Please: Be There When Your Vet Needs to Reach You

This veterinarian wonders: When I have an important question about someone’s pet who was dropped off at my clinic, why in the world doesn’t anyone pick up?

By: Igor Stevanovic
If blood work reveals new problems with your pet, we need to talk — as soon as possible. By: Igor Stevanovic

When your veterinarian asks you to stay by the phone or check your messages frequently — it’s important.

Today, a medical record for a pet may have a home phone, a cellphone, a work phone, a spouse’s phone and an email. But when I have an important question or problem about a pet admitted to the hospital, why doesn’t anyone pick up?

There seem to be 2 groups of clients:

  • The nervous Nellies who stay by the phone or call the hospital all morning long “just checking” on their pet. This is understandable.
  • But then there’s a big group of nonchalant Nellies who drop their sick pet off at the hospital with many unanswered questions or problems, and I can’t get ahold of them with serious concerns about a medical plan.

It would be ideal if your vet could meet with every client at every moment of the morning or day and go over things face to face. In a small hospital, this may still happen.

But in most veterinary hospitals, when both the vet and you are very busy, when pets don’t get sick on a schedule, or when pets are dropped off early in the morning or over lunch for your convenience, the vet may not be available to talk with you directly.

That’s why your pet’s medical history and being available to talk to your veterinarian are so important.

So Many Unanswered Questions

Most veterinary hospitals admit a number of animals in the morning, whether that’s to have surgery, dental procedures, workups such as blood tests and x-rays, or for sick animals who must be dropped off on a pseudo-emergency basis.

Drop-offs could be minor, like a torn toenail, or something much more serious, like a collapsing dog or a paralyzed cat.

If the receptionist or veterinary nurse admits your animal, he may ask you many questions, or ask you to fill out an admit sheet. The admit sheet should have all those phone numbers listed. And it is your vet’s hope that you will be reachable.

When the veterinarian looks over her admits for the day, she makes a plan. The sick animals or animals dropped off with questions from you are assessed first. Any pre-surgical blood work that has not already been done must be run right away.

So here’s where “Stay by the phone!” becomes so important. If you were in a hurry to leave your pet, if the admitting nurse didn’t ask all the questions that seemed pertinent, if blood work reveals new problems, we need to talk — as soon as possible.

  • Pre-surgical blood work is important. If a new medical problem is revealed, such as higher liver values or early kidney failure, you need to know that and discuss it before your vet proceeds.
  • Dentals are another biggie. Any veterinary dentist will tell you we don’t have all the information we need until the animal is under anesthesia and, often, dental radiographs are taken. If you did not agree to extractions or want to discuss the dental surgical plan, you need to be reachable.
  • In critical cases when an abdominal exploratory is being done, a tumor may not be resectable or there may be obvious metastasis not revealed until surgery.

This list can go on and on, but you get the gist. It seems the more devices we have, the harder it is to make contact.

By: clownfish
In a perfect world? I wouldn’t need to call you. But sometimes I do! Please answer the phone. By: clownfish

Information Your Vet Needs

In the perfect world, your vet has:

  1. Asked you every question imaginable face to face
  2. Checked out that “lump that you can’t find”
  3. Received a full list of medications you got from another vet
  4. Reached you to find out how long the diarrhea has been going on
  5. Been able to reach you to tell you Marvin, the stray cat you dropped off, is actually Marvette. Prepared for a spay instead of a neuter? Please advise.

In a perfect world, there would be no unanswered questions. And in a veterinarian’s perfect world, our patients could talk to us.

Sometimes they do.

I can run any and all tests, but sometimes I just sit there and have a heart-to-heart purr or a woof-woof talk. That might tell me more than all the tests in the world. But then I have to reach you to talk about my feline feelings and canine correspondence.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 13, 2018.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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