Veterinary Clinic Etiquette

Taking a pet to the veterinarian can be a stressful time for the pet as well as the pet owner. There are ways we can make the trip easier for our pet, ourselves, other pets and their owners and the veterinary staff.

Check-in when you arrive

As soon as you arrive, let the staff who you and your pet are, what time the appointment is and with who.

Let the front desk staff know if you have changed your address or phone number so they can update their records. If it is your first time at the clinic, allow additional time to fill out paperwork.

Bring cats in cat carrier and dogs on a leash

Our cats and dogs may be perfect pooches and felines at home, and many love to meet other animals, but that may not be reciprocated with other animals in the clinic.

Cats can and do become scared and if they are not contained in a carrier, may bolt if startled. Dogs must be controlled on a leash to prevent them not only visiting other pets in the waiting room but if a situation does escalate, you have control over the dog and can quickly move him or her out of the way.

Don’t approach another pet in the waiting room unless you ask the owner

Cats, in particular, don’t like to be taken out of the comfort of their environment and the waiting room is a stressful place with unfamiliar smells, people and pets. If you want to say hello to another animal in the waiting room, ask the carer if it is okay. Don’t assume.

Don’t let your pet approach another pet in the waiting room unless you ask permission

Dogs quite often like to say hello to other pets, and just because your dog loves greeting other dogs but that may not be reciprocated. Always ask if it is okay for your dog to say hello, don’t assume.

Barking dogs

If your dog barks a lot, notify staff you have arrived and then take the dog outside to wait. A barking dog can stress other pets in the waiting and examination rooms.

Helping stressed and nervous pets

It may be less stressful if you wait outside (if you’re with a dog) or in the car. Notify staff, so that they know you have arrived and can let you know when the veterinarian is ready to see your pet.

A towel or blanket over a cat carrier can also reduce stress for nervous cats.

Most pets don’t exactly relish a trip to the veterinarian, but some can become extremely agitated which makes it difficult to properly assess them. If you have a pet who is particularly stressed out during veterinary visits, it may be possible to prescribe a mild sedative which you can administer before visiting the veterinarian to relax the pet.

Keep children under control

The waiting and examination rooms are not the places for children to run around and be loud. Other pets are in the clinic feeling stressed or unwell and the veterinarian needs to be able to discuss the pet with you as well as perform a physical examination of the pet and needs to focus.

Let the veterinarian know if you suspect your pet has a contagious disease

This is a courtesy to other pets who are in the practice, notify the practice ahead of time and they will be able to advise on what precautions you can take to reduce the transmission of infectious disease to other animals, or humans.

Be respectful to the veterinary staff

I know it’s a stressful situation, particularly if the pet is sick or injured, but lashing out at vets or their staff will not help the situation.

Be understanding if the veterinarian is running late

Most veterinary clinics run to the following schedule:

  • Emergencies
  • Appointments
  • Walk-ins

Veterinary staff will do everything in their power to be on time, but emergencies are commonplace and you may have to wait, or re-schedule (for non-emergencies). Understand that if your pet needs emergency care, you will be the priority too.

Let the staff know if you want to discuss multiple issues

When booking an appointment, clinic staff will usually ask what is the purpose of the visit. An annual checkup, follow up appointment for a recent treatment, an acute or chronic illness for example. If you need to see the veterinarian for multiple issues, let the staff know so that they can schedule extra time.

Put your phone on silent

Nobody wants to hear you have a phone conversation in the waiting room and definitely not in the examination room.

Notify staff if your pet has an accident

Veterinary staff have seen it all, and it is common for accidents to happen in the waiting room. Remaining silent out of embarrassment can be a hazard to other people in the waiting room.

Warn staff if your pet is aggressive

Do not endanger veterinary staff by not warning them about aggressive cats or dogs. Vet visits are scary times, and pets may react differently when under stress. It is up to you to warn the staff if your pet has a history of aggressive behaviour so that they can take steps to keep themselves safe.

If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, it is safer to wait in the car until the veterinarian is available. Call the practice when you arrive to let them know you are waiting.

Tips to make the most out of your veterinary visit

Write a list of questions

It is easy to forget when you are in the examination room.

Take photos or videos

This can be really helpful if the pet is showing symptoms that come and go.

Bring packaging or samples

If you suspect the pet has been exposed to a toxin, packaging can help the veterinarian determine the toxin.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio