Tonya Tenters, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Recently I had to take my elderly dog to the veterinarian for an overall check up and some blood work. This was my first visit to this veterinarian and as “just” a pet owner and not a veterinary professional. This trip was nerve-racking for me and I have a background in veterinary medicine. It made me think that it must be a lot harder for pet owners (no matter the species and ages of the pets) to go into the veterinarian and have a lot of information thrown at them and be worried, but without the background to understand all of it or know what to ask. This goes for a first-time visit, a new veterinarian, or with an animal experiencing some health problems.
The first thing to remember is that it is okay to ask questions. The best way to develop a good relationship with the veterinary staff and doctors is to interact with them. This builds rapport and trust, two of the most important aspects of any relationship, and yes this is a relationship. Questions build rapport and allow you to participate in your pet’s care.
When you have scheduled your visit, first look at why they have this appointment. If it is a yearly check-up, look at previous visits and see what was performed. Do you understand why they get certain vaccines and why certain tests are performed? If you do not, then ask. Come prepared to ask about what is appropriate nutrition (based on the dog’s lifestyle) and any behavior type questions. This makes you an active participant in not only the day to day care of your animal, but also their overall health. If this is a first puppy visit, then come prepared to not only ask about the vaccines the puppy will need, but house training, behavior, socialization, monthly preventatives, and nutrition. Your veterinarian and staff are a reliable source for this information. These are topics that are very important for first time puppy owners and can be often grazed over, but not fully discussed, because the owner is so overwhelmed by the visit that they do not even think to ask.
For those of you that have Senior pets. This is an age that our pets often need more veterinary care and it is scary when they do get sick or begin to show their age (even though we all want them to live forever). It is very rare that an animal gets sick and it is immediately known what has caused it. They can’t talk to us and so the process can be lengthy to determine what is ailing our pets. In these situations, it is important to be patient, but also ask about why a test is performed or the information it may provide. Ask about medications, what is it? What will it do? What are some of the potential side effects? If your Senior pet is healthy and having a regular visit, discuss their nutrition, vaccines, preventives and whether blood work is appropriate and what kind should they have performed.
The bottom line is, take some time to prepare for your veterinary visit and ask questions. It is better to ask them, rather than worry about it or look online and not know what is factual and what is anecdotal information. Our pets cannot speak for themselves and you are the one that knows them the best. Participate in their visits and ask your questions.