Your pet and the vet

Regular visits to the vet helps keep your pet in good health. But it's easier said than done.

Going to the vet can be a nightmare for both pet and owner, but with a bit of careful planning it's possible to manage the outing so that stress levels are kept to a minimum.

First of all, do you have the right vet? If you have the type of vet who does things like bribe your dog or cat with tasty titbits, they will enjoy the experience and look forward to their visits.

Phone ahead. Find out if the vet's practice has an appointment system or consulting hours, and find out when it's likely to be fairly quiet. Animals are frightened to go into an environment that is noisy and smells of other animals in distress. Also, if you arrive out of consulting hours, you will either have to wait while the vet finishes an operation, or have to come back later if the vet is out on house calls.

Make sure your pet is under complete control. Dogs must always be on a lead, and cats must always be in a carrier. The same goes for birds, rats and other critters. Remember that a veterinary practice is the place where entire food chains come together, and you don’t want your pet to end up on the menu of somebody else’s! Cats in particular are a problem if not in a carrier; they can shred a hand or arm in seconds if given a fright. Ask any vet what causes most injury to vets and owners in a practice, and the answer will be cats.

If you have a dog that is either aggressive, or a "fear-biter" (that is, a dog that bites when frightened), warn the vet before he/she attempts treatment. If the vet gets bitten you will very likely not be welcome at that practice again. If the vet gets bitten on the hand, and is unable to operate, you may be sued for loss of income, and damages.

If there is a queue to see the vet, don't leave your pet in the car while you wait. Your pet's raised temperature will give the vet a false set of clinical readings which may lead to an incorrect diagnosis. Rather take a dog for a little walkabout, or stash a cat carrier somewhere quiet inside until it's your turn to go into the consulting room.

Try to keep your time inside the practice to a minimum. This is the place where sick animals go for treatment, and you don't want your pets picking up any infections while they're there. This is particularly true for the young of all species, who have yet to build up a good immune system.

In an emergency situation, phone ahead and warn the practice that you are on the way. This will give them a chance to clear the decks in readiness for your arrival. If the vet is busy operating, or out, the staff will be able to redirect you elsewhere for immediate attention.

If this is your pet's final visit to the vet, phone beforehand to get an idea of the cost options with regard to burial or cremation, so that this can all be decided by your family before you get there. They will also be able to advise you as to the best time to go, so that you don't have a crowd of other clients there to witness your distress.

And finally, don't forget your wallet! Most vets these days expect immediate account settlement. If this is a problem, speak to the vet before any procedures are done, so that a payment plan can be made.

- Clair Sawyer, Health24, updated May 2010

Clair Sawyer works as a veterinary assistant

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