Would You Shake Your Veterinarian's Hand?

Vet with hand extended

The handshake may be the No. 1 greeting gesture in U.S. business settings, but it doesn’t mean that my clients are falling over themselves to extend their palms my way.

Perhaps I’m just being sensitive, but after hearing that some of my nonmedical friends had a thing about shaking their physicians’ hands, I started noticing that certain clients of mine displayed a high degree of reluctance when it came to the touching-the-vet thing, too.

Why I Bet My Hands Are Cleaner

I find this whole client apprehension about shaking my hand weird. It’s not like my hand is likely to be dirtier than theirs, given that I just washed mine (we’re trained to do so between patients), and my clients have just touched their possibly ill and infectious pet.

Of course, I can understand if plenty of otherwise touchy-feely, non-germophobic people may think twice when they see my outstretched hand. After all, “Where has it been?” isn’t likely to yield a mentally appeasing list of über-sanitized spots. Not in my line of work.

In fact, the very concept of something like an anal gland — never mind where it is and what it does — is likely to put some folks off a week’s worth of dinners. And this despite the fact that I wear gloves when I go there!

The interesting thing is that this phenomenon isn’t limited to hand contact. As a Cuban-American working in a predominantly Hispanic area — more than half of my clients are Latin American — the social kiss is a big thing.

If I’ve known a client for more than a couple of years, she (especially women) may be tempted to offer a cheek in lieu of a hand during the meet-and-greet segment of our visit. But if they do, they’ll do so tentatively — and nowhere near as readily as they might in other professional scenarios, like a bank or a law office.


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