Clients I Wish I Could Clone

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Just as teachers have their “pet students,” so too do veterinarians have their “pet clients” (no pun intended).  These are the clients who generate a buzz of excitement amongst the veterinary staff whenever their names appear on the appointment schedule. They have a knack for creating positive energy and seem to always make the job of caring for their pets such a pleasure.

So, what exactly is it about these “red carpet clients” that elicits such an enthusiastic response? Here are some of their endearing characteristics:

Well informed

These clients come to an office visit prepared with lots of information. They can readily provide the exact brand and name of their pet’s diet as well as all of the medications and supplements (including dosages and frequency) their pets are receiving. There’s no claiming, “It’s that food in the bag with the bold red print,” or, “I’m giving those small, blue, oval pills.”

When visiting a veterinary clinic for the very first time, they come with prior medical records in hand including vaccination history, written medical records, laboratory test results, and X-rays.

These well informed folks are responsible Internet surfers.  They glean information from reputable sites and avoid on line “junk food”. They prepare questions in advance of their office visits, but hold off asking them until their veterinarian has had the chance to gather history, perform the physical examination, and initiate discussion.

Willing to follow the game plan

These are the clients who arrive on time for an appointment out of respect for the veterinary staff as well as those people with appointments following theirs. They do their absolute best to follow doc’s orders for things such as administering medications, restricting calories and calling in with progress reports. If a question or concern arises about the agreed upon “game plan” they initiate discussion with the vet rather than revising the plan on their own. They bring their pets in for an annual physical examination, even when there are no vaccinations due.

Respectful and appreciative

The entire veterinary staff receives sincere respect and appreciation from these clients. Such sentiments are not reserved solely for the veterinarian because it is recognized that each and every staff member plays a significant role in the health and well being of their patients. The receptionist makes the call about whether or not to squeeze in an urgent request at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon. The technician cares for hospitalized patients, sterilizes surgical equipment and monitors anesthesia. It is the kennel assistant who disinfects surfaces that could be breeding grounds for contagious diseases.

Along with expressing their gratitude verbally during an office visit, these clients tend to send thank you notes and holiday greetings. From time to time they may even deliver some yummy goodies for the staff to enjoy.

Willingness to express their concerns

These clients talk to the veterinary staff about their genuine concerns and worries. Without doubt, this is difficult for some people. Discussing financial worries or crying publicly can be embarrassing. Expressing concern about a recommended test or medication may feel intimidating. Keep in mind that veterinarians who care deeply about the emotional well being of their clients (and I encourage everyone to find such a care provider) want to hear their clients’ concerns. Who better to provide genuine understanding and support?

All of these qualities help make a client one that I would love to clone, and I suspect that my colleagues would say the same.

Do any of these traits apply to you as a veterinary client?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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9 Comments on “Clients I Wish I Could Clone

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience and views. Its completely appreciable and useful. keep going and posting.

  2. I try very hard to be a good client, looks like I am doing pretty good based on your article. I think with my nursing background I know how to make the most of a visit and how a medical facility works. So my suggestion would be for veterinary clinics to educate their clients about how to be a good advocate for their pets, like bringing in all the pet’s medications and supplements, writing down what they feed their pet, have a list of the concerns that brings them in that day etc. A lot of people do not know how to prepare for a visit, therefore they are not well prepared for the visit. It’s up to the professionals to teach their clients in my opinion.

  3. Hi Cindy. Thank you for posting your comments. I strongly encourage you to read the chapter in Speaking for Spot called The Vaccination Conundrum and/or any of the blog posts I have written on this subject. Based on what you have described, I think that your veterinarian is “overvaccinating” your dogs. After reading more about this,please let me know if you have any questions.

  4. Dr Kay, I have 4 toy poodles & they all go for their annual exam, all in the 1st qtr of the year which can be an expensive 4 months especially since we’re retired now. Each year they get their vacinations which “are” required every year, I don’t know of any dogs annual not requireing vacinations. My oldest dog is 13 and been blind for yrs , 2 yrs ago she had an eye rupture & had to have the eye removed. Even tho she was blind it made a difference in her ability to get around & it has been very exhausting some days.She has been on Phenobarbital for over a year because of seizures so she sleeps a lot. We keep our Vet abreast of all her symptoms and call when we have questions .We also have a 12 yr old that just had 13 teeth pulled and we are keeping up with his follow up on thurs. I can’t wait to tell the Vet how well he is eating since the teeth were removed. Our Vet always tells us to call with questions and we take him & the staff up on it. I also read a lot , I have a small library of dog books & when ever there’s a problem with one of my dogs I refer to my books before calling so I know what Im up against. With 4 dogs it gets expensive when there are problems but we always manage to pay our bill. A day may come when we can’t & I will discuss this with my Vet . Thank you for all your great articles.

  5. Sometimes a client will be in the waiting room or come out of the exam room with a small, yappy dog without a leash – my dog, basically, ignores the smaller dog, but sometime other dogs in the waiting area try to start a fight. My cat will just hiss at the dog (cat in a carrier)

    even more annoying is a pet that leaves a mess on the floor and the owner does not bother to tell the staff about the mess.

  6. As someone else stated, my pets are my children. I hope that I am a clonable client. I try to be the best advocate for my babies as possible. I try to be as well-informed as I can and always follow the doctor’s orders for my pets. They are our children and deserve the same care as we give human children. The staff at my vet’s office is super awesome and I love them all. I like your idea of bringing them goodies. I think I’ll do that. :)

    Dr. Kay, you took great care of my little Blackie when he had surgery. I sure appreciate it and love your book and articles. Thank you, and all vets and staff everywhere, who care about our fur-kids!

  7. This is great advice for dealing with any professional.

    I feel for doctors and vets who deal with scare-media reports. A waste of everyone’s time and it causes needless anxiety for the person reacting to the “news”.

  8. Hi Dr. Kay,

    Thank you for this interesting article. I try very hard to be a “clonable client”. I love my little guys with all my heart. I have 2 dachshunds at the moment, and lost my boy about a year ago. My boy was a challenging case. He had a ruptured disk and the surgery after that. He did experience paralysis, but eventually did recooperate to abot 95% or so. Following that major health issue, he was diagnosed with cushings disease, then diabetes, and subsequently pancreatitis. He was a medical train wreck! He finally lost the battle to the cushings, and all the complications about a year ago. My sweet little girl, who had been with him her whole life (she’s my little old lady! She’ll be 13 in June), was so lost and lonely after we lost him! I am convinced that she was actually depressed. She cried and cried practically the whole day while I was at work. I brought her to a friend’s house several days while I was working, but couldn’t do it every day. She was so distraught when she was home alone. She is also diabetic, and has lost most, if not all of her sight. When we lost him, she stopped eating. I tried many different foods to try to get her to eat. I believe that caused her to get pancreatitis. Great! So, with all these complications, I make it a point to be clear and concise with how they are, what is going on with them, any new issues, how the blood sugars have been running (I home test, blood & urine), any questions I write down ahead of time so I don’t forget. I follow directions and suggestions. I give feedback. I actually do my own glucose curves before an appointment to have that info for the doctors. I do some research, but I try not to get “info overload”. I find that can be counter-productive sometimes! I did get a rescue dachshund (puppy mill rescue from Ohio). They seemed to “bond” immediately. My sweet little girl stopped crying immediately!! She stabilized on her eating, the pancreatitis settled down. I try to make sure I develop and maintain a strong, open, and honest relationship with our vets. It makes every interaction smooth, and productive. I believe my little guys get better overall care when the relationship between me and the caregivers is good.! Nancy, Central MA

  9. My pet is my child. Just as I did with my human child, I make a list of questions and current medications. Her doctor has never made me feel as though I am taking too much time as I don’t have to fumble with questions. Since Izzy is unable to tell me what is wrong with her, if I see a problem arising that may only be “a thing” and amount to nothing, taking care of itself, I will make notes on my calendar of movements, moods, actions, etc. Then I will have a little history for her doctor. AND, I listen to her doctor and follow instructions. Love ya Dr. Kay!