ABSTRACT: This article focuses on adolescent nurse clinics, designed for pets of around four to five months of age. It discusses the pets' familiarisation to the practice environment, as well as the importance of client education on young pets; and examines what should be covered in the clinics, and how to set them up and advertise them to clients. As the article shows, carrying out adolescent nurse clinics can be very rewarding and positive for the practice.

Why carry out adolescent clinics?

Establishing adolescent clinics in practice is rewarding for three main reasons:

• it strengthens the client-practice bond and can increase sales; 

  involvement on the part of the veterinary nurses who run them is beneficial in that it creates job satisfaction; and 

most importantly, for pet welfare as a whole, participation can improve client education and support with pet care.

A recent report from the RSPCA showed that almost 20 per cent of people who bought a puppy in the last two years no longer have the dog, and it is the duty of the veterinary profession to improve this statistic by educating the public.1

While pet ownership will be discussed at the time of vaccination and the puppy party, the pet may not be seen again at the practice for some time, and so a positive step would be to establish a nurse check-up of the pet at four or five months old. In this way, problems can be identified and discussed early on, and support can be given to the new owners.

The practice can also provide a means of minimising issues that may result in the client giving up the pet. Indeed, veterinary nurses are ideally placed to become part of a positive solution to this problem and thereby reduce the high proportion of failures.

Format of a clinic

A basic health check should be carried out (Table 1).

Eyes, ears, nails and teeth should be examined and dental health, ear cleaning, nail clipping and grooming can be discussed. Nutrition and diet should also be covered, and should include recording of the pet’s weight along with body condition and its exercise regimen. If any health problems are identified the pet can be booked in to see the vet.

Nurses running adolescent clinics should examine the pet’s coat for evidence of fleas, assess the status of flea and worm treatment, and make sure that the client understands why regular flea and worm treatment is important. The pet’s vaccination status should be discussed too, including kennel cough vaccination in dogs. The need for annual boosters should also be discussed.

The importance of micro-chipping can be discussed and the chip service offered, if not already done. Likewise the benefits of insurance can be promoted if the pet is not already insured.

Neutering may be discussed, including the benefits and risks, and an appointment can be made for the operation. This opportunity for client education will also help minimise unwanted pregnancies, particularly in cats. If necessary, Cats Protection League vouchers can be offered if the owner has financial concerns.

It is also important to discuss fully issues relating to training and socialisation and this can be a useful opportunity to ascertain the pet’s progress. Puppy parties are ideal as the first step in the training process to help puppies become well socialised, and they provide an excellent opportunity to give petcare support to clients.

Later on in the pet’s development, training classes can be recommended. The adolescent clinic provides the perfect opportunity to reiterate the importance of continuing to work on training, to discuss any problems with the client and offer support and possible solutions. If there are specific problems raised, a behaviourist should be recommended and contact details given, and the importance of dealing with the problem properly, and immediately, explained.

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to always ask the client if he or she has any concerns and to give them time to raise any issues. While much of this will probably have been discussed the first time they saw the vet, it will have been a great deal of information for the new owners to take in; and to have it reiterated in the adolescent pet clinic, and discussed at length if necessary, will be very useful for the owners and positive for the pet.

Further, it allows the young pet time at the vets, where ‘treats’ can be given, and a positive association built with the 'visit to the vets', making future experiences less scary and future treatment easier.

Setting up the clinics

Support for this initiative will be achieved by demonstrating how useful the adolescent pet clinics are for practice/client bonding, and the income that may potentially be generated. It should be said that whilst a fee may be levied, the rate of attendance may well be increased by there being no charge. However, the potential rate of sales made through the clinic from products such as flea and worm treatment and services, such as micro-chipping, will generate secondary income as well as having a positive impact on practice/client bonding.

Appointments for the adolescent pet clinic should be generated automatically by offering the client an opportunity to visit the clinic at the second vaccination. This can be followed up by sending a reminder, similar to those sent out for boosters. Waiting room displays may also be very useful to raise client awareness of the clinics. These should include details of the format of the clinic, which will include a health check with the nurse, as well as a chance to discuss any concerns.

The requirements of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, and the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct should be adhered to at all times.2 Be sure to introduce yourself as the nurse when you welcome the client into the consulting room, and wear a name badge stating this, so that the client does not mistake you for the veterinary surgeon.

Consideration will need to be given as to what should be done if a health issue, such as a skin problem, is identified because the pet will then need to be referred to a vet. A protocol must be devised beforehand to ensure that this will be facilitated either at the time of the nurse appointment or at a later stage.

Preparation for adolescent pet clinics will include consideration of common client queries and ensuring that advice sheets/leaflets and contact details for experts, such as behaviourists, are r
eadily available to provide support for these (Figures 1 & 2).

Figure 1: Some useful items to have ready for the clinic: treats, nail clippers, toothbrush, leaflets, tape measure, microchipping equipment Figure 2: Preparing for the clinics


Adolescent pet clinics, run by nurses, provide a continuum which encourages a strong practice/client bond. This bond provides the optimum environment for both client and pet, because it encourages the client to view the practice as the first port of call for advice on pet care and welfare, and it reinforces positive contact with the environment for the pet.

Ideally the programme sequence of vaccinations and puppy parties, followed by the adolescent clinic and then neutering, will provide plenty of opportunities for help and support to be given to the owner, and the identification and remedy of health issues before they become a problem.

Adolescent clinic case study

‘Lottie’, a 7-month old Belgian shepherd dog.

Health check (Figure 3): all fine, nails short, teeth in good condition, vaccinated, chipped, insured, good veterinary recommended diet, currently having training classes, due for flea and worming treatment.

Figure 3: Lottie in her adolescent nurse clinic

Any problems at home: none Time taken: 15 minutes.

Sales: wormer and flea treatment. 

Spay: booked in.

Possible subjects for discussion and income generation from a similar clinic: 

Microchip, ear cleaner, dental Merchandising items and services Nail clippers/nail clip charge Veterinary recommended diet . DAP

Restraint equipment, such as collar and lead and Haiti Brushes, toys or other waiting room items. 


Katherine Spear


Katherine qualified in 2008 and in 2011 founded the online CPD site for vet nurses, www.VetNurseOnline.co.uk. Her particular interests are animal welfare and ethics, and she is a trustee of a charity that funds a school in Malawi. When not working she loves to learn – she is studying at postgraduate level online – and to travel, especially to Africa.

To cite this article use either

DOI: 10.1111/j.2045-0648.2012.00161.x or Veterinary Nursing Journal Vol 27 pp 149-150

• VOL 27 • April 2012 • Veterinary Nursing Journal