Adapted from a publication on telegraph.co.uk by Peter Wedderburn
1. Try to pick a “quiet” appointment time. Early mornings, mid-evenings, and Saturdays are often hectic times in vet clinics: appointment slots are fully booked, emergencies are coming in, in-patients are being treated and there may be less staff to cover the work. If it fits your schedule, consider a mid-morning or early afternoon appointment. For routine work like annual health checks, vaccinations, or chronic skin problems, mid-week days are often calmer than Mondays and Fridays, which will often allow you more quality time with your vet.
2. When you attend an appointment have a list ready for your vet and go through this with the vet briefly at the start of the consult. It’s easier for vets to address a number of problems or questions if they know everything that’s concerning you at the beginning.
3. When booking an appointment, please mention how many animals you are taking with you to the clinic. Squeezing two animals with complex problems into a fifteen-minute consultation doesn’t work well: there’s less time for each patient, and it’s not as easy for the vet to concentrate fully on each one. Veterinary receptionists are trained to allow an adequate stretch of time for each case, so they can schedule a suitable appointment time for you.
4. If possible, don’t bring your children with you. Even the best-behaved youngsters can distract you from what the vet is saying. This is particularly important if your pet is a nervous patient – it’s practically impossible to listen well whilst consoling a terrified terrier and keeping that three-year-old out of the bin. Having said that, routine and non-complex consultations can be a good learning experience for children, and we certainly aim to be a child-friendly practice.
5. Use a notebook to jot down information, or ask the vet to write down key points for you. There are also ready-made advice sheets available for certain common or complex conditions.
“7. Feel free to say, “I’m not sure I understand that”. We are quite happy to rephrase information or use another approach – such as diagrams or models – to explain complicated or technical information.”
6. It can be difficult to bring up the topic of money, but it’s important to do so. There’s often more than one way of doing things, and vets may be able to tailor treatment to fit your budget. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for an estimate of costs. Our computerised practice management system can generally draw up a ball-park figure at the touch of a few buttons.
7. Feel free to say, “I’m not sure I understand that”. We are quite happy to rephrase information or use another approach – such as diagrams or models – to explain complicated or technical information.
8. Be honest. It’s human nature to tell someone what you think they want to hear, and a veterinary check-up is no different. So don’t be afraid to admit that a few tablets from the last treatment course ended up in the bin, or that it is impossible to enforce a strict diet in your home, or that your pet actually stopped eating 4 days ago already. Vets understand how difficult it can be to give treatments or even to notice certain problems. Bending the truth just leads the vet along the wrong diagnostic path, and can be really detrimental to your pet’s wellbeing.
9. Get to know the clinic’s veterinary nurse and receptionists. They can often give you practical – and free – advice about everything from flea and worm treatments to behaviour and grooming.
10. And finally… smile! A smile is one of the most powerful non-verbal tools that we have. It makes it easier for people to listen thoroughly to each other. A smile sets the scene for good communication.