Why are dogs afraid of the vet?

Going to the vet is a fundamental part of the physical well-being of our dog since taking care of his health is essential, and giving him vaccinations is mandatory. But it is not an activity that all dogs like.

The attending veterinarian is cause for fear for up to 40% of dogs authentic and cause terror to up to 14% according to a new study led by a group of researchers from the University of Adelaide (Australia) and published in PLOS ONE .

When the fear is great and it is necessary to go to the veterinarian, it can be dangerous for the clinic staff but also for the owner and the dog himself since it can cause injuries. Indirectly, it also influences the number of visits to the vet when they are routine check-ups.

But … what is the fear of the veterinarian in dogs due to?

What are the causes of dog fear of the vet?  

 To find out, a survey was conducted based on a questionnaire for research and evaluation of canine behavior, from which 26,555 responses were processed ; in which the risk factors associated with the veterinarian were analyzed either in regular or novel visits (such as the first visit).

The survey used was the C-BARQ, which is a validated behavioral questionnaire and has been used in many other scientific studies.

Among the risk factors found in the survey were the following:

The dog’s breed group

The scariest dogs were the toy dogs, followed by the mongrels and the hounds. The least degree of fear was found in working dogs (which include guard dogs, such as the boxer or Doberman pincher, as well as draft dogs such as the Siberian husky and the Bernese mountain dog). Extremely low levels of fear also appeared in hunting dogs (eg, spaniels and retrievers).

Why are dogs afraid of the vet
Why are dogs afraid of the vet

Activity or role history

The dog’s lifestyle is also important. Relative to all possible roles or activities, dogs used for breeding and display, as well as dogs with a working history, showed the lowest fear scores. In contrast, companion dogs with no history of formal work roles or activities were more likely to fear the vet.


Dogs acquired from a breeder or raised by their owners were the least fearful in veterinary situations. Those acquired from a friend or relative or those bought from a pet store had the highest fear scores when tested.


The larger dogs (over 22 kg) were much less afraid of the vet than the smaller ones.

Home environment

Dogs living alone in a home were found to be more fearful than those living in a home containing other dogs.

Dog owner experience

There is also a significant owner variable, in that first-time owners had dogs that exhibited higher fear scores during the veterinary examination.

These factors, however, would only explain a 7% proportion of the observed fear risk and other factors should not be ruled out. These factors could be the individual experience of each dog or other triggers such as the environmental setting of the veterinary clinic, history or past experience in the clinic, and human-animal interactions (of guardian and veterinary staff).

These factors also help predict 5% of fear of unfamiliar situations, 9% of sensitivity to touch, and 8% of non-social fear.

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