Kingstonist’s Wizard of Paws: Tips for visiting your veterinary clinic (Part two)

Dr. Ryan Llera with a puppy patient at Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Submitted photo.

Admit it, taking your pet to the veterinarian is probably not one of your favorite things to do.

Obviously, there are those times when your fur-baby is sick and it’s understandable you’re dreading the visit, especially when the outcome is unknown. Maybe it’s the cost of things that is frustrating.  Perhaps it’s the time you spend there or the interaction with the clinic staff that have you dreading the visit.  Fear not! You can help make those trips to your veterinary clinic be more productive, safer, and efficient so we can cooperatively get your pet treated and make the experience less exasperating. Think of these tips as some of the secrets we vets think but don’t say out loud.

If the presenting complaint is pain, we have to localize the pain

I know what you may be thinking…why do you have to make my pet hurt during the exam? Yes, it’s true that during an exam we may palpate an area and it may hurt, but we have to know what is ailing your pet. Afterwards (and before any x-rays), we’ll be more than happy to give your pet pain medication or a sedative to help them relax. If we can’t find the painful area, then a diagnosis may escape us and your pet might not get the proper treatment.

Why can’t we complete our exam?

One of the things I find to take the most time (thus extending a visit length) is not being able to adequately complete our exam. Why is this?  Two things – Chairs and leashes.  Unfortunately, many pets are still afraid of the veterinary clinic. When this happens, they tend to climb into a small or covered space in hopes of not being noticed, or to make themselves more difficult to be touched. This often means climbing under a chair. I don’t mind helping coax Fluffy or Spot (with bribery from treats) out from under a chair, but we may feel awkward if you are still sitting on said chair….let’s call it a personal space bubble that we don’t want to pop. 

This is where you can help and where the leash comes into play (for dogs at least).  Drop the leash, hold the collar or place your hands on your pet. Leashes also create prime tripping hazards with a big, happy dog.  If your pet holds still, we can do our jobs better and give you better service. If a staff member is able to help in an exam room (not always possible), please trust them to handle your pet as if he or she were their own.

Not every pet who comes to the vet clinic is happy or a sweetheart

Admittedly, I will give every patient the benefit of the doubt, but if they seem leery or if they snap, we will likely want to put a muzzle on them. I’ve heard people say that veterinarians should not be afraid of animals.  The truth is, we respect them and know what some of them can do. I’ve known too many colleagues who have been unable to continue working like they’re accustomed due to a nasty animal-related injury. Animals are also perceptive and if they sense they the staff is uneasy, it may send the wrong signals of being dominant.

Simply put, if your pet has a history of misbehaving, allow us to take proper safety precautions so that nobody gets hurt. Some pets are actually better behaved or more relaxed if they are not in the same room with the owner, especially in cases where they are protective of you.  Alternatively, for routine visits, we can often prescribe some pre-visit medications ahead of time to help take the edge off and make your pet more relaxed so that their visit may not be such a bad experience.

All we all need is just a little patience

Time spent at the vet clinic can be discouraging. Whether it is before or after your appointment may make it more so. A veterinary visit is comprised of multiple parts and interactions, from the client services up front, to the veterinary technician, to veterinarian, and back up to client services. Wow!  That can be a long time depending on the reason for the visit. If you show up a few minutes early, we can make sure your contact info is up to date so that further follow up can be done once you are done with the appointment. And, if we’re able to, we’ll see you early to give you some extra time or try to get you home just a little bit earlier.

By the same token, walking into the clinic with a true emergency (hit by car, active bleeding, trouble breathing, or seizuring to name a few)  is understandable, but we ask that you at least call us beforehand so we can prepare and, if needed, we can notify our scheduled appointments and give them a chance to reschedule.  If you’re walking in and it’s not an emergency, we will do our best to squeeze you in, but there may also be the need to schedule you for a later appointment.

So there you have it… A few more tips to try and help ease the trip to the vet clinic.  A few more tips, you say??  Yes, check out part one of tips for your vet clinic visit!  And please keep in mind that we are always trying our best for all of our patients, so let’s all be courteous to our fellow pet lovers and the clinic staff!  Thank you!

If there’s something you’ve often wondered or questions you have about regarding pets, let us know by email at [email protected].

*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian.

Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with two cats, two dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes writing to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can find more of his writing at, or see what else he is up to on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Disclaimer: All columns are personally written and my opinion, and may not necessarily reflect those of current or former employers.

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