As the employees of a veterinary practice know, one of the side benefits of the job is getting to meet and interact with adorable animals! You get to see the sweetest of kitty faces and the melting eyes of a lovable pup, and more. It can be tempting to photograph them, perhaps to share them with others in the practice who were off that day, or to use in your practice’s marketing materials.

But, is that acceptable? Done correctly, the answer is yes. An article in Veterinary Business DMV 360’s site covers this topic, and shares how a practice in Arkansas – Azzore Veterinary Specialists – photographs each patient. They put the picture in the pet’s electronic health record, and also post the photos on their Facebook page and Twitter feed.

What’s most important: getting the client’s permission first. Simply ask the client to sign a photography release form when checking in. You can use this form as written or tweak it to fit your practice’s specific needs. People may occasionally refuse to sign, but most are willing.

Beyond Just Posting Pictures

This practice goes a step further, providing online updates on social media. How well has that gone over? Well! The article says that “most clients understand that the purpose of posting photos is to keep them in the know—and to educate others who are simply following the action. Typical posts might explain that the pet ‘made it through surgery just fine,’ ‘is awake,’ or ‘is resting well after her procedure.’”

Clients get updates that way without needing to call and it’s easy for them to share updates with friends and family. Posting updates typically only take a few seconds to do, although when a celebrity cat – the mascot for the local weather station, Joey the Garden Cat – had a tumor removed, Facebook activity was fast and furious.

VMDTechnology.com points out benefits of using social media this way. “Social media, like Facebook or Twitter, can help you continue client bonds outside of your veterinary clinic’s exam room. Establishing a strong presence on several social media platforms will help you connect 365 days a year, rather than during 15-minute annual visits. Before you know it, clients will see you as the source for pet health information online, not their buddy Dr. Google (where did that guy go to veterinary school, anyway?).”

Engaging Veterinary Facebook Posts

SnoutSchool.com agrees that patient stories (including photos) are among the most engaging types of Facebook posts. When Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut posted about Ty, a “handsome black lab” who’d been hit by a car, the post reached 1,045 people. That’s a great way to help your community learn more about your practice.

Another way to elicit engagement is to post a picture of an animal and ask a question. “You could post a picture of a unique dog and ask people what breed it is, ask clients what their pet’s plans for the weekend are, or post a funny picture and ask clients to caption it.”

Once you have a signed release form, you are limited only by your imagination!