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Dr. Evan Antin shares: a pet parent’s guide to vet office etiquette

Be mindful of how your mood can impact your dog’s vet visit.

From prepping your dog or cat for a smooth drive to helping them feel comfortable during the appointment — and more — there’s plenty pet parents can do to ensure visiting the vet is an easy-going process for everyone.

For these tips, we turned to Dr. Evan Antin, a practicing small animal, exotics and wildlife veterinarian at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital and member of Fetch’s Veterinary Advisory Board. With his help, you’ll know the do’s and don’ts of the vet office’s waiting room and beyond.

How can pet parents get their pets ready for the vet’s office?

I recommend applying similar concepts for any pet travel. So for cats, I recommend setting out their carrier or crate days in advance of a veterinary appointment and making positive reinforcements associated with the carrier. For example, place treats and/or catnip inside of it. Utilizing pheromone sprays in the crate is also a good idea — especially on the day of the vet visit. 

For dogs and cats, it’s smart to get them familiar with leaving the house to go places other than the veterinary clinic. Even short drives can help condition our pets to be comfortable outside the house. Again, positive reinforcement helps here, so offer treats right before and even inside the car. 

Some pets do get carsick, even if they haven’t just consumed a meal or treats. Consult with your vet about meclizine (over-the-counter Dramamine) or even prescription medications that can help with carsickness. 

Is there anything pet parents should bring to the vet appointment?

If you haven’t already submitted vaccine information to the veterinary clinic, then you should bring those documents. The same goes for previous veterinary visits at other clinics or hospitals. 

For very fearful or defensive dogs, you can bring a muzzle if necessary, but most veterinary establishments will have them on hand. 

I always recommend that cats come in a carrier — they feel safer this way, and it’s also safer for them. For dogs, you should bring a leash and keep it on unless you’re literally planning on holding your dog during the entire visit, including in the waiting room. 

Now that we’ve covered what to bring, how early should pet parents plan on getting to the vet’s office? 

Ten to 15 minutes early can be helpful if you have documentation that needs to be shared with the hospital. Certain kinds of appointments recommend 30 minutes prior to the scheduled time, such as an ultrasound, and that’s to make time for pets to be shaved. Otherwise, arriving on time or slightly early is fine. 

Arriving late can significantly disrupt the flow at a veterinary clinic, so please do your best to be on time. 

RELATED: Dr. Evan Antin explains: How to spot osteoarthritis in your pet

Do you have any waiting-room-etiquette tips you can share? 

Please keep your pet on a leash or confined and close to your person. It’s smart to keep even distances between pets, too, assuming there’s enough space in the waiting area.

If your dog’s interested in making friends, please go slow and keep a tight lead on them in case they or another dog behaves fearfully or defensively. 

Of course, check in with reception upon arrival so the staff can set up an exam room for you and notify your veterinarian of your arrival. 

Is it normal for a potty-trained pet to have accidents while at the vet’s office? Is there any advice you can give for pet parents that might experience this? 

This is common. If you can offer a bathroom break just before leaving or even at the veterinary clinic, that helps. But if your pet has an accident, it’s not a big deal. It happens everyday, so don’t stress. 

Do you have any pointers for when you’re actually in the vet appointment? 

I always encourage pet parents to come prepared with any questions they may have. 

One question I always ask pet parents is, "How can we help you today?" One of our visit’s goals is to make sure everyone is on the same page so we can effectively address you and your pet’s needs. 

I also recommend that pet parents be as objective and detailed as possible when describing their concerns for their pet. Getting a good history on your pet, including clinical signs observed at home, like lethargy, inappetence, vomiting and diarrhea (and their duration) is extremely important for us vets to do our job. 

A good vet knows that with a good history and a good physical exam, they can begin to make their list of differential diagnoses, aka possible disease processes. A firm diagnosis may be made in the exam room, but if not, then you and your vet can discuss diagnostic tools and the next steps. 

Unfortunately, many people think vets are trying to make money by suggesting unnecessary diagnostics and/or treatments. The truth is that most vets are good people that genuinely want to help you and your loved ones. If your vet recommends anything and they can justify their reasons for doing so, then it’s most likely worth exploring. Developing a trusting relationship with your vet is good for you, your vet and, of course, your pet. 

Are there any things pet parents should avoid doing during a checkup?

Please be respectful towards veterinary staff. These days, veterinary hospitals are busier than ever, and they’re doing their best to get patients and pet parents served well. 

A good number of people can be surprisingly rude to veterinary staff, especially receptionists. Being unpleasant does no favors for you or your pet. If we can all be patient and respectful, then we can all be more effective at achieving our overall goal of helping your pets. 

Can my energy or behavior during a vet appointment trigger my pet in negative ways? If so, do you have any tips to help my pet feel comfortable?

Absolutely. In most cases, an anxious pet parent makes for an anxious pet. And a calm pet parent makes for a calm pet. Tranquil energy goes a long way and helps to make the appointment more effective for everyone involved. 

What about some post-appointment tips? 

Take your veterinarian’s recommendations to heart. Like I said, most vets are good people and share a common goal with you: providing quality health care for your pets. 

What’s the best way to ask their veterinarian follow-up questions? 

Contact your veterinary office and leave a message with reception. For some simple questions, the receptionists or a technician can answer them for you. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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