Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Top 5 Most Challenging Veterinary Clients


This list is not intended to hurt feelings, but rather, to bring up some challenging conversations in order to draw attention to problems faced daily by exhausted medical personnel. Please absorb it with the lesson and touch of humor intended!

The Talker

We all know this type, they traipse in with Oreo Milk Dud McFloofer, often with little to absolutely no idea what the appointment is for. The chatter will begin benignly with a couple of quirky anecdotes about McFloofer but will promptly escalate into their family history of anxiety.

“Does Floof seem anxious to you? Is it catching? My friend lives nearby and has a rabbit, rabbits are nervous. One time I pet a skunk….” The babble will continue as the team valiantly struggles onward attempting to refocus the client every few seconds. The team continues to discuss the pet and the important health conversations that we have only 15-30 minutes to get in. Most clinics are appointment based, and staying on time is crucial so that the next person is not stuck waiting.

It will feel a lot like herding cats:

Veterinarian: Do you know why we need heartworm, tick and flea prevention?

Chatterbox: HEY! My aunt’s brother’s cousin’s sister had a cat once named Tiger and he had fleas twice! Dang thing ate some poison and died on us…why do cats always land on their feet? Aunt Cheryl loves kittens”….

Veterinarian: “So for Floofer I recommend this product for this reason…”

We are trained professionals and quite accustomed to managing this exact scenario daily, and we actually DO love to hear an anecdote here and there, but please….oh please…know why you are here and let us get a word in.

We want to educate you during each visit to keep McFloofer living his best life. We cannot do that if an owner is unable to focus on the information provided and the issue is that they will often complain later that “No one ever told me THAT!” Except that we did. Do people do this at their human doctors? I am so curious!

The Googler Extraordinaire

This client will enter the exam room and immediately self-diagnose their pet with the unflinching confidence of a chihuahua and demand that we dispense the medication that they deem necessary. They will sometimes become enraged if they are denied this medication and treatment route by…a trained veterinarian. It is truly tragic that so many millions of otherwise educated human beings find Google to be a medical resource.

A veterinarian has in-depth medical training just like any other doctor, only they know and understand the physiology of many species. The vet understands how pharmacology works with the animal body on a biochemical level. While they are happy to listen to how you think it is this or thatbased on a popup article you read on the toilet they are still going to insist on practicing best medicine. They are still going to recommend doing the proper diagnostic tests prior to dispensing any form of medication for Snowflake Pickles Sunshine.

FYI, that laxative they think Vanessa Corgi needs will simply not work for the foreign body lodged in her small intestine requiring immediate surgery.

The Double Appointment Squad

Barbara will call the front desk and cheerfully book an appointment for Carlton, the pug. Carlton is doing great at home and there are no health concerns. The problem is that Barbara will then arrive with healthy Carlton, Flargen who is itchy and Bitsie with the raging ear infection. The 30minute appointment will not be sufficient to cover the inevitable conversations and needed care for the other pets (and possibly even her 2 cats at home who are also itchy…which she will wait until the end of the appointment to bring up).

The appointment will run way over, leaving the hospital backed up and unable to recover. The staff will be late getting home to their own families again. The cycle is endless. We do not just pet puppies all day; we hold our bladders, never sit for 12+ hours, get super hangry and frantically try to provide the best care to many sick animals every minute of every shift. We often accept more than we can comfortably take on because they need us and then we stay for about an hour or two after that to clean the hospital. Please make appointments for what each animal needs. Communicate with the front desk and they will book a longer slot for all of your animals with pleasure!

The one-size-fits-all client 

This client always wants to know what their other pet uses in order to make a decision for the actual pet in the exam room. This can become frustrating for the Veterinarian and staff because not all animals need the same thing.

For example, while a certain flea and tick product may be ideal for that 142-lb Mastiff at home, your 4.3-lb Maltese needs a different formula! Also, felines and canines need completely different health items. Some flea and tick products for dogs are toxic and fatal to cats!

Every pet is different, with unique and specific health care needs. Please allow your doctor to offer the right care plan and stop comparing apples to peanuts. And yes, your pricing is going to be a little different for each animal because products are weight-based and health needs vary. I have literally been screamed at many times over pricing differences between pets.

This client will also be blissfully unaware that the veterinarian is a medical thing…and want to discuss grooming and behavior strategy, avoiding the medical needs at hand. Yes, most veterinarians have animal behavior education, but if the appointment is to address Albert’s raging colitis–perhaps stick to the matter at hand and do not spend 15 minutes prattling on about how intelligent Albert has become with identifying squirrels vs raccoons and escaping from his crate like Houdini.

The Rabies vaccine client

This client is going to demand a Rabies vaccine and become irate about the exam fee. There are ample low-cost vaccine clinics available but this client wants to come to a preventative care practice and receive a $10 vaccination for their often-sick pet who has never seen a veterinarian. There are just not enough nopes for this sad situation.

Instead of listening to the reason why we do not do that. These clients will remain aggressive, create a scene, and hurt the feelings of our dedicated and hardworking front desk staff. While letting Bro urinate on the floor and then storm out to go post a poorly thought out review. It is not great that the reputation of so many heart-filled, tireless medical people can be subjected to these types of poorly-informed humans.

Btw, no animal should ever be vaccinated without a doctor examining their health first. I have literally seen pets near their death bed brought in for a Rabies vaccine when they needed hospitalization and care…I wish I were kidding. A doctor can lose their license for malpractice. A license they spent about 6-8 years, headaches, sleepless nights and sometimes a half a million dollars to obtain. No one has a right to toy with that. And no, they are not just after your money. People must pay for the quality services they receive that is how the adult world works. Pet health care is not a rip-off, it is a necessity deserved by all. How would you like to be the itchy, sick, uncomfortable and undiagnosed pet who only gets the minimum Rabies vaccine required by law?

Post by Kristy Brock, veterinary technician and animal aficionado

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