Ask A Vet: How To Calm Your Nerves (And Your Dog's) at the Vet's


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: Every time I take my dog to the vet I get nervous for her. I'm pretty sure she can feel my nerves, because she gets nervous too. What's the best way to keep my dog calm when going to the vet?

A: Dogs are incredibly sensitive to human emotions—especially their guardian’s emotions. Have you ever seen a child fall and look up their parent for a cue to see if it’s worth crying about?  Like with children, you can cue your dog to experience the world in a calm & healthy manner or to react in fear.   While at the vet clinic, many nervous guardians unconsciously pet their animal with the force and speed of a jackhammer so that by the time we come into the exam room, the dog or cat is completely psyched out and ready to head for the hills.  

Despite our best efforts to comfort our animals, let’s face it, there’s enough at the vet to truly scare a dog or cat.  For starters, there are other animals, strangers, weird noises and smells. On top of that, there is usually a shot or the pain of an illness or injury to keep any dog or cat trembling.

As doctors we need your help to treat your pet, so ask yourself why you are nervous. Is it the fear your animal is sick or will feel pain? Is it the cost of vet care? Or is it that your dog has acted out at the clinic and you worry it will happen again? Once you understand your fear you can address it— for example: talk to your vet for an estimate on cost so you know what to expect; or work with a trainer to curb your dog’s misbehavior. Your dog needs to be there for her health, so take a deep breath, think calm thoughts and remember she’s counting on you to be brave. And no jackhammer petting!

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.

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