It happens several times a day—at least—when a frightened cat empties her bladder onto the table or, more commonly, when a nervous dog leaves a pile of steamy stuff on the way into the hospital.

Owners are invariably mortified. So much so that they don’t always tell the staff about the mess, leaving unsuspecting clients to navigate a mine-field on their way in—or worse, slip in the excrement.

Whenever this occurs in an exam room, I try to set people at ease: “She’s not the first today and I promise you she won’t be the last.” Still, they’re clearly embarrassed and always offer to clean up the mess. I don’t let them. Instead, I stick my head out the door and yell, “Clean-up, aisle one!”

I know it seems silly, but I’ll do anything to make a client laugh, whether it’s an episode of the submissive piddles or the big-time bowel movements that require a scooper-shovel.

They’re animals, after all, not the perfectly behaved, suitably-warned children we sometimes wish they were. They don’t exactly care whether they let loose on the sidewalk, the park or the vet’s place—it all smells the same to them, much as we try to disinfect and de-smell our surfaces.

And we Americans are so touchy about poo-poo and pee-pee. I mean, we can’t even say it right! It’s no wonder we get so freaky about excreta—we’ve had a lifetime of inhibitory (or foul) language forced upon us in relation to bodily waste.

Occasionally we get the truly disgusting cases where a fear-aggressive dog lets loose every possible secretion and excretion known to their kind, then proceeds to run in circles around and over it, smearing gobs of foul discharge on every accessible surface. That’s a bad day. But it’s still not their fault—they’re justifiably scared s-------. And I sympathize with the owner’s horror of the scene. That’s when I offer to make a house call next time. What else can you do for a case like that?—short of some serious sedation.

So next time you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to apologize for your pet’s bowels or bladder—don’t. Just let us know it happened and kindly ask someone to clean it up. It’s all in a day’s work for us.