How to Make the Most of Vet Visits

How to Make the Most of Vet Visits

     Whether the visit is a yearly exam or an emergency, the following tips will help you explain your pet’s health issues to your veterinarian, and will help her to determine the diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Annual Exam:
  1. Before your appointment write down all of your questions, and observations in detail.  The smallest observation could alert your vet to a potential problem.  Leave a space in between each question and/or observation so that you can write down your vet’s comments and instructions (such as a medication schedule).
    
a. Write down the brand of food your pet is eating, especially if you have switched brands recently.  Also make sure to record when you feed your pet, how much and how often.
    
b. Write down the name of any medication and the dosage that your pet might be taking at the time.  This will help ensure that both you and your vet have the same information.
2. Confirm with the vet’s office what you should do or bring with you before the exam.  Such as:
    
a. Ask about your pet’s eating schedule - some tests require that your pet not eat or drink after midnight.
    
b. Ask if you need to bring a stool sample.
    
c. Ask if there is anything else that you need to do to prepare your dog for her annual visit.
3. For an annual checkup be sure to check your records for your pet’s vaccination schedules so that you can cross reference with your vet’s records.  This is especially important if you are visiting a new veterinarian.  Each vaccination has a different timeline: in New York State, for example, a Rabies vaccination is three years.  However other vaccinations are given annually and still others are contingent upon your dog’s exposure to other dogs such as the vaccination to prevent Kennel Cough.
4. Utilize modern technology.  If your dog is exhibiting a strange or different behavior you can videotape it on your cell phone or camera.  I have found that my dog’s behavior changes when we visit the vet.  For example, my little girl dog, C.C., is the alpha dog at home and on the sidewalk.  She is strong, focused and territorial, but when we visit the vet she is extremely shy, fearful, and timid.  If I was having a behavioral problem with C.C., I would surely videotape the behavior at home so that the vet could get a better understanding of the problem.
5. Ask about the cost of procedures and tests before they are conducted.  My veterinarians are extremely conscious of the cost incurred in keeping my three dogs healthy.  At one point I was in the vet’s office at least once a month dealing with chronic bladder infections, a genetic disease, and cancer.  At first I felt badly when I asked about the cost of each test.  My vet is a very understanding professional, and worked with me to determine the tests that were vital, and the tests that could be postponed.  She worked with me to maintain the health of my pet, and helped me make sound budgetary decisions without endangering my beloved dogs.
6. If your vet prescribes medication for your pet, write down the instructions, dosage, and possible side effects.
7. If your pet is given any vaccinations make sure to write down which vaccination was given, how long the vaccination lasts, and what type of documentation should you keep on file.  For example, once your pet receives its rabies vaccination, you should be given a tag which you will attach to your pet’s collar. 

Emergency Visits:
1. Have the number of your veterinarian and 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital in your area readily available – on your refrigerator, on your speed dial, or in the contact information on your cell phone.  In an emergency situation, having this number conveniently located will help reduce the stress of dealing with a sick pet.
2. If you have time write down all of your questions, and observations in detail.  The smallest observation could alert your vet to a potential problem.  Leave a space in between each question and/or observation so that you can write down your vet’s comments and instructions (such as a medication schedule). 
3. Confirm with the vet’s office what you should do or bring before with you before the exam.  Such as:
    
a. Stool samples.
    
b. Any other samples or paperwork (especially if you have insurance for your pet).
    
c. The name of the medication your pet might be taking at the time.
    
d. The name of the food your pet is eating, especially if you switched food recently.
4. When visiting the vet for an emergency, such as consistent vomiting or diarrhea, blood in the stool, urine or vomit, or a putrid smell to the urine, ask what should be done prior to your visit.  Examples are:
    
a. If there is blood present in the stool, most likely, they will ask you to bring in a sample.
    
b. If there is blood in the urine, most likely they will ask you to bring your dog in with a full bladder.  They need to extract the urine directly from the bladder using a needle because they require an uncontaminated sample for testing.  You should carry your dog to the office so she will not urinate before you arrive.
    
c. If your pet is persistently vomiting, most likely they will not require a vomit sample, but be sure to ask anyway.
    
d. Always ask what your dog should eat or drink before the appointment.  The veterinarian will give you dietary instructions.  For example, my little boy dog, Riece, began vomiting after every meal, and then was not interested in food at all, even his favorite treats.  Of course the symptoms became worse on a Saturday night.  Thankfully, my vet has a service for emergency problems.  After I phoned the service, my vet called me back within 20 minutes.  He told me not to feed Riece anything until the vet could see him the next morning.
    
e. If you have other pets that share the home, ask the vet if the sick dog should be quarantined.  This is very important because the other dogs might contract a sickness from each other.
5. If you have time, try to utilize modern technology.  If your dog is exhibiting strange or different behavior you can videotape it on your cell phone or camera.  Showing the vet the video will possibly provide information to help diagnose your pet.
6. As with the annual visits, ask about the cost of procedures, and tests before they are conducted.  In an emergency situation there may not be time, but if the dog is sick and it is not an emergency, the vet may be able to suggest an over-the-counter drug, or some other option to help keep the costs down.
7. If your vet prescribes any medication for your pet, write down the instructions, dosage, and possible side effects.
8. In an emergency situation bring someone with you.  In crisis situations, tension is high for both you and your dog.  Even if you have written everything down, and even videotaped your pet’s behavior, you will benefit from having a friend or loved one with you.  They will provide at least emotional support, and at most will be able to articulate any concerns that you have and might forget in the midst of the crisis.  I was able to help a good friend of mine whose Golden Retriever was hospitalized.  He shared with me his concerns and I wrote then down.  While I did not interrupt when we consulted the veterinarian, I noticed that my friend forgot to mention a few details.  After the vet and my friend were finished speaking, I reminded my friend about the issues that we had discussed earlier.  I was honored that he trusted me to help him through this very tough experience.  I have had a friend support me during an emergency situation as well, and I know that it makes all of the difference in the world.  We are the voices for our pets, and in times of crisis sometimes we need our friends and loved ones to help us.


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