Veterinary Hospital Etiquette: Do's And Don'ts

If we are lucky, our parents teach us all about good manners when we’re young. Hopefully, as adults we have a pretty good idea of what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. I can still remember when I was 8 years old how much trouble I got in from my dad for not holding the door open for my mom and sister when we arrived at the restaurant. That was not good manners and was not acceptable in our household. Needless to say, I learned my lesson.

With that being said, I am not perfect and on occasion I forget things like this. Sometimes we slip up, not because we want to be discourteous, but more often because we just weren’t thinking. Then again, we don’t always know what’s expected of us in certain situations. For this reason, I wanted to give you some tips on what to do and what not to do when you bring your pets to the vet.

"DO" Keep Dogs On A Leash

While in the veterinary waiting room, you should keep your dog close to you and under control at all times. If you can’t, then you should ask the receptionist if there’s a better place to wait, or take your dog outside until he’s ready to be seen by the vet. A regular leash is going to work better than a retractable leash. They allow for better control and you can keep your dog closer to you.

Keeping your dog on a leash close to you can also prevent problems from occurring and often times preventing a problem is easier than trying to fix one after it has already happened. Problems can arise when dogs are given free rein. Dogs will naturally want to go greet other dogs and people as they come into the waiting room. This can result is altercations between dogs or injury to others by being scratched if your dog jumps on them. The waiting room is not the time or place to allow dogs to socialize.

If you are bringing multiple dogs, make sure you can control them. If not, try to bring someone with you to help or simply make a separate appointment time for each dog and bring them in individually. I know this can be time consuming but it may be easier for all involved. Veterinary waiting rooms can be close quarters so ensure you do your part to make the waiting area as peaceful as possible.

"DO" Be Courteous

Don’t pet other people’s dogs unless you ask them first. On the flip side, do not let someone pet your dog unless you give them permission. This is a rule you should follow no matter where you are, but especially at the vet. The veterinary hospital is not a pleasant environment for every pet. There are numerous smells, noises, and other distractions that can create an uncomfortable situation for pets. Even normally friendly animals may react aggressively in this strange and stressful environment.

Please don’t let your dog approach other people unless they tell you they want them to. While they may have a dog, some people are afraid of other dogs besides their own. Remember, some people just may not like dogs. As hard as that might be for dog owners to believe, it’s true. I love dogs, but I don’t like being jumped on, licked or sniffed in private places. Unfortunately, this can make for an uncomfortable situation if someone just allows their dog to do these things.

"DO" Keep Your Cat Contained

One of the biggest blunders pet owners make, in my opinion, is bringing their cat into a vet’s waiting room without a carrier. As stressful as going to the vet can be for a dog, it can be even worse for a cat. Cats typically do not like being out of their "comfort zone" and the veterinary hospital is definitely not their comfort zone. While they may appear cool, calm, and collected, that can change in an instant.

You may think you have a really calm feline who isn’t afraid of anything, and they will just sit quietly on your lap until it’s your turn to be seen by the vet. That may well be true. Do you realize what could happen when a cat-aggressive dog comes out of the exam room or comes through the front door, and charges straight for your feline companion? At best, you’ll create chaos as you try to catch your frightened cat that is running to find safety.  At worst, your cat will dart over the countertop running across the computers and files or out the open door never to be seen again. Responsible pet owners contain their cats in carriers because it’s infinitely safer for the cat, and much less stressful.

"DO NOT" Abuse Your Cell Phone

Our cell phones are great. We basically have the world at our finger tips now with our smart phones but this can be a blessing and a curse. When you are at the vet, please refrain from using your cell phone for "pleasure" and reserve usage for emergency situations. We understand that emergencies can arise at a moments notice but try to resist the urge to be texting and browsing on social media.

There is nothing worse than asking questions to a pet owner, reviewing diagnostics test results, or reviewing treatment plans only to see that pet owner looking straight down at their phone during the entire conversation. You love your pet, right? Their health takes a team effort and you are apart of that team. Be present and participate during the visit to the vet. This allows for better communication between you and your vet and can avoid mistakes resulting from a breakdown in communication.


We hope that everyone will exercise the same manners as you and all will go well at the veterinary hospital. Unfortunately, this likely not to be the case. The fact is that people have to want to be considerate to others, the veterinarian, and the veterinary staff. While you cannot control what others do, make sure you do your part to ensure the veterinary hospital is a safe environment for all.

Published by Dr. Mason Romero, DVM


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