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Tail between the legs – scientists say that one in seven dogs are extremely scared of the vet

Posted September 2, 2019

Dogs are usually scared of vet visits. And it doesn’t really need an explanation – they simply don’t understand what is happening and don’t know what to expect. Now scientists from the University of Adelaide identified some risk factors that may help predicting whether the dog is going to be afraid of the vet.

Dogs don’t really understand vets and are usually afraid of them. Image credit: U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia

You shouldn’t be too worried if your dog is afraid of the vet. It is normal. In fact, scientists found that 40 % of owners report having dogs that are afraid of vets and one in 7 dogs to show severe or extreme fear during an examination. Now scientists analysed 26,555 responses to the Canine Behaviour and Research Questionnaire. Pet owners had to react to some of the behavioural features, showing fear – avoiding eye contact, crouching or cringing with tail lowered or tucked between the legs, whimpering or whining and so on. In extreme cases dogs may be so afraid they may try to run away. And that is a problem.

Dogs don’t understand what is happening, but their owners do. The real issue is that some owners are reluctant to take their dogs to vets, because they know that they will be scared and stressed about it. Some owners wait for health issues to resolve themselves, which usually just worsens the situation. In more extreme cases, dogs visit vets when it is almost too late.

On the other hand, having a scared dog in the vet’s office is no fun either. It may jump around too much, destroying the equipment, injuring himself, owner or the personnel. It is also more difficult to examine them. That is why it is very important to come prepared, knowing what to expect and how to react appropriately.

Scientists found that there are some factors that help predicting whether the dog is going to be afraid – breed group, weight, age of other dogs in the household, history of roles or activities, the owner’s level of experience in dog ownership, and where the dog was bought from. For example, dogs with histories of breeding or showing roles were less likely to be fearful of the vet. Meanwhile, companion dogs were more likely to be scared.

Petra Edwards, one of the authors of the study, said: “We think this might likely reflect the importance of high levels of handling and grooming practice that dogs involved in showing or breeding roles may receive from a young age. This means that fear of the vet may not even start at the vet, but with experiences that occur at home”.

Studies like this are very important, because eventually they could help creating guidelines for owners who have easily scared dogs. Simply put, you have to be prepared, be calm and take your dog to the vet anyway. Vets have seen it all and you will not embarrass yourself by taking your scare dog to them. Do not wait until the health problem becomes severe.


Source: University of Adelaide

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