8 Things You Should Ask at a Vet Appointment

Taking your dog or cat to their vet appointment can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to expect or your pet is anxious or active. Here are some helpful questions that can help guide the conversation at your next preventive care appointment:

1. What diet do you recommend?

Choosing the right diet for your pet is one of the most important things that you can do for them. Don't be afraid to discuss what you're feeding your pet with the doctor! There are literally thousands of different pet foods with new ones every week. The only way to know what's best for your pet is to break down his/her needs based on a number of factors, from age and breed to activity level to health concerns (if any) and more. Once you've taken these factors into consideration, you can start to pick the best diet for your pet. Remember, though, that dogs and cats are individuals and what the same food does in different bodies (and to different taste buds!) can be variable.

2. How much exercise should my pet get?

The amount of exercise a pet needs can vary greatly depending on factors like age, breed, weight and health status. A customized plan should be developed for each pet and adjusted accordingly, just as with diet. It's important to remember, though, that all pets need some kind of play or stimulation every day - even aloof-seeming cats!

3. What are the most common diseases based on my pet’s breed/age?

There are many breeds that are predisposed to certain diseases. If you know what to look for, the disease can usually be diagnosed sooner and, therefore, treatment will be more effective. Ask the veterinarian what kinds of diseases you need to look out for and if there are any steps you can take to help prevent them. (Incidentally, feeding the right diet is often the first step!)

4. What blood tests should be done to help detect disease and at what age?

As veterinarians, we often wish we could just ask our patients to tell us where it hurts. Unfortunately, evaluating sick pets is much more complicated, which is why blood work is such a valuable diagnostic tool. Routine blood testing can help determine causes of illness, verify organ health prior to anesthetized medical treatments, and aid in the general maintenance of healthy pets. It is important to get a baseline blood panel around 6 months of age and then another screening panel around 4 or 5 years. Then at age 7, annual blood panels are recommended.  If the pet is on a long term medication, blood work should be performed (at a minimum) every 6 months.

5. How do I brush my pet’s teeth and how often do they need a professional cleaning?

A daily teeth brushing regimen is a great way to combat tartar build up and, hopefully, prevent periodontal disease. However, if your pet has significant dental issues, brushing their teeth could actually be quite painful. Therefore, it's important to have a veterinarian examine your pet’s teeth and gums during an exam. Then the doctor can give you a recommendation on having a professional cleaning and show you the best way to brush your pet's teeth at home.  We recommend that pets have professional cleanings once a year starting at age 3-4 years; however, a dedicated home dental care program can reduce the need for annual cleanings. Moreover, some pets (just like some people!) need more frequent cleanings while others need less frequent ones.

6. What are these lumps and bumps?

Are you seeing lumps, bumps or growths on your pet? No matter what you call them, masses of all kinds, from allergic rashes to harmless skin growths to malignant tumors, are actually fairly common in our furry friends. While most are benign, we recommend examinations (sometimes with accompanying lab work, such as cytology or fine needle aspirates) for all new growths. This simple procedure allows the veterinarian to determine the nature of the growth by collecting a sample of cells and viewing them under a microscope. Occasionally, a biopsy may be also be needed. This involves collecting a small tissue sample and sending it to a laboratory for examination. 

7. What kinds of parasites can my pet get and how do I prevent them?

We know. No one likes parasites, and the very idea of them can be... icky. Our pets probably feel the same way about them, though, so don't we owe it to them to make sure we do everything we can to keep them parasite-free? From fleas and ticks to heartworms, intestinal worms, and ear mites, our pets can be plagued by numerous parasites that can cause a wide range of problems from discomfort to life-threatening illness. Be sure to tell your veterinarian what kinds of parasite prevention products you use on your pet, and make sure you have enough for your pets before you leave.

8. What expenses should I expect annually for a healthy pet?

Having a dog or cat can often feel like having a child dependent. That’s why it’s useful to know what realistic health expenses are so you can be better prepared (both financially and mentally). Typically, for a healthy pet to be on a good wellness plan, you should expect the following each year: annual or bi-annual exam(s), parasite prevention medication(s), vaccinations, fecal tests, and bloodwork (especially heartworm testing for dogs) - not to mention high quality food, toys and love! Some other very common reasons we see dogs and cats outside their routine preventive care include: ear infections, skin infections, itchy skin, allergies, diarrhea, vomiting, and lameness. We highly recommend purchasing pet insurance for your pet while s/he is young and healthy, before “pre-existing conditions” can develop.

Do you need advice, or have questions about your pet’s health? Contact us today!

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