Reduce No-Show Veterinary Appointments With Multi-Channel Communication

With veterinary practices booking routine wellness visits weeks or months out and struggling to slot in sick or injured pets, no-show appointments are the last thing practice managers need. Unfortunately, at the same time, the number of clients who fail to call and reschedule or cancel an appointment is on the rise. No-show appointments result in lost revenue and diminished productivity.

With a miles-long waitlist of pets itching—sometimes literally—to be seen, you can't afford to waste time with no-shows. You can take steps to ensure your exam rooms are as full as your appointment calendar.

Reasons Behind No-Show Veterinary Appointments

If you call each client who fails to show up for an appointment, you'll end up with a lengthy list of excuses for why they didn't cancel. Here are the most common reasons behind no-show appointments.

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Lack of Pet Owner Education

Although your client service representatives (CSRs) may schedule progress appointments for ear infections and postoperative exams at checkout, clients may not understand that these visits are much more than a simple recheck. Be sure clients know that follow-up appointments are critical for their pet's health and full recovery, and that routine testing can help uncover potential issues in up to 40% of dogs and 60% of cats, based on a recent IDEXX study.

Forgetfulness and Schedule Conflicts

Busy schedules can cause people to completely forget about appointments, especially if they don't receive a reminder. This may cause them to forget to cancel appointments they're unable to make.

Better Opportunities

A client may schedule an appointment with you despite being disappointed that your next availability is a week out. If they then find another local practice that can grant them an earlier appointment, they might fail to cancel the appointment with you.

Lack of Communication

If your practice isn't staying in touch with clients about upcoming appointments, you're missing an opportunity to eliminate no-shows. This is especially important with new clients who haven't yet interacted with your practice team and could go to another practice. With today's many technological tools, people expect appointment reminders through numerous channels, such as text and email.

Tips for Reducing No-Show Appointments

Eliminating no-shows is high on most practice manager's lists and might be easier than you think. Try these tips to ensure clients make their pets' appointments.

Open Up Same-Day Slots

Clients concerned about a sick or injured pet want them seen as soon as possible and often call around, schedule appointments at different practices, and then fail to call and cancel the appointments they chose not to attend. Mitigate this by keeping open slots in your appointment calendar that can be filled only with clients who call in that day for urgent care. If the earliest available appointment time is at your practice, clients will more likely remember an appointment scheduled only a few hours in advance.

Offer Online Scheduling

Many people prefer the convenience of online scheduling platforms, as they can see the available appointment times at a glance without the need to discuss scheduling with a CSR. Put appointment scheduling in your clients' hands with a veterinary practice app or other client communication platform, and ensure clients can easily add appointments to their calendars. You can even adjust the settings for how clients book appointments—from allowing them to directly book within open, pre-designated slots to having them request times and wait for confirmation.

Send Automated Reminders

Instead of tying up your CSRs' time and your phone lines making appointment confirmation calls, set up automated text, email, and app reminders for appointments. Use a communication platform that sends automated reminders on a customizable schedule that suits your practice and clients. For example, send an appointment reminder immediately after a client schedules a visit, and then again two days before the appointment. Ask for confirmation, and have a CSR call to confirm, reschedule, or cancel the appointment if the client does not respond.

Provide Access to Appointment Records

How often do you schedule an appointment, only to forget the day or time minutes later? Instead of waiting for a reminder notification and scrambling to rearrange your schedule to get to your appointment, you might have a calendar of scheduled appointments where you can check the dates and times of future visits. Offer your clients this same service through a veterinary app or other platform that lists their pets' scheduled appointments with convenient links for rescheduling or canceling.

Send Clients Pre-Visit Instructions

Send any forms or instructions to clients before their appointments. This will serve as an appointment reminder and also ensure they arrive at their appointment properly prepared.

Reducing client no-shows requires a proactive approach that focuses on communication, education, and convenience. By using tools such as automated reminders, with pet owner instructions on how to prepare for the appointment, you can reduce your no-show appointment rate by 19%,¹ and even help increase compliance thus helping improve both client and patient care.


  1. Data on file at IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Westbrook, Maine, USA. Practice N = 24 Neo beta practices. Appointment N = 150,500. Six months pre-Vello integration versus Six months post-Vello integration. Includes all practice visits/appointments. Individual results will vary.

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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at

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