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Create a safe, welcoming reception space for your vet clinic

Reception Space

Your clients would probably prefer to go for a walk or curl up in someone's lap at home than wait to see the veterinarian. But you can make your furry visitors (and their human companions) as relaxed as possible with some relatively easy and inexpensive changes to your vet clinic's reception area. Keep reading to learn simple office design tips as well as supplies to keep on hand to maximize your clients' comfort and safety.

Design and safety tips

Pets may not be able to tell us they're scared of the vet's office, but their bodies can. Both cats and dogs experience significant differences in blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate at the vet's office, compared to at home. The combination of high anxiety and a room full of unfamiliar animals can make normally calm and healthy pets act out of sorts. It doesn't help when their human companions feel anxious too.

Here are some ways to soothe everyone's nerves and keep animals as calm and safe as possible in your reception area:

Pay attention to ambience

Cold and clinical is out; warm and welcoming is in. Dogs and cats are adept at reading their companions' facial expressions and sounds. Thus, when humans feel relaxed in your waiting area, their pets will likely be calmer as well.

Opt for soft, muted paint colors, which are more soothing than white or bright colors. If possible, allow in natural lighting from windows and skylights; it has a peaceful and calming effect on people. Indoor plants also make people feel more relaxed. (But be sure to take care of them because dead plants are a turn off.) A little attention to detail goes a long way in helping people better enjoy their time filling out new pet forms, waiting to be called in, and paying bills.

Post the rules

You understand good waiting room “vetiquette,” but your clients may not. Avoid potential mishaps or injuries by displaying clear guidelines to keep everyone safe. Here are a few rules to consider.

  • Keep dogs close to you on a non-retractable leash.
  • Keep cats in an enclosed carrier.
  • Ask before petting other people's animals.
  • Don't allow dogs to meet and greet.

Provide multiple waiting areas

The phrase “fighting like cats and dogs” became commonplace for a reason. Not all pets are able to sit calmly beside another species in an unfamiliar place. Create several areas in your waiting room and include some private nooks, if possible. Designate distinct areas for different species, or let people find the spot that feels most comfortable when they arrive. If you don't have enough room for multiple areas, arrange your seating to minimize contact between pets as much as possible.

Build community

Everyone in a vet's office shares a love of animals. Help clients get to know your practice by displaying framed portraits of your staff's beloved four-legged companions. Also post thank you letters and pictures of clients' pets, and encourage people to send photos of their own pets to share. If you're active on social media, display a sign inviting people to follow your practice.

Provide extras

Vet clients tend to get irritated after about 15 minutes of waiting. Set your practice apart from the competition by offering an upgraded waiting room experience. Minimize wait times as much as possible, and provide something enjoyable for people to do in your reception area. Consider a coffee station, tablets, free Wi-Fi, or a television. At the end of visits, consider offering promotional extras that are also functional, such as magnetic business cards.

Install leash hooks

Restraining an anxious dog in a crowded waiting room is difficult enough. It's even trickier when you're trying to make an appointment or pay a bill. Install several sturdy hooks on a wall to serve as a parking area where people can safely tether dogs while they talk to the receptionist.

Stock some supplies

Once you design your waiting room for client comfort and safety, stock up on a few supplies to further improve your clients' waiting experience:

  • Doormat
    Keep your office clean by greeting clients with a durable, absorbent mat for wiping wet paws.
  • Treats
    Dogs and cats love treats almost as much as they love affection. Provide jars of free treats to help soothe anxious cats and encourage distracted dogs to follow commands.
  • Paper towels
    Accidents happen, especially when animals are nervous. Hang a roll of paper towels in a prominent location for anyone to use.
  • Deodorizing spray
    With a room full of anxious animals and humans, it's no wonder clinic waiting rooms hang on to smells. Staff may grow oblivious to a foul-smelling waiting room, but you don't want malodor to be a new client's first impression of your practice. In addition to providing excellent ventilation, keep a deodorizing spray on hand, preferably one that's pH-neutral, biodegradable, and non-toxic.


Your reception area can make or break your clients' first impression of your practice. With simple improvements, your animal clients will feel more at ease, and your human clients will tell their friends about your warm and welcoming office.

Reception Space

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Abby Quillen is the author of the novel The Garden of Dead Dreams and the editor of two anthologies. Her articles and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine and The Christian Science Monitor and on Common Dreams, Nation of Change, Reader Supported News, The Daily Good, Truthout, and Shareable. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her family. When she's not writing, she grows vegetables and weeds, bikes and walks as much as she can, and jots down cute things her kids say. Visit her at