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Issue: 62 - Feb 14, 2014
Seven Bad Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Veterinarians
By: Patty Khuly VMD MBA
Patty Khuly VMD MBA

Got bad habits that affect how you practice? Join the club! To my knowledge, there’s not one of us here in the running for veterinary sainthood. Indeed, perfection is, by definition, impossible. But progress? Now, that’s a beautiful thing!

All of which brings me briskly to the point of this sassily titled post: We can all do better when it comes to ridding ourselves of bad habits. But few of us agree on which means of veterinary professional self-improvement are most in need of attention.

Which is why I took it upon myself to poll some of my veterinarian friends on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Here’s what I asked:

What bad habits would you most like to see you or your fellow professionals address? While the replies ranged from the mundane to “habits” of more global importance, they all had one thing in common: a genuine desire to do better for ourselves, for our profession and –– most of all –– for our patients.

Here they are (in no particular order):

#1 Observe basic tenets of safety and sanitation

Don’t recap needles, wear high heels at your own peril (I’ve reformed!), keep your toes covered at all times, wear goggles when you drill, observe basic hand-and-glove care, wear your hat, mask and gown when you know you should, and ignore the owner of that growling Rottweiler’s dismissive platitudes: Just muzzle it, already!

#2 Look the part

In other words, don’t dress like a hot mess while on the job. “For the love of God,” said one respondent, “you’ve paid how much to have your intelligence downgraded by your willful lack of decorum?” Ouch! (Double-ouch, seeing as I’m not one to talk on this subject.)

#3 Employ chemical restraint less sparingly

It’s true; some of us often wait until our patient is doing alligator rolls and cartwheels before giving them the jab that might’ve preempted most of the stress.

#4 Ignore evidence-based vaccination standards at the risk of your profession’s reputation

Whatever your thoughts on last November’s 20/20 spot (and I thought it was an egg-suckingly shoddy attempt at bottom-feeding journalism), it called us all out on one area more than half of us could employ some habit-ending willpower.

According to vaccine manufacturers, about 60% of us still vaccinate annually. This, in spite of their own recommended DOIs of three years or more. Regardless of our rationale for continuing to vaccinate annually, it’s probably time we weaned ourselves off that thumb by now. 

#5 Don’t fail to offer solutions for your lower-income clients

It’s not good enough to give it away occasion (or even routinely). As veterinarians we have a duty to help our communities build better systems for managing pets of the indigent, disabled and destitute. Which also means we should be promoting pet insurance, carrying CareCredit (and the like), and writing off our good deeds wherever possible. Ours is a business. And we shouldn’t be in the habit of ignoring that fundamental fact.

#6 Apologize when you’re wrong and express regret when you’re not but when things went south anyway

‘Nuff said on that score.

#7 Raise prices on your services, already.

Stop protecting all that pharmacy income. Sure, you’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands, too, but that doesn’t mean we should be in the habit of ignoring reality: Services are where our skills lie and that’s where we should habitually seek out our primary income stream.

Got any more for me? Message me on Facebook at, on Twitter at, or on my blog at