Vet Talk

Holiday Gifts for Veterinary Clinics

What can you do to show your appreciation to your veterinary team during the pandemic?

December 4, 2020 (published)
Photo courtesy of Depositphotos

Joy to the veterinary world, the holidays have arrived! Veterinary clients love to show their appreciation during the holidays and veterinary teams look forward to this time of the year. Boxes of chocolate, tins of popcorn, towers of treats, fruit baskets, and homemade treats; oh, the homemade treats that we do not have time to make ourselves! Fudge, puppy chow for people, homemade sweet breads, and the cookies! Sugar, chocolate chip, oatmeal, snickerdoodles, chocolate peanut butter blossoms, gingerbread men, and so many more. The staff at your veterinary clinic looks forward to clients walking in with trays of goodies! Sharing is caring, after all.

What clients may not know is these treats that the staff look forward to every year also can be a lifeline for a busy veterinary clinic. Because many veterinary clinics are small businesses, they do not have the luxury of having “extra” staffing. Most small animal clinics, even those that are corporate owned, have just enough staff to cover the work for that day. What this translates to is no time for breaks, lunch is a grab and go situation, bathroom breaks are put off until it almost becomes an emergency. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and veterinary clinics have been busier than ever. There is not an extra person to call in when a staff member has a fever and has to get tested. Other staff members may have been mandated to quarantine because they have been exposed to someone that tested positive for COVID-19. Most veterinary teams have just enough staffers to run a shift, and when these absences happen it means the staff is shorthanded and have even less time than before to take a break and grab a bite to eat. The treats that clients become the only nutrition we are able to grab during the day.

This year though, I expect things will be a bit different. Clients may be reluctant to bring in the trays of homemade treats. Some people may worry that baked goods may not be seen as safe due to concern over COVID-19, but no matter what you bring, you have to touch it. If you bake, wear gloves or use tongs after the baking is done so you don't touch the food with your hands.  COVID-19 cases are on the rise and many veterinary clinics are continuing or returning to curbside service and business is definitely not slowing down for veterinary clinics. Veterinary medicine is deemed an essential service because of general public health concerns. For example, what happens if a dog or cat is bitten by a raccoon that may be carrying rabies? Large animal veterinary providers help keep our herds or food sources healthy and free of disease, and that's why veterinary staff is essential. During the initial shutdown of businesses back in March and April, veterinary clinics stayed open and were incredibly busy.

What can you do to show your appreciation to your veterinary team that lovingly cares for your pets that you may be home with 24/7 now? There are still many options if you do not feel comfortable taking homemade treats to them, although if you do, it's best to bring things you can eat as you walk. Most people that love to bake are also crafty. Cloth masks are always welcome, especially those that are holiday themed or made from materials with animal graphics. Masks with staff members’ names imprinted with Cricut® machines make great gifts and help clients know the name of the staff member when they come to your car. Items that may bring a little cheer to the clinic include a pretty wreath or table-top Christmas tree decorated with animal-related items that won't break.

Poinsettias have had a bad rap. They are not as toxic to pets as you may have been led to believe, and they're so pretty and always bring a smile to my face. They are mildly toxic, one of those plants that is not dangerous, but if eaten it may cause mouth irritation and an upset stomach, and consequently mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea may be seen. If the milky sap gets on a pet’s skin, there might be some redness and itchiness. So, if you want to give one to a clinic, go for it. Cats usually go to the clinic in a carrier and won't get near the plant, and if you put it on a countertop, most dogs can't reach it. However, stay away from other holiday season plants like mistletoe and holly as they can be toxic to animals.

Other ideas (for veterinary clinics or human health providers):

  • Gift cards for food (Starbucks, GrubHub, DoorDash, fast food, sandwich shops, pizza restaurants)
  • Holiday cards with pictures of your pets
  • Pre-packaged boxes of chocolates
  • Popcorn tins with variety of flavors
  • Fruit baskets
  • Doughnuts for a morning appointment
  • Care baskets that may include any of the following:
    • Energy bars
    • Microwave popcorn
    • Snack pack chips
    • Candy, especially chocolate
    • K-cups or packets of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate
    • Flavored creamers
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Disinfecting wipes
    • Hand lotion

Holiday dates remaining in 2020 are the following, but most folks just bring any gifts during December:

  • Hanukkah 2020 Dec 10-Dec 18
  • Christmas Dec 25
  • Kwanzaa Dec 26-Jan 1

Of course, you can still bring home-baked goods or flowers in a vase. Some things never change!

Hopefully next year we will have a normal holiday season. But during this year of the pandemic, you can help give the essential workers a little extra appreciation after their extra effort so they can care for themselves and be there when we need them.

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