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Communication 101: Get the most out of your vet visit

Everyone at a veterinary office plays a different role in a pet’s care.

Pet owners typically will see three to four people during a trip to the veterinary office, says Wendy S. Myers, a consultant who owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians.

“Most veterinary hospitals take a team approach to providing a pet’s health care,” she says.

The client service representative, or receptionist
As a pet owner, you’ll first interact with a receptionist, who will help you make a veterinary appointment for your pet. This interaction usually occurs over the phone but can also occur in person or via email or text.

When scheduling the appointment, the receptionist will ask for details about what kind of care your pet needs, Myers says. Is your pet sick? Or does he need a preventive checkup? The reason for a visit is important because appointment times vary depending on the pet’s need.

The receptionist also may ask you to check your inventory of medications or food and about other pets at home. Are vaccines up to date? Do medications need to be refilled?

Finally, the receptionist will call, text, or email a day or two ahead of time to confirm your pet’s appointment. The receptionist will also greet you and your pet upon arrival at the veterinary hospital.

The veterinary technician
In the exam room, a technician will check your pet’s temperature, weight, pulse, and rate of respiration.

Tell the technician why you have brought your pet in to see the veterinarian. The technician will briefly look over your pet and will convey your concerns to the veterinarian before he or she enters the room.

The veterinarian
When your veterinarian comes into the exam room, he or she will likely ask questions about the information the technician gathered from you previously. This is your chance to bring up anything you may have forgotten to tell the technician or to provide more history and explanation.

“The more detective work you can provide, the more accurate the doctor’s diagnosis will be,” Myers says.

For example, if your cat is urinating outside her litter box, it’s helpful if you take note of how often it occurs and any possible causes: Has there been a recent move? Are there new pets in the home? Have you been traveling for work?

Next, the veterinarian will do a nose-to-tail exam. Many veterinarians will describe what they are doing during the exam, but if yours doesn’t, it’s OK to inquire.

“Don’t be too shy to ask, ‘Can you tell me what you’re looking for on my dog or cat?’” Myers says. “If you don’t understand what the doctor’s doing, ask [for an explanation].”

After the exam, the veterinarian will do any diagnostic testing that’s needed and discuss your pet’s condition with you. He or she may also provide you with brochures or website links for more information on your pet’s condition.

Finally, the veterinarian should tell you when to schedule your pet’s next appointment.

Check out
Once the visit is complete, you’ll either check out in the exam room with a technician or at the front desk with a receptionist. The services and products provided should be explained to you before payment is requested.

Concerned about cost? Tell your technician at the beginning of your visit.

“The doctor can sometimes stage the care,” Myers says. “[Depending on your pet’s condition, the veterinarian may] say, ‘Let’s do these three things today and you can come back in three months and do the other two.’”



Veronica Daehn Harvey lives in Western Colorado with her husband, children, and pets. 

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