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Ask A Vet: Office Visit Etiquette

Photo via xavi talleda on Flickr.com

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: What are some etiquette guidelines for vet-visits? Do you have any patient-pet-peeves?

A: Look, it’s nerve racking for you guardians at the vet.  You’re worried about your pet’s health.  You’re worried about whether your cat will karate chop the nurse again.  You’re worried about how much this episode of vomiting or diarrhea is going to cost.  And your response to all that worry may be petting your dog or cat like you’re striking a match!  Our pets are excellent at reading our emotions and our touch is a great barometer of our psych. Be sure to check yourself on the heavy petting.

Make a list of complaints or questions you want to cover during the visit.  Calling the doc back out in the lobby for one more "quick question” about your dog’s weird limp that only happens when the moon is waning is tough.

Cellphones—Imagine walking into an exam room and the client is on the phone.  And stays on the phone!   Then they head nod or point to the dog or cat like “there he is, examine away”.  Please put the phone down and engage!

Unruly children in the examination room.  Ok, I like kids—really—but I don’t want to participate in the negotiations with your child on whether they can scream or jump around in the exam room.  A colleague of mine used to rhetorically ask “how often do you take your pet to the pediatrician”  Ok, I know it can be difficult to take care of both children and pets so if you child is about to have a meltdown let your vet take the animal to the treatment room where they can work in peace.

Enough of the peeves—here’s what I love:

    *  I love when guardians mimic various clinical signs—especially the interpretation of a cat bringing up a hair ball and the reverse sneeze of a dog.   I’ve seen serious looking folks in fine suits get down on all fours to imitate the reverse sneeze. (which is scary when you first experience it)

    *  I love when guardians keep a log of the problem and bring in the label of whatever offending product their dog or cat ate.  It helps us so much if you can provide times and context to the problem.  Thank you.

    *  I love when clients show up on time for their appointment.  (as much as you love when we vets stay on time! )

    *  I love that guardians care enough to take time out of their busy days to bring their pets into us—that they trust us with their companions. And really, that makes it all worthwhile.

You have questions? We have answers! No question is too silly or too gross…we’ve heard it all! “Ask A Vet” every Friday from 12pm-1pm on Twitter: @sfspca.