Image via iStock.com/vadimguzhva
By Victoria Schade
The staff at your veterinarian’s office is trained to expertly assist both you and your pet, even when things get tough. But there’s a chance you might be accidentally making their jobs more difficult in a number of different ways. From not being upfront about your pet’s behavior to getting too involved during the diagnostic process, many pet parents are oblivious about best practices in the exam room.
Are you driving the staff at your local vet nuts? Try to avoid the following “vet peeves” if you want to be a dream client.
Putting the Staff in Danger
Many dogs don’t like the unusual handling that’s part of veterinary exams, but some animal responses to clinical handling are extreme enough to cause actual harm to pet professionals. Not being honest about your pet’s reactivity puts your veterinary technician and veterinarian in danger and can impact the diagnostic process. It’s important to be realistic about your pet’s anxiety so the staff can strategize a treatment plan to minimize canine or feline stress.
Often, that plan might include a dog muzzle for reactive dogs, which can be unnerving for both patient and pet parent if they haven’t had exposure to one before. But muzzling keeps your practitioner safe. Dr. Holly Brooks, a veterinarian at Quakertown Vet Clinic, says, “One bite can ruin my career. Ten minutes in a muzzle will not ruin your dog’s life.”
Being on Your Cell Phone
Cell phones have invaded the exam room, to the dismay of pet health professionals. Dr. Ellen Tan from New York Veterinary Practice blames the growing influence of social media for causing clients to second-guess their veterinarian’s treatment plans. “Dr. Google and your pet’s breeder are not medically trained,” she states. “Listen and be receptive to your vet’s opinion. Isn’t that why you brought your pet in to be seen?”
But cell phones aren’t used just for amateur medical research. Dr. Brooks has dealt with clients who talked on their phone throughout their pet’s entire appointment, making it challenging for her to explain her recommendations. Health care is a team effort, and your pet’s well-being is dependent on you understanding the suggested treatment plans and medication instructions. In the future, keep your phone in your pocket and tune in to your veterinarian instead.
Coddling Your Pet
It’s understandable to want to be there for your pet during a health exam, but doing so can make the experience worse for your dog or cat. Veterinarians don’t want to cause undue pain or stress during exams.
In fact, their job is easier if both the pet parent and patient are relaxed during the procedure, so attempting to help by standing front and center as your veterinarian conducts the exam, or squealing if your pet whines, will likely ramp up the tension in the room.
Both Dr. Tan and Dr. Brooks suggest that it’s often easier if pet parents step out of the room if they’re unable to remain calm during the exam. “Sometimes a pet is exceptionally better behaved away from their owner,” Dr. Brooks states. “Sometimes a pet is trying to protect the owner or is feeding off their anxiety, and once removed from the room, we can work with them much more easily.”
It might feel counterintuitive to leave your pet during a tense moment, but if your pet professional suggests it, it’s likely the procedure will be quicker and easier for all parties.
Showing a Lack of Respect
Veterinarians go through years of school at great expense to add the letters “DVM” after their name, but some pet owners seem to forget that fact. Dr. Brooks’ youthful appearance works against her in her practice, and clients frequently question if she’s “really” a veterinarian, or will comment that she looks too young to be a vet. In a similar show of disrespect, Dr. Tan has been called by her first name during exams, as well as dear, sweetheart, honey and babe.
If you’ve sought treatment for your pet at an accredited practice under the care of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, you should treat your practitioner with the respect they deserve. Refraining from making comments about your veterinarian’s appearance and using the appropriate title are simple and obvious ways to stay on your veterinarian’s good side.
How to Make Your Veterinarian Love You: Client Best Practices
Certified Veterinary Technician Colleen Makem of Quakertown Vet Clinic suggests that training your pet for exams well in advance of actual vet appointments will help your dog or cat will feel more at ease with clinical handling.
“It can be as simple as getting them used to being comfortable with their face, feet and other body parts being touched or held,” Makem states. Training your reactive dog to happily wear a basket muzzle at home—like the Baskerville ultra dog muzzle— and then bringing it with you to the appointment can also help to minimize stress on both sides of the exam table.
Getting your cat used to a cat carrier, like the Sherpa original deluxe pet carrier, prior to taking her to the vet can also help to decrease anxiety, along with using a pheromone collar like the Sentry Good Behavior cat calming collar.
During the exam, be straightforward about your pet’s behavior so that your health care team can plan for the best treatment process possible. Hang up your phone and be fully present while you’re at the appointment. Answer questions honestly, whether they come from the front desk staff, veterinary technician or veterinarian, and trust that everyone wants to help your pet be well. Dr. Brooks says, “As long as we’re on the same page, we can have a fantastic visit!”