Veterinary Appointment Etiquette
When Making the Appointment
First, unless you know for a fact that your veterinary clinic allows walk-ins, call ahead to schedule an appointment. Most clinics (unless it's an emergency clinic) don't allow walk-ins. When you just show up with your pet, you throw the clinic's whole schedule off. By doing so, you will either make every appointment for at least the next couple of hours have to wait, or you will be forced to wait until they have time to see you.
**If you have an emergency, please go to your closest emergency clinic. It's always a good idea to have your local e-clinic's phone number and address on hand.**
If you're trying to get an appointment for the day of or within the next couple of days, understand that the clinic probably already has many appointments on their schedule. Also, understand that the person scheduling your appointment will schedule in (1) the best interest of your pet and (2) the best interest of the clinic. **I will be posting an article soon discussing the art of scheduling.**
One last thing to consider:
Keep up with your pet's health. If they need vaccinations soon, try to make the appointment at least a week in advance. You'll have a much better chance of getting an appointment day and time that works best for you. Also, if you're pet is sick, don't wait a week to call the veterinarian; waiting could turn it into an emergency situation, which may be difficult for the clinic to accommodate.
Does your vet clinic allow walk-in appointments?
Going to the Appointment
Preparing well for a veterinary appointment can really improve the experience.
If your pet is having urinating or defecating-related issues, bring a sample. You can bring a urine sample by catching it as your pet is urinating in a Tupperware or other clean container.
If you have a dog, take him to go to the bathroom before going into the clinic. The staff will appreciate not having to clean up a mess. **If you pet is having urinated or defecating-related issues, and you are unable to get a sample, do NOT let them go to the bathroom prior to the appointment.**
If you have a dog, show up with them on a leash. If you have a cat, show up with them in a carrier. Loose pets only cause problems in a clinic; they either get loose and run out the door, find their way to the back of the clinic where other exams are going on, or end up in a disagreement with another pet.
Finally, show up early; roughly five to ten minutes early is best. This give time for any paperwork and check-in procedures you may need to participate in.
Do you keep all of your pets records/invoices?
Checking into the Appointment
When checking in, approach a staff member who is not busy on the phone or with another client. Simply say, "Hello, I have Cocoa Smith with an 11:00 appointment," or something to that effect. The staff member helping you will get you checked in and discuss the details of your appointment with you.
If you have a stool or urine sample, state this so that the veterinary assistants can get those tests started.
Be patient if you have to wait; veterinary clinics get busy and sometimes appointments can run a little late.
In with the Veterinarian
Listen, listen, listen. Listen to what the veterinary has to say. You may think you know what's best for your pet's health, but the veterinarian didn't go through four grueling years of school for kicks and giggles. They know what they're talking about.
Ask plenty of questions, rather than going home confused. You can't ask too many questions. The veterinarians would rather you ask a lot of questions and went home knowledgeable than have to call the clinic with questions, treat your pet wrong, or have to set up another appointment because of your lack of knowledge.
Checking Out and Heading Home
If your bill is more than you expected, don't throw a fit about it, and don't write a check you can't cash. The staff understand that money is tight sometimes; I promise no veterinary assistant's income is going to make anyone rich. Don't complain about the cost of the appointment.
If you don't have the money, know this ahead of time. If you know that you're tight on cash, then look into other payment options prior to the appointment. For example, put it on a credit card and make payments. Another option is to look into CareCredit, which is essentially an interest-free credit card for medical purposes; you do have to find out if your clinic accepts CareCredit first. Go ahead and ask if your clinic does payment plans; you might get lucky.
Finally, pay attention to any go-home instructions (i.e. post-surgical, medication, etc).