Edwards, P. T., Smith, B. P., McArthur, M. L. et al. 2019. Fearful Fido: Investigating dog experience in the veterinary context in an effort to reduce distress. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 213, 14-25.
For many dogs, receiving veterinary care can be a stressful, fearful or traumatic experience. However, understanding and improving the veterinary experience for dogs is challenging due to the dynamic nature of the veterinary visit, the number of stakeholders involved (veterinarian, guardian and dog), and the perception and prior experience of the dog. The majority of recommendations for reducing stress typically fall to either the owner or the veterinarian and involve changes to management or active training and counter-conditioning practices. While many recommendations to reduce fear or distress during veterinary visits are readily available, appear common-sense in nature, and are anecdotally successful, overall evidence of their efficacy is lacking. Further, it is not enough to simply identify strategies designed to reduce distress in the veterinary context; investigating ways in which they can be efficiently and successfully implemented is integral to the continual improvement of dog welfare in the veterinary industry. In this review, we summarise the current literature relating to companion dogs’ experience during veterinary visits, and explore the factors influencing that experience. We conclude by providing a summary of the recommendations available to reduce stress within the veterinary context, categorised by stakeholder responsibility, and highlight potential areas for future research.