By Pamela Babcock
WebMD Pet Health
Taking your pet to the vet? Whether it's a routine appointment or you're checking on symptoms, there are steps you can take to help the appointment go well.
Bringing your pet's health records, or having them transferred ahead of time, is one of the most important things to do.
Estrus, or heat, is the stage in a female dog's reproductive cycle during which she becomes receptive to mating with males. At this time, estrogen levels first increase and then sharply decrease, and mature eggs are released from the ovaries. Ideally, your dog should be spayed before she enters her first heat cycle.
Over the years, your pet may see more than one vet, and possibly also go to emergency or specialty hospitals. Records from these visits have information about your pet's drug allergies, sensitivity to anesthesia, and baseline blood values. Some veterinarians make these records readily available. Others require signed releases.
"Ultimately, having access to complete medical records is essential to quality of care," says Gene Bailey, who owns The Animal Hospital of Peak Plaza in Apex, N.C.
Also, if it's your pet's first visit, ask the staff:
For routine visits, bring a list of your pet's food brands and medications, details of any special diets and treats, and how much food your pet gets each day.
Be specific. "'A handful' doesn't mean anything to me," says Ken Werner, DVM, who owns Werner Animal Hospital in Morris Plains, N.J. His advice: Use a measuring cup so you know exactly how much food you're giving your pet.
Tell your vet, too, about any change in your pet's water drinking habits, appetite, playfulness, energy level, or other behaviors and any vomiting or diarrhea.
Think your pet may have a serious illness? Try to remain calm and objective. Be prepared to give your vet details of the symptoms and how long they've been going on.
Note changes in your pet's thirst, bowel habits, or urination.
"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.
If your vet asks for a stool sample from your pet, ask how much they need, collect a fresh specimen, and bring it to the appointment 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.
Ask your vet about signs you should watch for to see if your pet is getting better or worse. Be ready to answer questions about whether you can give recommended medications or treatments. For instance, if you don't think you could give your pet pills or shots, tell your vet.
The office visit is also a good time to ask for handouts or Internet links to good sources that might help you learn more about your pet's illness.
Your dog should be on a leash and your cat in a carrier when you go to the vet. In the office, "there may be other strange animals that are not friendly, and they can become frightened or may even fight," Bailey says.
If your dog is enthusiastic or assertive, tell your vet's staff in advance. Check 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. That gets your pet familiar with the clinic and the staff.