Clinic Etiquette for People and Pets | What Do I Say or Do?

We are all used to etiquette protocol e.g. at work, at the dentist’s, standing in line for groceries. Sometimes it can be awkward and confusing at a veterinary clinic to know what to do, what to say, what to bring. Here are some tips so you and your pet can enjoy your visit:

  • Arrive 10- 15 minutes early. This ensures that you have time to fill out paperwork and have your pet weighed without being in a rush.
  • Please bring your dog on a leash and your cat in a carrier. This is very basic – pets need to be under control. Dogfights and cats escaping into the parking lot from someone’s arms are not fun!! Retractable leashes should be locked and the collar should be well-fitting. Cat carriers should have a blanket on the bottom for the cat’s paws, and also a blanket covering the outside of the carrier except for the entrance.
  • If you are new, please call your last vet clinic to have your file faxed to your new clinic. We need to know your pet’s history.
  • Please ask if your vet would like the pet on the table or not. We provide clean surfaces topped with a non-skid mat covered in a nice clean, soft, fuzzy blanket — however, not all patients like being on the table. In many instances, we will examine our patients on the floor if needed.
  • We encourage you to ask questions! As vets, we want you to understand why, how, and when to give medication. The more you know and understand, the more your pet will benefit as you the owner will ensure the medication is given in the right amount at the proper time for the correct number of days for optimal benefit. The only time to be quiet is when your vet is listening to your pet’s heart. Although sometimes we can follow your conversation and the heartbeat, we would prefer to focus on the sound/quality/quantity of your pet’s heartbeats to ensure health or detect heart disease.
  • If something comes up, please let us know that you’ll be running late or re-schedule your appointment. The staff and your pet will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Cats can be hard to catch or something happens at the last minute – such is life. However, showing up an hour late without notice or repeatedly not coming to your appointments is rude and shows a lack of consideration for others. Someone else with their sick pet could have had your spot, but they were made to wait while we booked space for you. We want your pet to be healthy, and rechecks are important; we will do our best to schedule appointments around your busy, hectic schedule and life!
  • Pets need to have manners too. Just like kids learn to tie their shoes, sit at the table, not hit other kids, say please and thank you – our pets need boundaries and need to know how to behave. Dogs should know their basic commands and be very comfortable with any and all family members touching ears, mouths, and paws. As a vet, I am appalled at the rising number of “nice” dogs that suddenly become sharks if I have to touch any of their body parts. This is completely unacceptable. If you cannot touch a part of your pet at home, how am I, a total stranger, supposed to examine your pet thoroughly? We strongly encourage “exams” at home, and frequent friendly visits to the clinic to help reduce stress and make visits more fun and less scary. Cats can be a little more challenging, but you can still desensitize them to a degree, use Feliway and they respond very well to positive reinforcement i.e. providing a treat/toy for good behaviour. Please ask for more tips!!
  • Handling in the room. Sometimes we will have you help, or sometimes we need special assistance. Please let us know if you are comfortable with blood, needles or even controlling your pet. This will enable us to do procedures and exams with as little stress as possible. We are also responsible for your safety, so if you are not comfortable controlling your 80-pound boxer – that’s okay! You might be more helpful feeding cookies or patting a head.

Our pets get nervous and stressed just like we do in new situations. There is a lot that you can do at home to help minimize stress, and make your pet’s visit to the clinic as fun as possible. From desensitization and handling at home to travel tips to assisting with their exams, many things can be done to keep our pets happy. Please discuss with your vet and staff any concerns that you may have – there are lots of options, and every pet has unique needs. We can’t wait to see you!

Written By: Dr. Rhonda Boulter, Veterinarian