Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The drop off exam

For some reason, the drop off exam is in high demand among pet owners, to the point that at least around here a practice can't stay competitive without offering it. I get it. People are worried about keeping their jobs if they take time off, and they don't want to waste their valuable free time at my office, and they don't understand why they need to be here anyway. I hate the drop off, though, and here's why.

Every owner dropping off a pet is required to fill out an intake form. This form will contain a phone number at which the owner can be reached while the pet is here, an explanation of why the pet is here, a lost of services requested, and other information. Despite the fact that owners are told prior to coming in that the form will need to be filled out, no one ever admits to having heard of it before. Most people just put their carrier on the floor, scribble random stuff on the form, and leave "because I'm late already and don't have time for this." Then, when I later examine the pet, it is unclear what the pet is here for. So, I call the number on the form. Turns out that's the home number, but the owner is at work. So I find the work number somewhere (or use social engineering to get it from the person at home) and call that, asking for Mr. Bob Petowner like it says on my form. Gosh, no one there by that name? I'm, do you have a Robert Petowner? No? Anyone work there who has a cat named Killer? Oh. Jim in accounting? Great. Put him on.

Then Jim in accounting rips me a new one for bothering him at work because he isn't allowed to have personal calls. Also he explains that he goes by Bob Petowner for his personal matters, and Jim Rockefeller at work, because of a licensing issue. Okaaaaaay. So I ask BobJim, as long as he's on te phone, why is Killer here today, and he says he wanted me to do something about the urination outside the litter pan. I start asking follow up questions and am immediately cut off with "if I had time to discuss it I would have come in myself. Figure it out!" and the line disconnects.

It can go two ways from here:

1. I proceed with a full diagnostic workup and when the owner comes to get the cat, he reams me out for doing it without permission.

2. Not wanting to run up the bill without permission, I do the bare minimum, and write a lengthy note explaining the next steps we can take. The owner comes to pick up the cat and reams me out for not getting it all done today.

There are many flavors of this type of visit - this is just one example.

This picture is of a dropped off patient who is obviously obese. That's a quarter on her back. She weighed 3 lbs less than her last visit, but I couldn't reach the owner to find out if the cat had been dieting or had unexplained weight loss. At pickup time the owner yelled at me for not doing any diagnostics to find out about the cause of the weight loss.... I said I tried to reach her but she didn't answer her phone & she said she's a teacher, she can't answer. Somehow I should have just known what to do without talking to her.


Quick update to this: I was thinking as I wrote this about how no one would ever try this type of thing at a physician's office - I mean, people don't drop their kids off at the pediatrician, do they? I've never seen it. But then I realized how prominently the signs at my son's allergist's office say "children under 16 MUST be accompanied by a parent to receive injections," and I realize - they probably do. So, it's not just happening here - it's happening everywhere. It must be stopped!


  1. As I live with, and work for a Veterinarian I must say I chuckle with sad amusement at these posts. The general public is such a pain in the ass. They expect Veterinarians to work miracles. Cat's can't give us their detailed histories... how in tar-nation are we supposed to just "figure it out" when they don't leave us with a good idea of what the problem is?!

  2. Geeze, people are rotten. I sometimes do drop off with my dog, but she sees her oncologist once a month for blood and urine workups to make sure she's managing her metronomic chemotherapy ok. If she had an acute problem, I would be there at the visit. I actually can't imagine my pet having a problem and just leaving it there with no information and no discussion.

  3. God, I wish I could drop off my uterus for a yearly pap.... that would be living the dream. Or send a note with my ankle to the orthopod.

    1. Oh my God, I just spit out my coffee reading that reply!

  4. We have the same lack of info and accessibility issues for drop-off owners here, as well. But BOY aren't they chatty when they finally show up 15 minutes before we close! I always want to ask where they work so that I can show up with a complicated request 15 minutes before they close.

  5. I just found this blog. Thank you. Thank you. It's the vet version of Serenity Now Hospital...a blog I deeply miss since it went private.

  6. LOL at SMHDVM. :)
    I'm not a vet, but am a responsible dog owner and animal lover in general. My vet friends pointed me in the direction of this blog. Love it. I have cringed at many of the posts. :(

    I am in Australia and must say Wow! I've never heard of drop offs! I assume this is an American thing? That said, as busy as my husband and I are, we would never drop our babydogs off on their own. We go with them every single time (yes, we make time for our responsibilities, just like we do for our human puppy (toddler ;)), hard to believe isn't it?). We want to be there to comfort our babydogs and to be able to ask questions and learn about what is ailing our pups and the best way to fix it.
    Grr I am so frustrated for the vets of the world!!
    And thank you for this blog :)
    Cheers :)

  7. I'm actually okay with drop-offs. Until recently, I was a solo practitioner, and on days when I was already fully booked and someone called with, say, a vomiting dog, or a cat with an abscess, what would I do if dropping the pet off wasn't an option? The technician would get a detailed history and permission to do whatever diagnostics I thought might be required, and the owner would leave the pet with us for a few hours. I could call the owner if I had any questions about the history. Worked well for everyone. In fact, my perfect practice would involve a drive-through window where people pass their pets through the window along with a note detailing their concerns, a signed authorization form for the workup, and then come back in a few hours to pick up their pet and medications at the window. Not that I'm burned out on the public or anything...

  8. if only Blogs had "like" buttons!

  9. @Kristine feel free to use the tools at the bottom of each post, or in the sidebar, to tweet, facebook share, or otherwise distribute us! Thanks for the support.

  10. That's interesting. I would think -dependent on the type of visit it is- that it could make things easier. No annoying, overly chatty, dishonest, or whatever humans to be bothered with. Clearly that is dependent upon good communication up front, and availability while the animal is in your care. Without that, yes, that shouldn't happen. But, I find it works well with my vet office. I have done drop-off, but only for two things. The first being the spay/neuter which is obvious. The second for a regular wellness visit that included grooming and it worked out better for the vet office to do it that way b/c of surgery, appointment and grooming schedules. It worked for me b/c I can make an effort at work most of the day and still get the cat in to see the doctor. And no, I wouldn't just drop off my human baby at the doctor, but I also would not just leave her home alone most of the day with just a dish of food and water, and a litter pan.

  11. My hospital recently instituted drop off appointments as a way to increase revenue and I hate them for all the reasons above. I've literally had answers like "dunno" written in response to multiple answers on my questionaire. No one is ever available when I try to call them and I spend my day trying to track them down to get permission to start to do anything.

    You wouldn't drop off your sick child at the doctor's office. Take 20 minutes out of your day to talk to your vet so your pet can be cared for properly!

  12. I love the recheck drop off.
    No mention of what to recheck or any type of update or what number to call.
    Me...did anyone ask the owner if the pet is better?
    Bitter receptionists...manager, the vet is yelling at us!

    This blog was my life. No exaggeration!

  13. Hate the drop off for all the reasons mentioned above. I can never reach the owner in a timely manner and they always want to call back while I'm either with another client or in surgery or (heaven forbid) eating lunch. We charge for them now but it doesn't make me like them any more than before. I still spend way too much time with too little information to do my job well. Drop off for vaccines and an otherwise healthy pet: OK! That's a drop off I can get on board with. A cat that's been vomiting on and off for the past three years: not ok. Set a real appointment like everyone else. Believe it or not, half of my job is getting the history.

    Unfortunately, as good as my techs are they aren't great at the history part. Drop off for recheck urine on a cat: "Did they say the cat was feeling better?" "I don't know." "Did you ask??" "No... but here's the phone number."

    Someday I swear I'll take the time to make check-in questionnaires for drop offs for the most common issues but then probably people will get pissy about paperwork like you said.