What Information Does Your Veterinarian Need?

If your pet is not feeling well, is obviously sick or has hurt himself, providing as much information as possible to your veterinarian is important.

Accurate details can help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis, prescribe care, and suggest any needed changes in the animal’s life. Plus, if you have prepared for the visit ahead of time and have the information on hand, there will be less chance of providing the vet with inaccurate information.

Rather than trying to remember all of these details, write it down. After all, if your pet is ill or injured, and you’re going to be stressed almost as much as your pet. If you’ve written down all this information, you can share it with your veterinarian easily.

What is the reason for this visit?

This is usually the question asked when you make an appointment and when you show up at the clinic. You can provide a brief reason here, such as “My dog is limping on his right front paw.” However, when you see the veterinarian, give him a little more information. When did this happen? What did you see? Exactly what is your dog or cat doing? It may sound like a cliche but your pet can’t tell your veterinarian what’s going on so you need to speak for your pet. Your vet shouldn’t have to guess, either; no matter how talented your vet is, that allows for too many mistakes.

How long has this been going on?

Did this happen today? Or has it been going on for several days or weeks? When the injury or illness happened is important and definitely affects the diagnosis and treatment. For example, a long standing injury that hasn’t healed on its own may need support, surgery, physical therapy or other treatments. If you don’t remember, query family members as someone may remember when it was first noticed.

What symptoms have you seen?

What about your pet’s problem caught your attention? Was your cat hiding in the closet? Or was she demanding to be held? Was your dog limping? Did he refuse to eat and that’s weird for him? Jot down even the smallest detail even if you’re not sure it’s important.

Food, Eating Habits and Vomiting

Write down what food your pet eats, how much food, and when. Do you feed scheduled meals or do you free feed? Make note of that. Is your pet an eager eater or does he pick at his food? What is happening right now? Has anything changed? Has your pet’s appetite decreased? Increased? Is your pet vomiting? As unattractive as it might be, check the vomit, and look for undigested food or foreign objects. Let your vet know what you found.



Urination and Defecation

How often does your dog normally need to urinate and defecate? Has there been an increase or decrease in that? Go outside with your dog prior to going to the vet and check the urine. What color is it? Dark yellow, light yellow or clear? Is there any blood in the urine? Do his feces look normal? Is there any blood in the feces? If your dog is ill, take a small plastic bag and scoop up a tiny teaspoonful of feces to bring with you (this isn’t necessary if your dog is injured).

Do the same with your cat except check the litter box. Again, if your cat is ill, bring in a small stool sample.


Your veterinarian will ask about your pet’s sleep habits. The pain of an injury can disrupt sleep and your pet may be restless, uncomfortable and more awake than normal. On the other hand, many sick animals will sleep more than normal and often will hide when sleeping. Cats in particular will find a dark, small place to sleep when ill. Jot down your pet’s normal sleeping habits and then any changes you’re seeing right now.

Exercise, Play Times, and Daily Habits

Think about your pet’s daily routine, including when your dog goes for walks, when you play fetch with him and anything else that makes up his normal day. Do the same with your cat. When does she normally have the zoomies? When does she like to nap on your lap? Now, with this injury or illness, what has changed? Is your cat not playing at all right now? Is your dog uninterested in his ball? All of this is information that could be pertinent.

Medications and Supplements

Jot down any medications and supplements, even nutritional supplements, that you give your pet. Use your smart phone and take a photo of the label if you want, as that can be easier than writing down all the names, dosages, and other details. Although your vet clinic will have records of anything prescribed by them, if a different veterinarian prescribed a medication, this clinic won’t have that information. In addition, many nutritional or herbal supplements can potentially interact with medications. So include information about everything.

Are you seeing anything else?

Is your dog grumpy? Is your cat more prone to swatting you than normal? You know your pet better than anyone else so if you just feel something is wrong, that’s information too, and you need to share it with your veterinarian. As you’re putting this information together, keep in mind that your vet isn’t going to discount any of your information. Instead, he’s going to appreciate any information you can provide. The two of you then can go through all the information and he can determine what it all means.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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