Cat collar

Want to be one of those Class A clients who never fails to bring a smile to your veterinarian’s lips? Me, too. (Sure, I’m a veterinarian, but that doesn’t mean my pets don’t have their own veterinarians, too — specialists, mostly.)

To help get me there with a minimum of energy (I don’t always have time to bake a batch of my famous peppermint brownies), I can usually count on my waiting room behavior to recommend me. And most of that can be chalked up to the tools I use to keep my pets well controlled — that, and a smidge of common sense, too.


Don't… use retractable leashes.

This product is on most every veterinarian’s short list of abhorred items for the following reasons:

  • Most people don’t know how to use one properly, a fact that leads to an effectively uncontrolled dog.
  • Many are cheaply made, so the lock doesn’t stick and the result is an unpredictable leash length.
  • Some owners don’t understand the risks of an extra-long leash in confined spaces.
  • Most of us have witnessed toppled owners, dog fights and bitten humans as a direct result of retractable leashes.

Do…  acclimate your dogs to feeling comfortable on a traditional short leash.


Don't… bring your cat on a leash.

Unless your vet’s place is a feline-only facility, you’re a magnet for unwanted canine attention when you bring in your otherwise uncontained cat on a leash. Why would you risk it?


Don't… clip your leash to a loose collar.

We’ve all seen dumbfounded owners holding empty collars as their dogs make for the exits (or worse). Most collars are best employed for carrying ID tags and little more. Use one designed for safe restraint when you’re out for a walk or head off to the vet clinic.

Do… consider getting your dogs used to head halters or front-clip harnesses.

FYI: Those medieval-looking pinch collars are seldom necessary if you work with a behavior professional to train your dog to accept one of the above methods.


Don't… unnecessarily expose every other vet patron to your pet’s understandably wanton disregard for remaining contained.

Keep that carrier closed up tight until you’re in the exam room with all doors shut behind you.

Do… select a carrier that’s best for your cat(s).

There’s a huge range of carrier options out there — from soft-sided and plushy to rigid and plastic, open and meshy to dark and hidey-hole-ish. There are so many options, in fact, that this topic deserves its own post.

Do… consider boxing your dog, too.

Got an unwieldy, unpredictable, scared or aggressive dog? Is he small enough to fit in a carrier? Forget the leash. Sometimes it’s better to go for the box (or bag) instead!

Don't… (ever!) put your pets at risk by failing to contain them properly.

Dog collar

Basic Training

Though it's not exactly "gear," it's definitely a tool.

Don't… skip basic training so your dog knows how to mind his manners.

Every pet is likely to be stressed out in a veterinary waiting room, but that stress can almost always be mitigated by basic training.

Do… know what de-stresses your pets best so by the time you enter the exam room your pets aren’t all teeth and claws.

Sit,” “stay” and “look at me” are commands I can always count on to de-stress my dogs when they’re out in public in an uncomfortable situation. Toys help, too. And for my cats? One cat is happy enough as long as I supply treats and catnip (offered every 15 minutes or so). The others require the darkest carrier in the world (I cover it with a towel). I have lots of other pet calming tips, but that’s another post altogether.

Remember, the best pet stuff is not so much about making your vet’s day easier (though we appreciate that, too). Rather, it has far more to do with your pets’ safety and comfort.

Got any more gear selections for better vet visits? I’d love to hear about them.