A few months ago, my own dog was unwell, and it soon became clear that we would have to take her to be seen at a specialist vets. Sitting in the waiting room, with my brave dog comforting her anxious owner, I was reminded how nerve-wracking a trip to the vets can feel.
As with a lot of things in life, a little knowledge can help keep those worries to a minimum. With that in mind, here’s a quick break down of what’s likely to happen on your visit.
Making the appointment
Most veterinary practices work appointments-only systems nowadays, to help schedule the day, although a few still provide ‘open’ surgeries. When you make your appointment, or when you arrive, you’ll usually be asked why you want to visit – this is to help the receptionists plan your appointment, as a first puppy vaccination is likely to take longer than a prescription check.
The waiting room
Practice staff understand that a waiting room can be stressful – don’t be afraid to tell the receptionist you’d rather wait in the car park, or ask if there’s a free room you can wait in by yourself. Many practices will have special areas where cats (and rabbits) can sit apart from dogs, and most practices have treats on standby for pets (and, if you’re lucky, their owners) to help pass the time.
The consulting room
This is where you’ll meet the vet, although sometimes a nurse or technician will take some details first.
In almost all situations, the vet will want to make a clinical examination of your pet, and so it’s worth mentioning to them first if your pet doesn’t like being picked up in a certain way, or is especially keen on a certain ear tickle. This will help make the visit less stressful for your pet, yourself, and the vet examining your pet.
With luck, you’ll soon be on your way back to reception, but in case you hear the dreaded words ‘I’d just like to take him into the back,’ don’t panic! Here’s what’s likely to happen next:
The prep room
If, after the consult, your vet decides that your pet needs another procedure (such as a blood sample, or an intravenous injection), then this is where it’s likely to happen.
The prep room is the area in the practice where minor procedures such as blood tests, sedations and induction of anaesthetics are carried out. Many vets will prefer to take your pet here because all the equipment they might need is ready to hand. Also, many pets are more relaxed when they can’t pick up on their owner’s anxiety about the procedure. If you’d rather stay with your pet, however, don’t be afraid to mention this – your vet should be happy to accommodate you.
‘I’d like to keep him in overnight.’
Your heart sinks, because you were hoping this could all be sorted out with a few injections. Try not to worry – your pet will be in good hands.
Your vet will show your pet to their overnight kennel or cat box, and most vets will happily show you too, and let you settle them in if you want. Most pets will be checked on at least two or three times through the night, and veterinary hospitals will have a nurse on site twenty-four hours a day, checking on your pet as often as required. If the stay is longer, then the vast majority of practices will allow you to visit your pet as often as you want to.
Getting your pet used to the vets
For most visits, you and your pet will only be at the vets practice for half an hour or so, and it helps to reward your pet for good behaviour at the vets. Many surgeries now offer 'puppy playgroups' or similar schemes to help socialise your pet, learn about caring for them, and importantly, associate the surgery with fun, play and treats.
Vets will generally do anything they can to reassure you and to make that trip easier. The golden rule here is – don’t be afraid to ask!