Vet Visit Do's and Don'ts

  • Not all visits to the local veterinarians are about emergencies, of course, but it's not about having fun, either. It's not the time to bring the kids or friends along for entertainment, or even as an educational field trip.

    Remember it's a doctor's office and there are patients to see, even if most of them have four legs. If you're there for routine things like shots, your pet is going to be happy, healthy, energetic and curious. Or maybe they're scared and under a lot of stress in a strange environment, in which case they will be shy and unpredictable.

    In any case, it's serious business, and here are some things to remember to make this visit go smoothly:

    1. Do not let your pet sniffother pets in the waiting room. And don't let someone else's sniff yours. This is not a social event. You don't know who has what, so it's best to keep some distance between animals. Plus, some of them are under stress and could snap or bite.
    2. Do sit away from the entry door.If a huge dog comes in and you're holding your frightened cat on your lap... well, you can imagine what might happen. Then there is the possibility that the wind is blowing or there is a winter storm outdoors. Constantly fanning your pet with cold air isn't very helpful, either.
    3. Do not waste the doctor's timeby using your cell phone while in the exam room. You need to listen to what is being said, especially if there are instructions to follow at home. Besides, it's just plain inconsiderate.
    4. Do bring your pet's previous vet recordswith you if it's your first visit to this office. Better, have them sent over in advance so the new doctor can have a look at them before examining your pet. Making comparisons is one of the backbones of developing a diagnosis.
    5. Do not bring any animals in loose.At least have all dogs on a leash, but a pet taxi is best for cats and very small dogs. It makes more sense to walk a Great Dane in on a leash, of course, but it's equally sensible to bring cats in a carrier. If you don't have one, it doesn't hurt the cat to use a sturdy pillow case. However, you will draw angry stares from other people who don't understand cats, and I've even had vets criticize this. It's better to use a pet taxi if you can, but if this is an emergency, just ignore everyone who thinks you're being mean.

    In a disaster preparedness class, our shelter staff was instructed to use "cat bags" for emergency transports, especially if they are injured. Cats actually feel more secure in small spaces. This carrying method works well if you are the one who has found an injured strange cat, but you don't have pets of your own, thus no carriers. You can drape the pillow case over the cat, then gently wrap him up in it as you turn it inside out around him. It can be dangerous to simply lift a strange cat from the side of the road and you may be better off to call animal control if you don't know what you're doing. But being in a bag will calm a cat who is under stress from an injury and from being handled by a stranger. (Also remember that if you bring in an injured, strange animal, the vet will consider you the financially responsible party.)

    1. Do try to build up an emergency fund for pet care if you haven't purchased pet insurance. Most vet offices like it when clients send in a few dollars every month to "put on account." Having some money on and makes it a no-brainer for pet owners who might feel they can't afford to take an animal in for an emergency.