I, for one, am always excited to see kids at the clinic. I remember as a young girl taking our dogs to the vet with my mom and dad. These childhood clinical experiences, as well as an innate love of animals and people, powered my drive to become a veterinarian. You never know what may trigger a passion or even interest in a career in a young person. I love the idea that everyday experiences like taking the family dog to the vet can enhance knowledge and overall personal life experience.I see a large variety of kiddos at the clinic. Many of them seem genuinely excited to be there, however, some of them are more shy and stand-offish. I have seen the out-going inquisitive type, asking me questions every step of the way who are eager to tell me about this pet and all of the other pets they have ever owned. As their accompanying adults sit back and beam with pride, many children are very helpful and clearly take an active role in the responsibility of owning a pet. They even help answer my questions regarding the patient’s eating habits, mobility concerns and strangely they are sometimes the ones who know the most detail about their pet’s bowel movements and urinary habits.
This is in stark contrast to the times I walk into an exam room full of juvenile-influenced chaos. I have seen red-faced tantrums, siblings pushing and punching, exam tables turned into active diaper changing tables, creative rearrangements of all of our retail products that live on the lowest (and most accessible shelf), kids slamming cabinet doors and discovering that, yes, the light switches do turn the room lights off and on no matter how fast you flip them. In these rooms often I find pets who are feeding off of the stress level. A trip to the veterinarian is at least to some degree very stressful for most pets, but when you add screeching and tumult in a tiny exam room with a bunch of little bodies, it increases the stress level for poor Fido and miserable Whiskers by ten-fold easily. Keeping the chaos to a minimum is a goal to be achieved with every child-accompanied vet visit.Children are always most welcome to attend their pets’ appointments and I encourage it wholeheartedly. However, keeping each pet’s stress level in check is also very important for the mental health of the pet and for the safety of the veterinary team and owners alike. If Whiskers has been pushed to the breaking point by one too many shrieks in his ear and pinches while Timmy is manhandling him, then no one in the room is safe from Whiskers’ inevitable out-lash when being examined and vaccinated.
Teaching children proper pet respect is important for the child’s safety. Getting children to ask an unfamiliar dog’s owner for permission to pet a dog before approaching is basic safety and helps prevent many dog bites. Many children do not have an understanding of what a friendly versus a non-friendly pooch may look like. Just because their family dog appreciates their embraces, dogs in veterinary lobbies often have enough stress to deal with in their life and may not like hugs.
As a veterinarian, I get to hang out with kitties and puppies all day long. Getting to interact with the kids that come with them is just an added bonus to my job. As summer picks up full swing, the veterinary hospital becomes a little more lively and boisterous with the pitter patter of little feet visiting with their furry friends. While these visits can be enriching experiences in a young person’s life, keeping our pet patients stress-levels to a minimum helps keep the smallest of our clients safe and happy. When Timmy and Suzy are safe and happy, they will be able to look forward to future visits where they can regale me with stories of their dog’s pooping abilities. Perhaps memories of happy stress-free appointments will help Timmy or Suzy become the next generation of veterinarians.
Author: Dr. Marisa Tong
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