Veterinary medicine is an exciting field with every day being different from all the others.  You never know what’s going to happen, and that’s part of the reason I signed up for this job.  Most veterinary clinics are happy to schedule you an appointment to address your pet’s preventative health care needs as well as getting them in when they aren’t feeling well.  I say most clinics because there are a few walk-in clinics out there.  But what happens when you don’t have an appointment and you walk in, especially if you don’t call ahead with heads up?


Now granted there are times that are true emergencies and maybe calling ahead slips your mind or is not safe.  That’s completely understandable.  I’m talking about all those other times when a pet may have been not feeling well or having a problem for even just a short while or in many cases at least a few days.  Some examples running the spectrum from scratching at the ears, broken toenails, a sudden onset of limping to not eating for 3-4 days, vomiting or diarrhea for a week, or urinating outside the litterbox for a few weeks (yes, this happens).


Once you arrive at the clinic with your pet, the team will assess the degree of severity of their problem.  Yes, just like human ERs, we will put a priority on the more urgent cases first.  Pets that have had a seizure, collapse, trouble breathing, or being hit by a car will typically be taken to the treatment room immediately.  Right away the team will get to work on stabilizing them but sometimes, those minutes can be precious.  If we do know you’re on your way, we can be better prepared to help your pet.  However, there are going to be some rare circumstances in which the clinic won’t be able to help you.  At certain times, the doctor may not be in the building, they might be in surgery, or they might already be dealing with another critically ill pet.  A phone call might allow us to save you time in one of these circumstances.


For those non-emergency problems, your vet might still be able to see you.  Might….that’s a touchy proposition for a pet with a problem.  The vet’s office could be fully booked with appointments and that could mean a wait.  For a lot of people, waiting around in a doctor’s office might not be anything new.  But for your pets, if can be a time of anxiety and uncertainty.  I’ve seen waits be as short as 15-20 minutes to over an hour long.  Certainly, if an appointment doesn’t show up your pet might get bumped up in the order but unless it’s truly urgent, why make them stress about sitting there?  In some situations, your pet might not be able to be seen at all and it will involve a second trip to the clinic with a scheduled appointment time.


So please do try and call the veterinary clinic before just walking in.  We want to work with you in making sure your pet has a happy, healthy life.  Part of that involves helping us be prepared so a phone call can go a long way to doing that if you’re able.  Health care truly is a team effort by receptionist, technicians, the veterinarian, and you!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.

KVC pic2About the Author

Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses and a pet rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram.