Kingstonist’s Wizard of Paws: Tips for visiting your veterinary clinic

Dr. Ryan Llera with cat patient, Poppy. Submitted photo.

How many of us like waiting around in our doctor’s office?  Not many, I can imagine…  Now what about the length of time you spend in the veterinary clinic? Honestly, I have always found veterinary clinics to be more personable than most human doctor offices or hospitals, so maybe your time in a vet clinic isn’t as bothersome. On the other side of the coin though, we don’t like running behind and we want to give you the best service possible to keep your pets happy and healthy. So I’ve got some tips, or maybe they can be seen as unwritten rules, to make you and your pets’ visit safer and more efficient. Not only that, these tips can help make your fellow pet owners and the veterinary staff happier, too!

  • Cats should be brought in carriers and dogs kept on leashes – This is for their safety and yours. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen one pet get too close to another and a bite or scratch ensues. Additionally, I’ve known a few clients who either got caught in the middle of the scrum or were clawed by their cat they were holding as it became frightened from all the noise. Some cats have even escaped from the car or their owner’s arms and ended up running away.
  • Don’t clean your pet’s ears before the appointment you made for us to check their ears – We certainly do appreciate you looking after your pets’ health.  However, if the problem you are bringing them in for is related to the ears, we really do need to see what’s going on in there. Oftentimes, it can be easier to make the diagnosis by looking or smelling the ear. Words can’t describe the awesomeness in seeing those ear mites crawling around in the ear and knowing that I can help that patient definitively!
  • Know what food you are feeding your cat or dog – When I ask what food your pet is eating, I get an ‘I don’t know’ answer probably about 60 per cent of the time. Sometimes I get told ‘My wife buys it’ or ‘We feed him from the blue bag.’ It’s important for us to know what your pet is eating, especially if we are discussing a pet that is over or under weight, or having gastrointestinal issues. Many weight problems can be helped by feeding the proper diet. By knowing what they are eating, we can help ensure your pet is eating properly. Tip: Bringing the empty bag is best, but a picture of the front may do.
  • When you have an appointment for one pet, but bring in an extra pet for us to look at – We understand that your time is precious and that you enjoy the convenience of squeezing in multiple vet visits in one trip. And we have no issue with Sparky coming along to keep Rover company. But when an innocent question such as, ‘By the way, Sparky also is scratching at his ears, could you have a look?’ is asked, it sets us further behind, which isn’t fair to the next patient and their family. Most of the time, we will graciously consent because we take pride in our profession and the service we offer, but it really does throw a monkey wrench in our schedule. So if both pets need to come in, ask us on the phone if we have time for them both.
  • Giving your dog a bath right before the appointment – Don’t get me wrong, we love clean dogs and knowing that they are well cared for. However, when a wet dog comes in for an exam, it can create a few problems.  First, any water they drip or shake can make for a slippery floor. Secondly, as we are palpating (physically examining) a wet pet, fur can get clumped, which may obscure small skin masses… And as we remove our hands we are more likely to look like the Wolfman rather than a veterinarian. And of course, happy wet Labradors just love to snuggle us, which then makes us look like we’ve wet ourselves. So let’s hold off on the baths until after the exam, we won’t pass judgement if they are a little dirty – dogs will be dogs!

Well, I hope these few tips will help your visit to your veterinarian run more smoothly and efficiently.  If anything, these small little things will often go a long way towards making your relationship with your veterinarian better. I’ll be revisiting this topic, as several of my colleagues have offered further suggestions so this is just part one for now.  Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, and thanks for reading and sharing!

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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