Our last visit to the vet with Lobo was a great success. He had a full exam, with blood taken, and he was only muzzled for a short while. This victory is the result of a long term plan, laid out since we adopted him over a year ago.
Our goal of course is for him to not need a muzzle at all at the vet’s office. This boy, however, has a lifetime of fears to overcome. As a rescue dog with an unknown past, the path to comfortable vet visits is paved with patience, understanding and compassion.
We do know one story when Lobo was being fostered at a doggy daycare center. Left alone at night, he tried to escape his pen and bloodied his paws and mouth in the process. He was discovered covered in blood and was taken to the vet on an emergency visit in a state of great anxiety and stress. We are not sure, but the mysterious scar under his chin may date from this sad event.
Lobo loves his vet, without a doubt. All of our dogs do. Dr Marsha Smith is about as sweet and compassionate and laid back as a vet can be. Her love and respect for the animals in her care is obvious; she has a gentle manner that puts dogs at ease. Yet Lobo will wag his tail and bare his teeth at the same time when she tries to examine him.
When we first took Lobo to her, he was merely accompanying our other two dogs for their checkups. He found a spot right by the door to the room and parked himself there, ready to bolt at the slightest crack of that door.
Before each visit to Dr Smith, we stop at Wendy’s for hamburgers for the pack. We want Lobo to associate a visit to the doctor’s with something positive and special. These dogs get Wendy’s hamburgers at no other time except vet visits.
On the second visit to the vet, Lobo snarled and bared his teeth when Dr Smith tried to examine him. We muzzled Lobo and tried to get a full exam to no avail. We could not get him to stay still, even in a headlock. We gave up after a short while, not wanting to stress him any further.
The next visit to the vet’s was for the girls and not for Lobo. Easy peasy.
The visit after that, was all for Lobo. He was really in need of a thorough exam. Dr Smith talked with us and the dogs for a while. Gave pets and bits of hamburger to all three dogs. And then my husband and I held Lobo firmly but gently while Dr Smith started the exam. He was, amazingly enough, fine with this. At first his heart rate sped up, but he calmed down once he realized that there was nothing to fear. We were careful to be calm ourselves, because dogs can read our emotions like a book.
Now the true challenge, taking a sample of blood. The vet and tech had tried that unsuccessfully on Lobo’s other attempt at a checkup, to take blood from his back leg so he wouldn’t see what was going on. This time we decided to go for the front leg to eliminate the unknown, muzzle on for a short while, and us holding him. It worked like a charm. The muzzle was off in no time and he was enjoying more hamburger bits with the girls!
We considered this vet visit a triumph. Next time we hope the muzzle is not necessary at all. Wish us luck! And please share any vet experiences of your own in the comments.