Tips for Advocating for Your Dog at the Vet


A question we often hear from our community is how do I advocate for my pet at the vet? We invited Maddie Messina of Paws for Thought to offer her ideas earlier this summer. Here are some of her golden nuggets!

Preparation Tips

Advocating for our dogs at the vet begins before we even walk through the door. We can help prepare our dogs for this new environment, with strange people, where sometimes uncomfortable things happen by:

  • Planning a happy visit where there is no medical interventions. It's just a chance for our dog to become familiar with the new place and some of the people there.
  • Learn about cooperative care where your dog doesn't just tolerate procedures but becomes an active and willing participant.
  • Teach your dog to opt in by doing a chin rest. Learn how here: Chin Rest Tips Video.
  • Simulate going to the vet by having someone your dog doesn't know play the role of a vet.
  • Reach out ahead of time if you have concerns.

How Can I Help My Dog Be More Comfortable with Dental Work?

Dental work is not fun for us humans who know what is going on. Imagine how much of a challenge it is for our dogs who don't understand what's happening and whose natural inclination may be to bite when someone gets too close to their mouth. Learn how to incorporate cooperative care for dental work by teaching your dog to opt in and get comfortable with hands in and around their mouth.

When You Disagree with a Recommended Course of Treatment

When the vet offers a course of action such as medication or surgery that makes you uncomfortable, it is helpful to ask for more information so you can make the decision that feels right for you dog. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Why did you pick this course of treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What's the worst that could happen if I don't follow this course of treatment?

One of the best questions to ask to get a sense of your vet's philosophies and true feelings is: What would you do if this was your dog?

Understand the Vet's Point of View

Becoming a veternarian is a long, challenging process and we believe that most go into the field because they love animals and want the best for them. It may be helpful to keep that in mind! They also have a business to run and they are human like the rest of us. If you have concerns or issues with your vet, try coming to the situation with empathy. Ask questions and seek common ground.

Search for a New Vet if Needed

Sometimes, our philosophies on how we want to care for our dog doesn't match with our vet's. If you have expressed your concerns and aren't satisfied with the response, it may be time to move on. Ask for recommendations from local trainers, rescues, and in neighborhood groups.

Going to the vet doesn't have to be stressful for you or your dog. Take some time to prepare your dog for visits especially if they are prone to be anxious. Communicate, ask questions, and seek ways for you and your vet to be on the same page about your dog's care.

Maddie joins us throughout the year to share tips and answer our dog training and care questions. Find these and other upcoming events HERE!

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