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Pet Owner Version

Veterinary Family Practice or Bond-centered Practice


Lynette A. Hart

, PhD, Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis;

Mariko Yamamoto

, PhD, Department of Animal Sciences, Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, Teikyo University of Science

Reviewed/Revised Nov 2019 | Modified Nov 2022
Topic Resources

Pet owners form deep attachments to their companions, and their expectations for veterinary care are becoming similar to their expectations for human medical care. Because pet owners today are willing to spend more time and money on proper pet care, the quality and style of veterinary medicine practices are growing increasingly important. New types of companion-animal practices have emerged. These are typically referred to as veterinary family practices or bond-centered practices.

Such practices build lifelong relationships with families and their animals. When a family gets a new pet, for example, a bond-centered veterinarian takes the opportunity to discuss the pet’s life cycle with the family. The veterinarian might discuss building a positive relationship with the pet and explain how to minimize stressful, expensive behavior problems, such as destructive chewing. A pet whose family understands its growth stages and needs is less likely to be banished to the back yard or given up for adoption. Veterinarians who practice in this way care for not only the medical needs and welfare of the animal, but also the social health of its family.

Pet owners with children should consider whether and how their veterinarian involves the whole family in the animal’s care. Families may wish to select a pet care provider who communicates well with children, makes them comfortable, and accommodates them during the consultation—either by permitting them in the room or by providing a play area ( see Characteristics of a Client-centered Veterinary Practice Characteristics of a Client-centered Veterinary Practice Characteristics of a Client-centered Veterinary Practice ).

Characteristics of a Client-centered Veterinary Practice

Veterinarians should provide their human and animal clients with more than just medical expertise. Look for the following signs that a veterinarian has taken into consideration not only the pet’s needs but the family’s needs as well:

  • Areas for relaxation

  • Softly lit public areas

  • Comfortable seating in examination and waiting rooms

  • Examination rooms without barriers from medical staff

  • Spotlessly clean

  • Excellent interpersonal skills: staff understand the emotional significance of medical care, and veterinarians take the time to ask and answer questions, build relationships, and even laugh with clients

  • Regular followup communication

It is also important, however, to choose a veterinarian that meets the needs of adult pet owners and the pet itself. If pet owners are comfortable at the veterinarian’s office, chances are the pet will be comfortable there as well. The medical staff may provide comfort by not only offering sound medical care and advice, but also emotional support. Good communication is crucial. A veterinarian should be willing to communicate with pet owners about the animal’s needs, the treatment options available, and ways to keep pets happy and healthy. Pet owners can help build a positive relationship with their veterinarian by being neither neglectful nor over-involved, by listening to the veterinarian’s advice, and by making sure their pet is under control, clean, and not a danger to others.

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