9 Things You Should Never Do at a Veterinary Clinic
As a 16-year veteran of the veterinary profession, I've seen all kinds of clients. Most are polite, responsible, and kind, but some seem to have more behavioral problems than their pets. If you are interested in having your pet receive the best care possible at your veterinary clinic, familiarize yourself with the following list of things not to do during your appointment.
9 Things You Should Never Do at Your Veterinary Clinic
- Arrive late for your appointment
- Try to restrain your pet yourself
- Follow staff into the back
- Try to help diagnose your pet
- Tell us about your breeder's recommendations
- Allow your pet to interact with others on the premises
- Tell the staff how to handle your pet
- Lie to staff about parasite prevention
- Berate or yell at the staff
1. Be Late for Your Appointment
When you are late for an appointment with your veterinarian, other appointments will bypass you and your wait will be longer once you do arrive. Additionally, the staff will likely be annoyed with you, and your pet won’t get as much of the veterinarian’s time as they were booked for. When you arrive late, you make a bad name for yourself at the clinic and compromise your pet’s veterinary care.
2. Try to Restrain Your Pet Yourself
Nope, it's not gonna happen! We don’t trust you—we trust our coworkers and their restraint and animal handling abilities. We don’t know you. Back off, get out of our way, and let us do our job. When you get in the way of our job, it slows down our progress with your appointment. This creates tension and stress that your pet can sense. This stress can scare your pet and in turn skew our lab results.
3. Follow Us Into the Back
When we take your pet into our treatment area, please do not follow us. We do this for many reasons, including better lighting, more equipment, less noise, and more staff availability. Sometimes we are taking your pet out of the exam room simply because your pet seems to be feeding off of your stress. Coming into the back stresses your pet out and makes it harder for our staff to do their jobs.
4. Try to Help Us Diagnose Your Pet
We see your pet's symptoms on a regular basis, we treat similar cases all the time, and we studied all of this in college. We don’t care about what you read online. It’s not that the information isn't valid, it's just that it's no replacement for our training and experience. You are bringing your pet to a veterinary clinic for professional services and an educated diagnosis, and that is what we will give you. Try to have a little faith in us and if you don’t, find a new veterinarian.
5. Tell Us What Your Breeder Recommends
Your breeder is not a veterinary professional. This means they have no educational basis for the information they provide. Breeders may have ideas about what they think is best for a certain breed based on their observations. Realize, however, that they only see that one breed, so what looks significant to them isn't necessarily significant in the real world.
We are educated about the risks of administering or declining certain vaccines. We know spaying and neutering are important, and we know why to recommend these procedures at certain ages. Your breeder and your veterinarian are separate, and they exist to serve different purposes—let's keep it that way.
6. Allow Your Pet to Interact With Others on the Premises
This is a subject I have a lot to say about because it's a huge area of concern. I've seen a dog inflict a bite wound on another leashed dog in a waiting room. I've seen calicivirus spread through a cat hospitalization ward. I've met a woman with a three-inch scar up her head from her cat jumping on her face in a veterinary waiting room.
Not all pets are at the veterinary clinic for routine annual exams and vaccines. A lot of them are there because they are sick, injured, or have behavioral problems. Have you heard of the H3N2 canine influenza strain that has come to the Madison, WI area from Chicago, IL? How about pseudomonas bacteria that can cause antibiotic-resistant ear infections? Do you know what a leash aggressive dog can do to your little Dachshund's thorax?
For most cats, a trip to the vet is a huge event in their life. Even if you don't see any stress signs from your cat, we do. Cats can become extremely unpredictable when under stress, so preventing unnecessary stimulation is key. They make cat carriers and dog leashes for a reason. Use them!
There are enough health risks out there for your pet as it is. Don't increase them by unnecessarily exposing your pet to additional danger. A veterinary clinic waiting room is not a doggie playground, it's a private waiting area for patients. Just like in human waiting rooms, patients should be left alone and given space.
7. Tell Us How to Handle Your Pet
Chances are, these people actually went to college for this and have plenty more experience with handling animals than you do. You may think you know your animal, but our restraint techniques exist to keep us, you, and your pet as safe as possible. The risk of us getting injured in a bite or scratch incident is much higher when we have untrained persons attempting to handle the animals we need to work on.
Don't forget that we went to school for this career because we like animals. We want them to be comfortable and healthy, so we are going to handle them in the most caring and efficient way possible.
On that note, don't request medical information on pets that don't belong to you. The information we have in our records is just as confidential as any of your children's medical information, so don't ask us how your neighbor's dog is doing. A medical record is a legal document and if we have any integrity, we won't disclose anything specific to you anyway.
8. Lie to Us About Parasite Prevention
Fleas and ticks are disgusting, disease-carrying parasites. Think about what that means. Fleas will make nests in your home. They can transmit tapeworms and live in your bed. Ticks can give you and your pets Lyme disease.
Unless you want your pet and home to be infested, keep your pets on flea and tick prevention regiments. We all know heartworm prevention is a prescription-only product and you won’t get it from any veterinarian without a current test on your dog. Heartworm disease is a real, fatal issue that you can prevent.
Every excuse, from “my dog doesn’t go outside” (where does he poop?) to “I have a fenced-in yard” (are there raccoon-sized mosquitos in your neighborhood?) is ridiculous. When you lie about parasite prevention, we know. We can also tell if a flea problem is new or has been around for a while, so don't act like you just saw a flea on Fluffy for the first time on Sunday when you really saw it two months ago.
9. Yell at or Berate Us
This is the most significant no-no of being a patron in a veterinary clinic. Our jobs are mentally and emotionally demanding enough without you losing your cool. We have to refrain from expressing our own opinions and values on a daily basis. There are pets we care for deeply, and occasionally we must be an active party in their deaths. We also deal with eccentric, animal-loving coworkers all day.
If you are angry enough to yell or swear, think about the caring individuals you are taking it out on and what role those people really play in the problem you are having. There are plenty of good pet owners out there who want our help and treat us with respect. If you can't, we are more than happy to make copies of your pet's medical records so you can find a different staff to argue with.
Veterinary professionals are doing their best to make your pet comfortable and you happy, so let us do our jobs. Be kind when you work with us, and remember that we are here because we love your pets too.
Dos and Don'ts for Your Next Trip to the Vet
Arrive on time
Follow us into the back
Wait patiently in the waiting room
keep your pet from interacting with others at the vet
Allow your animal to interact with others at the vet
Keep your opinions to yourself
Present us with your internet research
Give us accurate information about medicine and vaccines
Lie to us about parasite prevention
Treat our staff with respect and kindness
Berate or yell at our staff
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.