6 Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian
Your pet’s doctor would be thrilled to discuss these topics because it means that, together, you’ll be taking the best possible care of your cats and dogs.
Owning a pet seems simple: feed, walk, play, cuddle, repeat. Of course, the responsibilities of pet ownership are more involved. To keep dogs and cats healthy, you need a veterinarian’s help. And your pet’s doctor is eager to answer your questions—even ones you might not think to ask. When you head to the clinic for your pet’s next visit, bring these queries with you. Your pet—and your vet—will be glad you did.
1. What will my pet cost?
“The sad fact is two out of three puppies will not be with the original owner in two years,” says Andy Rollo, DVM, with Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich. “Behavior and cost are the top two reasons for this. So we want to make a dent in that statistic by preparing owners.” So ask your veterinarian what financial aspects to expect over your pet’s lifetime. “In my clinic, we have a plan that spells everything out for the first year, including spay or neuter surgery, vaccines, and parasite prevention costs,” Dr. Rollo says. “We give it to owners during their first visit to try to avoid some of the sticker shock that can occur.”
2. What identification does my pet need?
Sandy Block, DVM, with Bollinger Canyon Animal Hospital in San Ramon, Calif., recommends that every cat and dog get a microchip. Collars and tags also are important for all pets to wear, but these forms of identification can fall off. So microchips are the only sure-fire way your pet can be identified. However, microchips are only useful if you keep your information—name, contact information, and microchip ID number—up to date in the database, so be sure to speak with your veterinarian about the best identification strategy for your pet.
3. What food should my cat or dog eat?
Nutrition is as important for pets as it is for people. The type of diet recommended for cats or dogs depends on a number of factors, such as your pet’s age, breed, lifestyle, and health condition. “Whether it is food, vitamins, supplements, or natural products, ask your veterinarian what is appropriate for your pet,” Dr. Block says. Sometimes veterinarians prescribe specially formulated therapeutic foods to help manage certain diseases. Some people want to be their pets’ personal chefs. “Owners who want to home-cook food should weigh the pros and cons with the doctor,” Dr. Rollo says. The overall message: There are a lot of pet food options out there and your veterinarian will help you make the right nutritional choices for your pet.
4. Which vaccines does my pet need?
Veterinarians usually divide vaccines into two categories: core and noncore. Core vaccines are recommended—or even required in the case of rabies—for every pet. Veterinarians might recommend additional noncore vaccines based on your pet and the life it leads. “It will depend on the pet’s lifestyle: whether it is a house dog, a big Lab in the backyard, or a hunting dog,” Dr. Block says. “It also depends on the area of the country you live in because diseases vary and the frequency required for vaccinations varies by area.” Indoor and outdoor cats usually require different vaccinations, as do puppies and kittens. Therefore, it’s vitally important that you visit your veterinarian to find out which vaccines your pet needs.
5. What does my pet’s behavior mean?
A lot of people forget to mention behavioral issues—even seemingly small ones—to their veterinarians. “Whether it’s that a dog jumps up on grandma when she visits or growls at a child for taking its bone, those things are important to the family,” Dr. Block says. “Behavioral issues are one of the main reasons pets end up at shelters, so we try to fix it so they can stay happy and healthy in their home.” Also tell your veterinarian about changes in your pet’s behavior. For example, if your cat starts urinating outside the box, the behavior could signal an underlying illness. Cats are notorious for hiding illness, and small behavior differences like this might be the only sign you’ll see.
6. How do I carry out the treatment plan?
When your veterinarian is working to diagnose your pet’s illness, be sure you understand all the steps. For example, ask why the doctor is running blood work or taking a radiograph. Also be sure you completely understand any healthcare you’re to give at home. “Sometimes it’s easy for veterinarians to overlook explaining the therapy that’s been recommended,” Dr. Rollo says, “whether it is giving a medication or restricting activity.” If you have questions, veterinarians always want you to ask for clarification.
They also want you to share any concerns you may have. For example: “If the doctor puts your dog on a canned-food diet, but your dog doesn’t like canned food, say so,” Dr. Rollo says. Also feel free to call the practice if problems arise after you get home.
Regardless of the situation, remember this: When in doubt, always ask your veterinarian for more information. Your pet is the main priority, and veterinarians and their team members welcome the chance to spend an extra minute or two with you to make sure your cats and dogs stay healthy and safe.