance notice....any way good luck and work very very hard inside your own head not to show nerves-fear or anxiety when you're with your boy at or near the vets office--believe me your dog will sense it...
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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Shane'sDad View Post
---the worst "vet phobia" I've had to deal with over the years is fear of the slick floors in a few.. which is even worse in an older arthritic dog.
My dobie always loved going to the vet, but she also hated the slick, tile floors as she got older. I carried a little rug with us...just a little 2'x3' door set down on the floor so she could stand or sit with confidence and not worry about her feet sliding out from under her.

To the OP....I'm also surprised (and confused?) about why the mobile vet situation wouldn't work, especially for something as simple and as important as a rabies shot. What is it about the situation that they can't work with?

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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 02:35 PM
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My shiba got fearful like this after his neuter. I can only assume something happened during his neuter. He can still be muzzled, so we're just dealing with it.

Is there a way to train him to accept a muzzle before you take him in? Like maybe every time you go for a walk, he gets muzzled that way he doesn't think muzzle means vet time? A basket muzzle is easier to deal with than those fabric ones that clamp the mouth shut.
What about a health clinic at Tractor Supply Co or PetSmart/PetCo or the local animal shelter might do one at another location?

One thing I will say is, I really don't think neutering him will help with this situation. I hope the behaviorist can help.

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