Nine Pet Clinic Etiquette Tips for Pet Owners

By: Carol Hurst, LVT

Houston, TX

Published August 2014

Depending on your pet, the veterinary clinic can be a fun place or one that incites anxiety. Here are some etiquette tips for pet owners so a trip to the clinic can become a bit easier for all involved.

 1. All cats need to be in a carrier and all dogs on a leash

This means that even if your dog is the sweetest, most cuddly thing around, there might be dogs, cats, birds or other species in the clinic that are not as friendly. If the staff at the clinic suggests taking a free leash provided by the office, please take it! Safety is the No. 1 concern, and even if your pet is perfect, others might not be. A carrier or leash ensures that your pet is kept safe and under your control and can be kept away from other pets that may be sick or injured. On the same topic, respect the personal space of those pets around you. Keep retractable leases in check and an eye out for pets around corners.

Even if your cat is very well-behaved at home, fear can cause them to be very sneaky. A carrier is a reliable way to make sure your cat makes it from the house to the car and from the car to the clinic without escaping. Once you’re in the waiting room, a carrier is a safe place for your cat to be kept out of the way of potentially aggressive animals or taken to a quieter part of the reception area.

Traveling can be a stressful time for cats, especially if their carrier is a foreign place to them. Cats should become acclimated to their carrier before going to the veterinarian. For good tips for how to do this, visit www.catalystcouncil.org.

2. No stray pet relinquishment

Somewhere a rumor started circulating that if there is a pet you don’t want, a pet that is injured but doesn’t have an owner or a pet that is found as a stray, they can be taken to your neighborhood veterinary clinic. In most cases, this is not true!

Veterinary clinics don’t receive money from the government (or any other outside sources) to care for these pets. Just like any other business, veterinary clinics deal with bills and finances. Everyone in the veterinary profession is doing it because they love animals and want to help them, but things like medication, vaccinations and surgery cost the clinic money, just like it would a client. There are other bills to consider aside from the physical ones associated with caring for the pet. Most veterinary clinic owners also rent the building they are in, pay for utilities to keep the business running and pay employees to help care for all the patients. If they want to stay open to continue treating pets, they need to continue to pay for all of these things.

It isn’t always convenient for one of the veterinary team to adopt these unwanted pets. Clinic staff must consider how they are going to pay for their pet’s care, whether they can have another pet in their apartment/house and if they have the time for the proper enrichment of an additional pet. Even if they would love to take every pet that walked through the door, it just isn’t practical.

If you bring into the clinic a pet that you found, be prepared to pay for its care. If you can’t pay anything, please don’t be angry with the veterinary clinic for expecting you to do so. It’s their job. There are rescue organizations and humane societies out there that are financially equipped to handle strays.

3. Services performed cost money

This seems so simple, and yet there are some people who do not feel the need to pay for veterinary services when they come in and have something done for their pet. There are many avenues available that will allow you to be able to afford care for your pet. There are veterinary insurance companies and outside agencies that offer deferred payment options. Ultimately, it is your financial responsibility to provide for your pet and not the clinic’s.

4. Listen and ask questions about recommendations

The staff at a veterinary clinic loves educating clients. The one thing that can make this difficult is an owner who has their mind made up before ever walking through the door. While it is the veterinary staff’s job to inform the owner, it is up to the owner to make the best decisions for their pet. If a decision is made that isn’t consistent with what we’ve recommended, that’s okay. We just need to make sure we’ve conveyed the information so that the most informed decision can be made. That being said, feel free to ask questions! We have reasons for the recommendations that we make. Let us tell you about them.

5. We want to know when you are unhappy about your visit

Pets are family. When pets get sick or are hurting, we know how emotional and stressful it can be. It is our goal to make the process back to health as smooth and efficient as possible. But we are human, and sometimes this doesn’t always happen the way we would like. Sometimes we know about the error, whatever it may be, and sometimes we don’t. There is nothing more discouraging than to find out a client was unhappy with some aspect of service by finding an anonymous (or signed) comment online. Often it is difficult to get in touch with these clients to see what we could have done better. Please email, call or ask to speak with a manager. We would love the opportunity to exceed expectations, mend relationships and, at the very least, discover how we can turn it into a learning experience.

6. Be on time

Your time is important and so is ours. Veterinary offices often schedule their appointments in 15- or 20-minute increments, so every minute counts to avoid falling behind for the rest of the day. Get directions ahead of time if needed, and always come at least 10 minutes early if you are new to fill out paperwork.

7. Avoid add-ons without calling first

If you make an appointment for one of your pets, please do not think it is okay to bring along the other three cats that “just need a few things done.” We are happy to accommodate all of your family pets but need to know ahead of time in order to allow time for everything to be done.

8. Pocket those cell phones!

Cell phones are great tools to stay occupied and get work done while in the waiting room, but if you are expecting a call, please do not make the staff wait for you to end your conversation before they can finish their jobs. Use common courtesy, and place your cell phone on silent.

9. Accidents happen

Please alert the staff if your pet has an accident in the building. This is a very common occurrence and nothing to be embarrassed about. The staff just needs to know, so we can clean it up quickly and efficiently.

The staff you meet at a veterinary clinic truly cares about you and your pets. We want you to get the most out of your time when you come through our doors. Follow these easy tips to make the visit enjoyable for all involved during your clinic visit!

Carol Hurst, LVT, is a graduate of McLennan Community College who lives in Houston, Texas. She works at ABC Animal & Bird Clinic.