How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Vet - KLFY News 10

How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Vet

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Here's a great article by Pamela Babcock of WebMD's Pet Health on how to get the most out of your visit to the veterinarian, and how to make sure your vet has all the information he or she needs to ensure the health of your furry best friend. 

Bring Records

If you're a first-time pet owner, going to a new veterinarian because you've moved, or seeing a specialist, one of the most important steps is to bring your pet's health records or have them transferred ahead of time.

Gene Bailey, who owns The Animal Hospital of Peak Plaza in Apex, N.C., says records you have on hand are helpful. But "ultimately having access to complete medical records is essential to quality of care."

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During their lifetime, companion animals may be seen by multiple vets and at emergency and specialty hospitals. Records from these occasions have information about your pet's drug allergies and anesthetic sensitivities as well as baseline blood values. Some veterinarians make them readily available. Others require signed releases.

Cover the ‘What Ifs?'

The first visit is a good time to ask the preferred method of contact -- phone, e-mail, or text message -- if you have follow-up questions. Bailey says he prefers e-mail for non urgent questions because "it allows time to give a thoughtful response as well as to attach reference material."

Ken Werner, DVM, owner of Werner Animal Hospital in Morris Plains, N.J., agrees and says it beats playing phone tag: "The majority of people do not abuse it and have bona-fide questions."

It's also a good time to ask how to contact the staff during emergencies, whether they offer after-hour emergency appointments, and if they can give you contact information for local emergency clinics and poison control.

Note Foods, Medications, and More

For routine visits, bring a list of food brands and medications as well as details of any special diets and treats and how much food your pet gets each day.

"A handful doesn't mean anything to me," Werner says. "Use a measuring cup so we compare apples to apples."

It's also important to note any change in your pet's water consumption, appetite, playfulness, energy level, or behaviors and whether there's been vomiting or diarrhea.

Communicate Clearly if Something Isn't Right

Think your pet may have a serious illness? Try to remain calm and objective. Be prepared to give an accurate description of the symptoms and how long they've been going on.

"If people don't give me a history, I'm very handicapped because I can talk to these dogs and cats all day and they're not going to answer me," Werner says.

The office visit is also a good time to ask for handouts or Internet links to legitimate sources that might help you become more educated about your pet's illness.

Mention Bathroom Issues

Taking notes in advance can help. Jot down things like increased thirst, changes in bowel habits, or increased urination. If your vet asks for a stool sample, ask how much they need, collect a fresh specimen, and transport it in a sealed bag.

Likewise, if your dog is having a urinary issue, don't let him relieve himself when you get out of the car because the vet will want to get a sample.

You'll also want to ask about signs you should watch for to see if your pet is getting better or worse. And be prepared to answer questions about your and your family's ability and willingness to give recommended medications or treatments.

Let the vet know if you don't think you can administer pills or injections to your pet.

Make Sure Your Pet is Properly Restrained

Bailey will never forget the day a Shar Pei visiting his clinic slipped off its leash because the collar was too loose. The dog darted into the street just as the owner reached the clinic's front door.

The dog spent a day and a half on the run and died of heat stroke shortly after it was found.

Dogs should always be on a leash and cats always in carriers. Bailey says, "There may be other strange animals that are not friendly, and they can become frightened or may even fight."

Give staff a heads-up if your dog is enthusiastic or assertive. And be sure that collars, harnesses, and leashes are secure and "comfortably snug," Bailey says.

If your pet is young, new to the clinic, or fearful, consider stopping by between health-related visits for a weight check or a tasty treat. You can also take your pet in when you pick up medication. Familiarizing your pets with the clinic and the staff will help set them up for success in the future.

Taking Care of Business

  • Call ahead to see if your vet is running on schedule or to find out when she is less busy. The first appointment in the morning might be more likely to be on schedule than one later in the day.
  • Honor your appointment time. And if you've made an appointment for one pet, "just bring one pet with you," Werner says.
  • Remember that most practices have strict animal handling policies. "Most dogs respect their owners, but some cats will bite or scratch anybody," Werner says. In most cases, difficult pets aren't innately aggressive, but simply fearful.
  • Make a list of questions ahead of time. "This goes a long way to helping the client avoid getting sidetracked and making the most of the pet's visit," Bailey says.
  • Ask for an estimate, particularly if your pet has a major health issue. "We can do so much in veterinary medicine now," Werner says. "But it's not uncommon to need an MRI that costs $1,800 to $2,000 or other procedures that can outstrip what the average person can afford."
  • Know what medications you have at home. "If your cat has an ear infection and you still have medication at home, there's no need for me to dispense more medication, and it will save you money," Werner says.
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