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Want to make your clients happy? Be an animal!

Want to make your clients happy? Be an animal!

We all know that we love animals and want to keep them healthy. We also know that it is impossible to fulfill our mission if the pets never come to our exam rooms. We know how difficult it can be to get clients in the door. When I lecture to veterinary professionals, I ask how many of the audience members enjoy taking their pets into the office.  Very few hands will raise. Even veterinarians can dread routine care visits and admit it, most of you take your vaccines home to give, right?

I did too, until I learned some ways to “be an animal”. It started with a marketing video we made for my practice long ago.  We strapped a Go Pro to one of our team members dogs and we walked with him through his visit to my office. Then we sent the footage to a videographer with no veterinary training to put the on the finishing touches. We all thought it was fine. We thought it would highlight what it is like to be a patient at my hospital, but once I saw the experience from the dog’s perspective, I could see a million things wrong with it. 

You can make changes for your own patients with a little knowledge about animals and how they might see the word and a little bit of walking in their paw prints! Think of all the senses that an animal has, even more acute than ours.


In my video, I saw a glass door leading into my office. I hadn’t given much thought, but each and every dog that walked up to that door saw a nervous dog just their size looking back at them. Every one! When I installed that door in the early days, I never thought about it at all.  If you have a glass door, maybe you could find a way to make it non reflective, like a stick-on window tint film. What other things do pets see that might be scary?


In my video, we could hear the voices, the phones, other dogs barking. These sounds are all normal and familiar to us as veterinary professionals, but they can be intimidating to pets coming in. Many pets already feel vulnerable after a car ride and now they hear buzzes, beeps, doors slamming and other pets barking and howling (and who knows what they are really saying). It is easy to turn down ringers or equip receptionists with headsets. If you hear other animals vocalizing in the hospital, perhaps they require their needs to be addressed as well.  Are they in pain? Recovering from surgery? What can you do to ease them?


Studies indicate that dogs can smell fear and if you are not making an effort to address the nervousness of each pet, as well as carefully cleaning after each one, then you are allowing this sense to overwhelm pets. If an animal expresses anal glands in fear, just think what message lingers there for all pets the rest of the day.  It is like walking into the dentist office, smelling blood, hearing the drill and someone screaming. I don’t believe you would want to stay very long in that office!


The procedures you perform can be made better too.  It is easy and quick to change out the needles on routine injections for smaller gauge and sharp new ones.  After a needle goes through the rubber stopper to mix vaccines, it is duller and more likely to hurt when injected to a patient’s skin. Even the vaccines that you choose can make a difference.  Smaller volume vaccine can improve comfort. Vaccines from reputable manufacturers can help reduce the chance of adverse reactions. Associating your practice and your presence with positive experiences like favorite treats and warm towels can go a long way.

See your practice the way your patients might see it (or smell it or feel about it) and then make it your mission to change what they perceive into a positive experience.  Reduce scary sights. Clean scary odors. Minimize pain in every way you can and distract from any unpleasantness with positive things. You can do this and your patients will thank you!

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