How YOU can be a better friend to your veterinarian in ten easy steps

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: September 09, 2010
Published: January 23, 2009
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Let’s say you LOVE your veterinarian. Or maybe you don’t; but you still trust him. Of course you want what’s best for your pet and you’re smart. You understand that being a good client can make the difference between stellar care and the decent to excellent care you’re currently receiving.

After all, this is the person that can make the difference between life and death, comfort and pain, stress and a warm experience. You get this. And so do we. But we’re not always so good at communicating what’s necessary for you to do your job as a client/pet owner in ways that you can easily grasp.

We may make home care recommendations, prescribe drugs, suggest rechecks and intimate medical imperatives. But you may not always grasp our meaning right off the bat—not when so much is swirling though your head, what with your emotional reactions and private concerns for your pet’s welfare.

And it’s true; we sometimes judge our clients based on their quick adoption of our often poorly delivered demands. We interpret any non-compliance as a rejection of our role as primary care provider, even if it’s justified.

But we can all do better if we become better communicators and more assiduous advocates for our pet’s care.

That’s why, at your request, I’ve compiled this top-ten list of ways in which YOU can affect your pet’s care at the veterinary-client relationship level. In no particular order…

1. Do you disagree? Say so. Express your feelings and let us understand your reservations. We know that one size does not fit all. Moreover, any challenge, delivered diplomatically, should endear you to any intellectually curious and medically ambitious vet.

2. Observe the rules of the road. We have policies. Sure, not all policies will be to your liking but you can always go elsewhere if that’s the case. But when in Rome… And that may mean keeping Fido on a leash, Fluffy in a box and letting us restrain your pet when we ask to do so. 

3. Make a list. Lists automatically signal diligence, responsibility and thoughtfulness. We value this in our clients. It says, “I want what’s best and I care more about my pet than most.” Bring in a list and/or jot down notes. We thank you for this extra step that indicates your compliance and respect. We eat it up.

4. Follow our recommendations.
If you know you won’t or can’t, just say so. Explain why if you’re not comfortable doing so or cannot possibly do so. This always helps us understand you better. We won’t look down at you for it. We’ll admire you for your sincerity.

5. Ask for help. Signal your willingness to take on a task by asking how it’s done. We want to make things clear. Don’t hesitate to assertively request assistance. This always let’s us know you’ll follow through.

6. Questions, please! We know you need to understand what’s up with your pet’s care…in detail. And we don’t always know when we haven’t gotten the message across.

7-Show up on time. Be respectful of our schedule. Call if you’re going to be late or need to cancel.

8. Constructive criticism is a precious thing. Don’t like something about our practice? Give us feedback. And give it easy for maximum effect. For example, “I love your staff but…” Most veterinarians worth their salt won’t get their backs up; they’ll internalize this and make changes when necessary or prudent.

9. Talk finances. If you can’t pay for something you don’t need to get personal about why you can’t. But it always helps to let us know you have a limit. You need an estimate. You can’t afford a referral to a specialist. Etc…

10. Pay your bills. If you’re offered a payment plan, meet your obligations to the letter. Otherwise, you risk losing out respect for your integrity, and worst of all, being denied access after hours, for emergency situations and for serous future financial difficulties.

Those are mine…I hope vets, techs and vet staff will also chime in…