Monday, August 8, 2011

Things Vet Techs Think Everyone Should Know

1.  Pinch/prong collars are a bitch to work with.
Please, please, PLEASE I beg of you, if you take nothing else away from this post, just take the pinch collar off of your dog before you take him/her to the vet.  As I type this, I have little spots all over my left arm.  These spots are bruises I got from holding a large unruly dog who was wearing a prong collar at the time.  In order to have a modicum of control over any dog, and make sure my vet co-workers can't get bitten doing their jobs, I have to control their heads.  This involves wrapping one arm around the neck, and the other around the body.  Not only do pinch collars pinch ME and leave little bruises from the pressure I sometimes I have to apply in the course of doing my job, my fingers also get caught in them.  This also hurts like a bitch.  I can only imagine what the dog is feeling.  I don't have fingernails, but one of my co-workers does, and one of hers got bent entirely back past the quick the other day dealing with a dog wearing a pinch collar (completely different from the one that left bruises all over my arm).

2.  Flexi-Leads may have their time and place.  The veterinarian's office is not one of them.
I die a little bit inside every time I have to go out to the waiting room and bring a dog back for a take-to-back booster shot, a suture removal, a weight check, or any other thing and the owner hands me a Flexi-Lead.  These things are utterly useless to control a dog with, and if there's one thing you want in a vet's, it's control over the animals in your care.  I can't wrap it around my hand, they're clumsy to try and hold on to while doing something else with the other hand, and more than half of the time, they're broken and don't lock, making the most simple thing, like a weight check, a complete circus.  The cheapest Flexi-Lead I've ever seen is about 23 dollars.  The cheapest sturdy, six-foot nylon web leash I've ever seen was 1.99 in a clearance bin.  Get a cheap, sturdy nylon web lead and if you do nothing else with it, leave it in your car for when you go to the vet, and leave the Flexi at home.  Your dog's health care team will love you for it.

3.  Muzzle your aggressive dog.
If your dog needs to be muzzled for strangers to handle him, and you KNOW your dog needs to be muzzled for strangers to handle him, it will save a lot of time if you buy your own soft muzzle and have your dog muzzled already when someone comes for him.  If the only time you need to muzzle your dog is at the veterinarian's, and you don't want to spend the ten bucks to buy something you only use once every 12 months, that's okay.  Vets have muzzles.  Just make sure you tell someone while you are checking in that your dog will need to be muzzled.  Please, do not wait until a member of the veterinary care team is reaching for your dog to let someone know.

4.  Respect the scheduling, and the other clients' time.
Do not make an appointment for one animal and then bring the rest of your pets along to be looked at as well, without making separate appointments for each of them.  This is REALLY selfish to everyone else who has made appointments, and it makes the doctors super grumpy.  Then we have to deal with super grumpy doctors and pissed off clients who have been waiting way longer than they should have for the rest of the day.

5.  Be honest about bite wounds.
If your pet has an overdue rabies shot, and a bite wound, don't try to lie to us and tell us it's not a bite wound.  Your veterinarian knows what a bite wound looks like.  We'll know when we see it.  Please don't tell us over the phone that your dog "scratched himself" or "laid down on a nail" or "jumped off of the couch wrong" or any other bogus story.  That's really not fair to the people who have to handle your hurting (and therefore unpredictable and volatile), potentially contagious with a fatal disease, pet.  We need to know crap like that so we can take precautions for our own safety.  We don't want to die of rabies.

6.  We don't set the prices.
The owner of the practice and/or the office manager sets the prices (unless you go to a VCA, in which case some corporate main office somewhere sets the prices).  If you have a problem with the prices, don't yell at the techs or receptionist.  You might as well scream at a brick wall for all the good it's going to do you.

7.  Know your local veterinary ERs.
Use them for emergencies, don't bother going to your regular vet first.  If your pet is bleeding profusely, having serious respiratory distress, actively seizing or has just been hit by a car, GO TO THE EMERGENCY VETERINARIAN.  In a medical emergency, every second counts and you may be wasting very precious time going to your regular veterinary practice if they don't have the equipment or resources to handle emergencies on-site.

8.  Use your words.
Be descriptive when calling your veterinarian about a problem with your pet.  No information is TMI in a vet's office.  Don't withhold information from the vet tech and then pour it all out to the veterinarian when he or she gets in the room.  We need to be able to write that stuff in your pet's chart for  future reference, and so the vet has a better idea of what's going on before they get in the room with you and can ask intelligent questions. We're not asking for the fun of it.

9.  Do your part to prevent disease transmission.
If your pet is coughing, sneezing, vomiting, having diarrhea or otherwise showing signs of a possibly contagious illness, feel free to wait with your pet in the car until the health care team is ready for you.  On the other hand, if your pet is fine and just going in for a yearly physical, you probably shouldn't allow your pet to play with or have contact with an unknown dog in the waiting room, because some of them are there because they are showing symptoms of contagious illnesses.

10.  Dogs should be on a leash, cats in a carrier when at the veterinarian's.
This should be a no-brainer, but still people will carry a small pet in and then put the pet down to run around in the waiting room where a larger, aggressive pet could possibly come through the door at any second.


  1. I cringe when I see flexis, and I'm just another client.

    Great list.

  2. Love the list. It all makes perfect sense.

    I know at least one person who doesn't own a plain nylon leash, but has a flexi-lead, and thinks there's nothing wrong with that. I, personally, would never own one and think they're terrible ideas because of the fact that they are so expensive, break easily, and make it nearly impossible to control your dog in cases where you need to have them under control.

  3. We. Don't. Set. Prices. Geez, no kidding. I've been helping reception a lot in the past couple months as we're understaffed, and whoo boy. I think I hate the passive aggressive ones worse than the ones that all-out yell at you.

    "Eighty bucks? Damn. Well, I guess my kids didn't need to eat this week, anyway." Accompanied by the exaggerated eye roll. Then they drive off in their $50,000 truck.

  4. @Suzy: Yep.

    I dearly love the people who come in, consent to have everything done with all the bells and whistles, get to check out and then say, "Oh, I don't have any money."

    I swear there are two signs out on the road hanging under the practice sign. They are invisible to normal people, you have to be a complete @$$hole to see them. One says, "We work for free!" The other says, "Walk-ins welcome, no appointment or phone call necessary!"

  5. You haven't seen the $2.60 flexi-leads? Ah, you haven't lived.

    Incidentally the 2 dollar nylon 6-foot leashes aren't too bad- I was expecting it to fall apart.

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  7. I wish we had an ER. The only emergency vets we have charged £18($26) to print off an insurance claim form after refusing to save our cat's eye.