Have you ever wondered what your dog does all day while you’re at work? We’ll let you in on a secret—they watch a doggy daytime television show called Dogtor Phil. The show airs in canine language, so we had to use our animal communication skills to decipher the latest episode, which covered a topic near and dear to our hearts. Tune in to hear how one German shepherd overcame his fear and learned that veterinary visits don’t have to be scary.
Dogtor Phil: As Halloween approaches, we’re sharing an especially scary story this week—veterinary visits. While many of you young pups are fortunate to have experienced only forward-thinking veterinarians who understand fear, anxiety, and stress, not every dog has been so lucky. To show there’s hope for all you petrified pooches out there, we’re chatting with a pup who had a complete turnaround. Give our guest, Wally the German shepherd, a warm woof of welcome!
Wally: Thanks for having me on the show, Dogtor Phil. I was almost too scared to share my story, but my veterinarian, Dr. Long at Alpine Animal Hospital, has helped me come a long way.
Dogtor Phil: We’re excited to hear your tale, Wally, because many of our viewers fear seeing their vet. Why don’t you tell us about your typical veterinary visits before Dr. Long helped you and your family?
Wally: As a puppy, I was terrified of everything—leaves falling, strange dogs, strange people. My own shadow could send me fleeing in fear. My previous veterinarian said I had been taken from my mom and siblings too young, and nothing could help my anxiety, especially at the veterinary hospital. But, it’s no wonder—I was heaved onto a cold, stainless steel table, held tightly so I couldn’t escape but also could hardly breathe, poked and prodded, and no treats or toys in sight.
Dogtor Phil: Your new Alpine Animal Hospital team seems to understand that you can teach pets that veterinary visits don’t have to be scary. Why don’t you share how they helped ease your fear, Wally?
Wally: Looking back, I can’t believe I was ever scared at the vet’s. And, the Alpine Animal Hospital’s techniques have helped me with other activities that used to frighten me, like navigating the busy sidewalks downtown. My first visit to the new veterinary hospital was so easy—I couldn’t believe nothing scary happened. When I walked through the door, with my favorite toy for security, instead of the typical veterinary smells and sounds, the reception area was calm and quiet, and no other dogs barked in my face. A nice lady came around the desk and greeted me kneeling down at my side, rather than standing over me in a threatening manner. We visited for a few minutes, while I slurped up the most amazing treats that she handed me. I met some other equally friendly people, too, and then we left. No scary slippery tables or floors, no poking and prodding, and no tight holds. After three similar visits, I started getting excited when we turned into the hospital’s parking lot.
Dogtor Phil: That all sounds great, Wally, but didn’t you ever get vaccinations, blood work, and a full-body physical, where they checked your sensitive areas?
Wally: Oh, sure! I overheard my mom saying that those first few visits were called “happy visits,” to help me get used to the hospital. But my next visit, my wellness check, was also different. First, I was shown into an exam room where a veterinary technician I had already met was waiting, and seeing a familiar face was so nice. Then, she stood me on a soft mat that provided traction rather than a scary stainless steel table. When Dr. Long entered the room, he spoke to my mom first so I could get used to his voice, and ignored me while I checked him out. Once I decided he was no threat, I returned to the mat next to my mom feeling more relaxed. Dr. Long then greeted me, and petted and massaged me, all while rewarding me with hot dog chunks for holding still on my own. I also got a belly rub out of the deal. He told my mom that he was “palpating” my body structure and abdominal organs, searching for abnormalities, but it felt like a full-body massage. Next, he brought out a weird device he stuck in his ears, but he let me check it out first before resting it against my chest. After my nose-to-tail exam, Dr. Long said those scary words—it was time for my vaccinations and blood draw. But, he let me stand with my head in my mom’s lap while she fed me treats—no headlock techniques—and he and my favorite technician quickly administered my parasite protection and took a small blood sample. I barely felt the pricks because they used such tiny needles. It was the best veterinary experience ever.
Dogtor Phil: Wow, Wally, that sounds incredible! Your family found you a wonderful veterinary hospital that cares for your physical health and also your mental health, and understands that many pets find new places with unusual sights, scents, and people extremely scary.
Wally: I’m such a lucky dog, Dogtor Phil. After my exam, my mom wanted my nails trimmed, but that’s something I can’t handle. Nice Dr. Long didn’t want to stress me out or wrestle with me, so he prescribed some calming medication for my next appointment. That morning, my mom gave me a chunk of peanut butter that made me feel a bit funny, but I certainly wasn’t bothered when they touched my paws.
Dogtor Phil: Your story has been inspiring, Wally, and you have given hope to other pets who find veterinary visits scary. Thanks so much for being on our show.
Wally: Thanks for having me, Dogtor Phil. I hope this show is translated into human, so our families can also learn that vet visits don’t have to be scary.
Wally’s wish was granted, and we are excited to be able to share his story. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can take your pet’s veterinary visits from frightening to fear-free, contact our Alpine Animal Hospital team.