Don’t believe your vet – Part I

Every week I learn new quotes from vets that leave me stunned, and angry, and sad. OK, it’s hearsay, but there is always a bit of truth in it. And that makes me wonder. Should I worry about the education of vets? Or are they simply greedy? I have to admit, I don’t have a scientific diploma, but I listen to and learn from really smart people.

Part I – “The puppy has to hang in there!”

Once again; like humans dogs have their individual personality and temperament. And they have a limbic system.

When you visit a vet practice, the puppy will start to investigate. Aside the positive scents it will smell fear, death, medicine, antiseptic, food, other dogs, other pets, etc. The hippocampus collects all impressions, and checks if there are similar experiences already saved, and sends them over to cerebrum and amygdala.

Then the stranger approaches. The alarm system in the puppy’s brain is activated, just in case. Hypothalamus and sympathetic nervous system are ready to act, and set free cortisol.

The white dressed stranger seems to be nice, takes his/her time, cuddles the puppy, talks in a friendly way, smiles, gives a treat – hell, just like a person you want to invite over for coffee – and the puppy’s stress fades.

If you have a “B dog” (TBE), and a vet whose clock is ticking, and leaves out the positive introduction, the situation will be classified as threatening. The sympathetic nervous system takes care for long lasting, quick and explosive movement. Flight is the first reaction that will be activated.

If the puppy cannot flee, because it is hold by the owner, the vet’s assistant, the vet him/herself, defense will be the next strategy, mostly shown by snatching.

An “A dog” (TBE) might try to mix fight and flight by showing barking and bouncing – often mistaken for play behaviour – and probably achieves some kind of getting out of the situation e.g., everybody is laughing. This will be saved as positive stress, dopamine will be set free and the survival can be celebrated.

If no strategy is working, and the puppy is actually hanging in there, the visit at the vet will be negative stress. The hippocampus will save the experience with a lot of ringing alarm bells.

All stimuli that announce this situation will be assessed as possible danger. The next visit at the vet will be worse; the amygdala will be alarmed early on, one of the above-mentioned strategies will be shown earlier and heavier – the dog feels fear.

To be fair, there are a lot of great vets out there. My advice is always; listen to your guts. If you have the feeling your pup is not treated the way you want – switch the vet.