Bringing Your Akita to the Vet: Everything you Need to Know

Veterinary care is an important aspect of pet ownership, and owning an Akita is no exception. Because both American Akitas and Japanese Akita Inu both have well known health issue such as autoimmune disease, thyroid issue, and hip dysplasia, frequent veterinary care, even if for just check-ups, is extremely important.

However just like you might hate going to the dentist, your Akita may hate going to the veterinarian, so today we’re going to cover ways to help make your Akita’s vet experience a better one, so you can have the piece of mind that your Akita is living a healthy, happy life.

Start Them Young

Just like socialization, training, and other activities, you should get your Akita puppy used to going to the vet at a young age. If you got your Akita through a reputable breeder they will have already taken your Akita puppy to the veterinarian multiple times before you take ownership of the puppy. From there it’s important that you keep up with regular visits, and inoculation schedules.

Puppies do require quite a few visits in the first year, not just for their shots, but also for regular health check-ups to ensure proper growth, and to monitor any potential disease as an Akita puppy’s immune system is most vulnerable when they are young. Due to the frequent number of visits, a health plan like one from Banfield Pet Hospitals can be very convenient. You can read about that here.

Exercise Your Akita Before Appointments

One of the biggest contributing factors to “bad behavior” in dogs is dogs who are unstimulated and under exercised. There is an old saying that “a tired dog is a good dog.” Akitas and other dogs can be anxious about riding in cars, or taking a trip to the veterinarian. By thoroughly exercising your American Akita or Japanese Akita Inu prior to taking a trip to the vet, they will be much calmer, and more open to being poked and prodded by the vet techs and veterinarians at your local animal hospital. It’s for this reason that we try to make our vet appointments for Haga the American Akita, in the afternoon, instead of first thing in the morning.

How much exercise does your Akita need? We recommend a minimum of two 1 mile walks per day, along with three 15 minute play sessions throughout the day.

Socialize Your Akita

Although we’ve written a comprehensive guide on socializing your Akita puppy as well as made a video about it on our YouTube channel, it’s worth mentioning again here: Socialization of your Akita puppy is extremely important. When most people think of puppy socialization, they think of having their dog play with other dogs, and that is certainly part of it. However socialization goes much deeper with getting your Akita used to being touched all over, including in their ears, mouth, and belly area. It is also about exposing your Akita puppy to new environments, with various sights, smells and sounds.

If your Akita isn’t used to being around other dogs, then they will be over stimulated when they get to the vet, and it will make your veterinarian’s examination much more difficult. The same goes for if your Akita isn’t used to someone poking around in their ears, eyes, mouth, hind quarters, and more.

If your veterinarian is not able to do a thorough examination of your Akita, then potential health issues could be missed and go undiagnosed, or not caught early enough to effectively treat.

Go Places Other Than The Veterinarian

It’s a good idea to get your Akita used to riding in the car, not just so they aren’t anxious for car rides to the vet, but also because it will make travelling with your Akita much easier in general. With that said, if you only ever put your Akita in the car when heading to the vet, your Akita will start to associate the car with the vet, which can trigger anxiety immediately.

We were fortunate enough to have to pick our American Akita puppy up in Illinois, 18 hours from where we live. This long car ride at only 8 weeks of age got our Akita puppy used to the car right away, and we’re always sure to get him in the car at least once a week to go somewhere fun!

Not only do you want to get your Akita comfortable riding in a car, you also want to couple trips to the vet with other fun adventures, like taking your Akita to a park, or for a walk in a new place, or making sure they come home from the vet with a novel treat or new toy. Helping your Akita associate the vet with fun experiences will go a long way in having smooth and successful trips to the veterinarian.

Advanced Measures

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your Akita simply will not enjoy their time at the veterinarian. While our American Akita, Haga, loves everyone at the animal hospital we attend, he draws a line at blood drawing and/or IVs of any kind. No matter how many pieces of cheese we coax him with, he is on the defensive as soon as the needles come out.

Although our vet tried to muzzle Haga, he didn’t go for that either, and due to his fussiness, we were unable to get the muzzle on properly. This was a mistake on our part to not acclimating him to a muzzle at home and in much calmer situations. Because we were unable to get our Akita to wear the muzzle for the more invasive vet appointments, we had to look at alternatives, mainly gabapentin and trazadone.

Both these drugs are commonly used in veterinary medicine to calm your dog, with trazadone being the much stronger agent. You administer a dose of this medicine to your Akita the night before their appointment, and then again only a few hours before the actual appointment. Recently our American Akita, Haga, was in need of blood work, and we had to use this method to get a successful draw.

The trazadone made Haga very sleepy and almost “drunk” like. He was extremely calm at the vet, paid no attention to the other animals that were there, and spit out a treat that the vet techs gave him, however he was still happy to eat some cheese that they fed him!

It was difficult to see our Akita in this altered state, and it took him a few hours to sleep off the drugs, but once they wore off, he was back to his usual happy and playful self. Later in the afternoon we received a phone call from the animal hospital stating that Haga’s blood platelet count was low, and we need to monitor it…something that would have gone unchecked had we not been able to draw blood. This is a perfect example of why routine health check ups at your vet are so important with your Akita!

 

 

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