Aggression at the Veterinarian's Office

 Dogs or cats visiting a veterinary hospital are often aware before entering the reception area that something different is about to happen.


They may have been transported, for the first time, in a carrier or car and sensed anxiety in their owner.  The reception area is filled with the scents of unfamiliar pets, people, and disinfectants.  Strange sounds, including those made by other frightened or ill pets, increase their anxiety.


They are then taken into an examination room to be handled by a stranger who may cause them discomfort.  Hospitalization for a surgical procedure or medical treatment may follow.  It is unusual when fear is not expressed by a pet after even a single visit.


Some pets become so fearful at the veterinarian's office that they risk injuring themselves and anyone attempting to handle them.  Fear out of proportion to the actual danger present is classified as a phobia.  A fearful response at the veterinarian's office is probably the most common phobia in companion animals.


A pet may become aggressive at the veterinarian's office because of fear and inability to escape.  Some dogs are additionaly motivate by defensive aggression aimed at protecting their owners in an apparently menacing situation.


A dominat dog may be more strongly inclined to defend its owner.  Veternarians sometimes find it helpful to separate a dog from its owner, so as to reduce aggression during a veterinary visit.  This does not eliminate the dog's fear but often makes the veterinarian's examination considerable easier.  Isolating a dog from its owner often eases its aggressiveness.  This calming effect on the dog may also reflect the additional tension caused by its concerned owners.


Placing a muzzle on an aggressive dog frequently has a claming effect, as as ensuring everyone's safety.  It is not cruel to muzzle a dog for brief periods.


If you are asked to separate yourself from or to place a muzzle on your agitated dog, have confidence in your veterinarian's judgement and concern for your dog's best interest.


If your pet develops an excessive fear of the veterinary visit, you will both be helped to fell comfortable by seeking the help of a veterinary behaviorist.  Pets can be professionally desensitized over time to decrease and even eliminate their emotional aversion to the veterinary office.  A fearful and aggressive pet is difficult to examine and to treat.  Resolving this problem could have tremendous benefits down the road. 

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