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3 Really Awkward Vet Encounters (And How to Avoid Them)

1. The Traumatized Cat

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Unlike dogs, cats rarely get taken anywhere outside the house, so their owners often aren’t prepared to haul them off to the vet. Just before the appointment, they run to the basement, find the cat’s crate, then chase him around and stuff him inside. On the way to the vet, the freaked-out cat uses the crate as a litter box and tromps around in the mess, making for, um, a memorable entrance at the doctor’s office.

You can try a few things to avoid this ordeal. Invest in a carrier that has front and top entrances, giving you multiple ways to get the cat in and out more gently. Take the carrier out a few days before the visit so the cat can see it and get used to it. I’ve also found that cleaning and replacing the cat’s litter just prior to leaving the house can inspire the animal to christen the fresh box, thus decreasing the chance of an accident en route.

2. The Disruptive Dog

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Our waiting area always has dogs that won’t stop barking, pulling on their leash, or growling at other patients. The staff is used to this, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant—especially for the animal’s embarrassed owner.

You know your pet better than anyone. If your dog dreads going to the vet or doesn’t get along with other animals, give her an extra-long walk or romp at the park before the appointment so she can tire herself out. If your pet requires antianxiety medication or a sedative, give it one to two hours in advance to ensure it has time to kick in. Also helpful: making periodic stops at the vet just to get a treat in the lobby. Then when it’s time for the dog’s actual checkup, the place won’t seem quite so unfamiliar and scary.

3. The Uncomfortable Money Talk

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Deciding medical matters based on finances is hard and can make clients feel they should do or sacrifice more. But it’s a mistake to agree to a treatment you can’t afford.

After getting the recommended options and estimated costs, be honest about what’s doable and have the doctor help customize a plan of action that fits. This is nothing to be ashamed of—we’ve all been on a budget. While few vets offer actual payment plans, many of us work with third parties that offer credit with no interest for at least a short period. If you’re candid about your financial situation, it’ll be easier for your vet to point you to these kinds of resources.

Veterinarian Chris A. Miller is co-owner of AtlasVet in Northeast DC. His colleague Dr. Brittany Cartlidge contributed to this story.

For more pet etiquette and advice, check out our DC Pet Owner’s Guide to Vet Etiquette. This article appears in our February 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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