Entry and Exit Evaluations: The Keys to Quality Care
Face of black dog on yellow background looking upwards
By Suzanne Locker

Dropcap version of uppercase letter H in orangee often hear remarks from those in the industry who want their pet care center to be state-of-the-art, of the highest quality and at the level of which no one in their community has ever seen before! And expectations such as these can certainly be met…if they have deep pockets and years of experience to make their lofty goals happen.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting the bar high; however, many times the emphasis of excellence is only on the aesthetics of the center. Instead, by focusing on the health and happiness of each pet, we can fly right by that high bar to a level of consistent, high-quality pet care.

If you are not aware of the condition of every pet that arrives at your center, how can you measure that pet’s success or decline while they are lodging? One of the simplest ways to achieve the highest quality of care is to conduct an entry and exit evaluation of each pet. The evaluation is not an in-depth veterinary examination, but rather a quick and thorough look at the pet’s body from nose to tail, in the presence of the parent. Yes, this needs to be conducted in front of the parent so that you can discuss any recent happenings regarding the pet’s health at home.
Typography quote
Frequently, our team will discover a lump or abrasion that the parent isn’t aware of, which eliminates the “How did that happen to my pet? It wasn’t there when I dropped him off” situation. In some cases though, the lump has actually been quite serious and the parents are grateful that we noticed it. The entire evaluation should only take about five minutes, depending on how chatty the parents are. If it’s a first-time visit, the pet may be hesitant about being touched by a new person. In this case, the evaluation can be done at a later time that day after the new pet calms down, and any questions can be discussed with a quick call to the parent for clarification.
Our lodging techs are responsible for performing all evaluations. In the training period, a trainee will accompany a senior tech each time they are called to the reception area to collect an incoming lodging pet. The trainee will observe how the evaluation is done and hear how the senior team member talks with the parent. After a couple of weeks, the trainee will start doing the evaluations themselves as their trainer directs and watches them. It’s important to give the new team member a solid base of knowledge on how to correctly do these evaluations—both for their safety, and to ensure a thorough understanding of the pet’s condition when they arrive.
To perform the entry evaluation on a dog, the lodging tech will approach calmly and quietly, according to best practices regarding friendly, safe dog handling. They will start gently touching and looking over the pet. This can happen in the reception area, away from other incoming traffic, or in an adjacent area set up for consultations. While the tech is checking out the pet, they will be talking with the parent at the same time. They’ll ask questions such as, “Has Luna been ill or had any recent injuries or changes in her appetite since we’ve seen her last?” It’s important to be attentive to how the pet is moving around while the evaluation is happening, as it may reveal that the dog is showing sensitivity in a certain area or limping.

If flea dirt or fleas are seen, you can require the dog to have a bath before entering the lodging or daycare areas. If the nails are extremely long, ask the parent if you can trim them. The pet will certainly feel better if the nails aren’t curling under. The last piece of the entry evaluation will be weighing the pet. A walk-on scale is a must-have in your center for monitoring changes in the weight.

All of the information you gather will be entered on an entry evaluation form, into the pet’s digital file, or both. Having the dog’s information right in front of the staff’s eyes during the entire lodging stay makes tracking any problems or changes efficient and fast.

If your center takes cats, the entry evaluation should be done in a more secure area, such as the cat lodging room. Cats are more likely to be unapproachable at entry if it’s a first-time visit. Before leaving the parent, the tech should ask about recent problems or illnesses at home and make a note of all information gained from the parent. However, if the parent wants to accompany you to the lodging area, they might be a great help, especially if their fractious cat needs “soothing” from mom or dad.

A baby scale is an easy way to take a cat’s weight by sitting the carrier on the scale while the cat is inside. Afterwards, when the cat is placed in its enclosure, the empty carrier can be weighed and that amount subtracted from the total to get the weight of the cat.

A picture of a cat

If your center takes cats, the entry evaluation should be done in a more secure area, such as the cat lodging room. Cats are more likely to be unapproachable at entry if it’s a first-time visit.

The exit evaluation should be performed the day before departure, following the same steps as the entry evaluation, with weighing the pet as the last step. This will give you time to address any problems that may have been overlooked before or that happened recently. If a scrape, mattery eyes or a hot spot shows up the day before departure, your team can treat it and, most importantly, let the parent know about it the next day at pick-up. This is a far better scenario than not conducting an evaluation and having the parent tell you after they get home that something is wrong with their pet. Even small problems will collectively start undermining their trust in you.
Most importantly, evaluations prioritize the pet’s health. You will have a reference point for the condition of each pet at the time they arrive so your staff can measure any changes while the pet is with you.

Secondly, evaluations are a good tool for client retention. The parent will see that your center is focused on the wellbeing of their precious pet. This will go a long way to solidify that bond of trust between you and the parent, and will keep them coming back again and again because your center is truly pet-centric.

Evaluations also promote team growth. It’s very gratifying to see each member of our team grow to be the most excellent version of themselves. Sometimes our best lodging techs are wonderful with pets, but not so great with the people at the end of the leashes. Learning to introduce themselves and interact with the parents will teach them a life skill that will serve them well—confidence.

If you remain aware of the condition and health of the pets in your care at all times, you will reap the reward for doing so. Your business and your reputation will grow because you achieved and passed the high bar you set for yourself by offering the very best pet care anyone has ever seen!

Suzanne Locker has owned ABC Pet Resort & Spa in Houston, Texas since 1991 and serves as CEO of the company. After 32 years of working in multiple capacities across the national stage, Suzanne continues to be an active, involved leader in the pet care industry. She is a consultant for Pet Care Management Boot Camp, in partnership with Turnkey, Inc., an architectural design/build/consulting firm, and remains dedicated to promoting safe, happy pet care!