Exam Room Etiquette

The past few weeks have been a little crazy around here: wellness exams performed on cats and dogs; weird cases left and right; and the typical crazy client here and there.

As a result, I thought a post about exam room etiquette would be helpful so that you, as a pet owner, might better assist your veterinarian in taking the best care of your pet. The scenario described below is a very common occurrence so I want to use it as an opportunity to share a few tips your vet will appreciate when you take your animal in for their next visit. Obviously, I know that every veterinary clinic is going to be different and will have different protocols, but I think these tips will be universally applicable!

Common Scenario:

A client comes in with two little dogs, mostly of the biting kind. The patients needed a general wellness exam, toenail trims and heartworm tests.  I walk in and discuss with the owner what needs to be done. I then proceed to do the exam. I “pry” the dog out of the owner’s hands so the patient can be properly restrained by my highly-trained veterinary nurse. The owner, keeps trying to take the dog back into his arms. I kindly ask him to please allow my assistant to restrain the animal, mostly because she knows exactly how I need him held to complete a proper physical exam. As I continue the exam, the owner continues to hover and is now “hugging” my assistant, to get to his dog. I ask one more time, “Please sir, my assistant is really good at her job, please allow her to hold your dog.”

After the second time, he still did not let go. As you can imagine, this becomes a very awkward situation. I step back and begin to explain why I need my assistant to hold his dog.

Your safety is just as important to us as the patient’s and our own safety.

We don’t take your animal away from you because we don’t think you’re capable of holding them… well, maybe a little bit … but it is in fact an important factor in keeping YOU, the owner, as well as my staff and me safe.

We experience these situations often, the owner wants to hold their own animal and then as soon as the patient gets upset they let go, putting the doctor or nurse at risk of getting bit. Additionally, vaccinations, or even a simple toenail trim, can be frightening for a patient and without the proper restraint, you, the owner, could also get injured.

 In a stressful situation, an animal reacts like an animal. 

I love the phrase, “My dog won’t bite you.”

Ummm…. well… I have cautioned my own doctor or nurse that I might bite when getting vaccines or an injection! They hurt! The same is true for an animal. Even the nicest of animals might turn on you quickly in any stressful situation.

Keep in mind when you take your animals to a veterinary clinic, we only want you and your pet to have a great experience. Especially, if they are there to get vaccines – something that can be painful – we want to protect you and your pet.

A little space can go a long way. 

Another food for thought … remember that even veterinarians and assistants/nurses like their space.  Just because we are giving your animal a hug doesn’t necessarily mean we need one too.

Animals can sense stress…especially in their owners.

Dogs and cats can also feel your anxiety. So if you are anxious about your animal getting a vaccination, your animal can sense that and can become very frightened.

Many times, I actually like to have the owner wait in the waiting room. You would be surprised how much better your pet does when they are not worried about mom or dad!

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