7 Questions You Should Ask Your Vet

Visiting the vet soon?

Asking the right questions once you’re there can make a world of difference and help you catch health issues early on. Here are 7 very important questions you should ask your vet next time you see him:

If you are keeping my pet overnight, is someone with him to observe him?

If your pet has surgery during the day, the vet might recommend that he stays at the clinic overnight to rest. Who stays there with him is a key piece of information you should always talk to your vet about. “If there is no one at the clinic overnight, you might want to take the pet home so there is someone to observe it,” says Dr. Gretchen Norton, DVM, who was in private practice for 12 years before moving on to work in animal shelter medicine.

For emergency surgeries and pets that may need to be on medications or IV fluids overnight, Norton says your veterinarian may recommend transfer to an emergency clinic that has overnight care if their hospital does not. “Owners should ask about what kind of overnight care the clinic recommends,” Norton says.

Do you recommend pet insurance?

Pet insurance is now widely available in most states—although their benefits and coverage varies. “Some policies cover breed related problems, others only cover accidents or illnesses.” explains Norton. “Just like human insurance policies, if the pet has a disease or an accident, it is too late to buy insurance to cover that problem.”

Whether pet insurance can benefit your dog or not depends on many factors, including your dog’s age, breed, and past health history, so it’s important that you ask questions. For example, Norton says Labrador Retrievers are known for eating first, then deciding if it was edible later. “They often eat things such as balls, socks or corncobs that can block the intestines and require surgery to remove,” Norton explains. “In this case, you would want a policy that covers surgery to remove foreign bodies.”

How often do you recommend my pet be given vaccines?

Long gone are the days when yearly vaccination was a given. Today, more and more vets are given vaccines based on risk assessment and lifestyle of the pet, so your veterinarian will make a personal recommendation for your pet. “You can also ask if they do titer testing to assess the current level of protection,” says Norton. If the results show your pet is still protected after a year and a half, you might not need to vaccinate him again. Common vaccines that may not be recommended based on your pets lifestyle and location? Lyme disease, Rattlesnake venom, and Bordetella, according to Norton.

The one exception to this is the rabies vaccine, which, by law, must be given by a veterinarian. “There are both one and three years vaccines available and your veterinarian will advise you which one is best for your pet,” says Norton.

What lab work do you recommend for my pet?

If you bring your pet to a clinic for a checkup, additional testing may be recommended. These might feel unnecessary, but there’s a reason for them. “Pets can’t tell us when they have an early stage of disease,” Norton says. A clear example? Kidney disease. On the physical exam, your veterinarian will feel the pets kidneys for normal shape and size. But a blood test is required to see how well the kidneys are working. “In early renal disease, the kidneys will feel normal and the only way to detect a problem is through the blood test,” Norton explains.

Other tests that could be recommended? A fecal test to look for parasites that live in the pet’s intestines. Blood tests to uncover problems with the kidneys, liver, pancreas, or other body functions. Even x-rays to look inside the pet’s body, checking the size and shape of the heart, or finding bladder stones.

Will I see the same doctor each time I come here?

In a multi-doctor practice, you might not be able to see the same doctor each time. There are pros and cons to this practice. For example, Norton says you should ideally see the same doctor for recheck exams after a problem has been treated. “This ensures that the pet is improving and that the prescribed treatment is working,” Norton explains.

On the other hand, there are also benefits to seeing more than one doctor. “The main advantage of multiple doctors is getting a second set of eyes (and brains) on your pets problem without going to another hospital for a second opinion,” Norton points out.

Do you refer pets to specialists if needed?

According to Norton, if your pet is not responding to treatment or needs more advanced testing, your veterinarian should discuss referral to a specialist. “Your veterinarian will usually recommend a specialist that they have worked with before,” Norton says.

One thing you should ask your vet: When will the referral happen? If your pet’s condition is serious, you might want to see a specialist right away. “When going to a referral appointment it is important to have a copy of all the records from your family veterinarian, in order to provide a complete history of testing and treatments,” Norton adds.

What are these lumps and bumps I found?

Here’s one simple, basic truth: Owners spend more time petting the pet than the veterinarian does. “The veterinarian will look for lumps as part of the physical examination, but if you know of a problem, it helps to point it out,” Norton says. “Your veterinarian will also ask if you know how long the lump has been present, has it changed recently and does it seem to bother the pet.”

Because causes for lumps can range from benign lipomas (collections of fat) to cancerous sarcomas or mast cell tumors, your vet might recommend further tests—including a fine needle aspirate (FNA) test—to figure out what’s going on.

Meet the Author: Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com

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