Top 10 things NOT to do in your veterinarian’s waiting room

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: February 26, 2016
Published: June 10, 2009
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Ever walked into a vet’s waiting room only to run smack into an aggressive dog straining against the full length of his Flexi-leash? Or seen a pet owner holding her cat in her lap, otherwise unrestrained? How about the pet owners bringing six dogs at a time, unable to control them all? Or the parent whose four children run amok in the small space. 

As with everything in life there is a right way and a wrong way to approach it. The veterinary waiting room is no different. 

Sure, veterinary hospitals need to make their waiting areas hospitable, manageable and safe. And when they have little space to work, with the staff should offer alternatives for pet owners whose pets are anxious, aggressive or poorly contained. But that doesn’t mean you get a pass when it comes to exercising some common sense and exhibiting basic courtesy at the vet’s place. 

But it’s true that one man’s common sense and courtesy is another’s opportunity for genuine cluelessness. We don’t all know what’s expected of us. That’s why I’ve put together this quick list of what NOT to do in your veterinarian’s waiting room.

10. Don’t fail to contain your cats. Even if your cat is the sweetest thing on record, some other animals may not agree. The last thing we want is to see in our lobbies is an altercation in which one animal dies. Cat carriers are cheap and widely available. Use them.

9. Don’t give dogs free reign. The business end of the leash should be in your hands, not at your dog’s head. If you can’t keep him close and controlled then it’s time to ask the receptionist if there’s a better place for your pet to wait.

8. Don’t use Flexi-leads. OK, so that’s not exactly fair. Flexis have their place. But it’s not at the vet’s. If you must use them, make sure you know how they work and keep your pets in tight. 

7. Don’t do the meet-and-greet thing. The vet’s is not the dog park (although you can find some great ones near you with the PetMD Finder). It’s a strange environment in which pets don’t always act the way you expect them to. Moreover, in a veterinary hospital the onus is on us to keep your dogs safe. Legally, we’re liable if your dogs fight. Please keep pets apart. No matter how well you know your pet, can you honestly say you know someone else’s? 

6. Don’t pet other pets. Again, the vet’s place is a strange and stressful environment. And yes, if you get bit it’s on our dime––not to mention our conscience.

5. Don’t walk into a packed exam room. If the exam room is wall-to-wall pets, don’t chance it. Make a call on your cell phone or ask someone to let the receptionist know you’re waiting outside.  

4. Don’t fail to tell the receptionist ahead of time if your pet is severely anxious or aggressive. All hospitals appreciate the warning when you make your appointment. It gives us a chance to offer you back-door alternatives or other concessions to your pet’s unique behavior issues. 

3. Don’t bring small children unless you can’t help it. A busy animal hospital is tough on small kids. They’re not old enough to benefit enough from the educational experience relative to their risk of getting hurt. We worry. 

2. Don’t be rude. Courtesy is king. Silence is golden (within reason). And all that stuff. I don’t have to tell you that, but this post wouldn’t be complete without it. 

1. Don’t be shy. Ask for what you need. If your pet is freaking out, you should let someone know (if it isn’t obvious). We want your pet to be as comfy as possible and it’s not going to happen unless we know about it.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Image: At the Vets by Norman Rockwell