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Veterinarian looking at dog laying on table with tongue out — Ten Questions Your Vet Wishes You Would Ask

Ten Questions Your Vet Wishes You Would Ask

Imagine this: you're at the vet's office with your furry family member. As the vet shares a flurry of information, you nod along.

But wait — will you remember all this when you get home? Are you asking the right questions? Or is there something you’re missing? What are some good questions to ask a veterinarian?

Below, we’ll delve into 10 questions that will help you get the most out of your pet’s appointment, ensure they’re on the path to good health, and even make your vet’s day!

Veterinarian kneeling next to a dog laying down

1. What should I do if/when my pet has an emergency?

Emergencies are a part of pet ownership, and unfortunately, they can happen at any time. In fact, one in three pets will require emergency treatment in a given year. Knowing what to do if your pet faces a crisis outside your vet's regular hours is key.

While some veterinary clinics offer after-hours services for their clients, others may direct you to a local animal emergency clinic. Contact information for nearby emergency clinics should be listed on your vet’s clinic door, in their voicemail greeting, and on their website. However, it's wise to proactively familiarize yourself with the contact details and locations of nearby emergency clinics. (Make sure to leave these details in an easily accessible spot for your pet-sitter or house-sitter when you’ll be away!)

Financial readiness is another important aspect of emergency planning. Whether your regular vet can accommodate your pet last minute, or you need to visit an animal emergency room, costs can escalate quickly — so it's important to be prepared for these additional expenses.

I recommend establishing a financial strategy now before your pet has an emergency. Whether you start building an emergency fund, invest in pet health insurance, or investigate payment options such as CareCredit, this forward-thinking can significantly ease your financial stress and allow you and your veterinary team to provide the best care possible.

2. How can I prepare my pet for their visit?

A visit to the vet can be daunting for both pets and pet parents alike. First timer? You're probably wondering, 'What questions should I ask at my first vet visit?' (If you’ve ever had to reschedule a vet appointment because you couldn’t find your cat or get them into their carrier, welcome to the club.) 

However, with some thoughtful preparation, you can transform this exhausting experience into a more positive one. If you have specific concerns, it’s important to speak to your veterinary team BEFORE your appointment. Here are some things to consider:

  • Most veterinary clinics require cats to arrive in carriers and dogs either in a carrier or on a short leash. Before your cat’s appointment, leave the carrier out for them to explore. Encourage their interest by feeding meals and treats inside the carrier, allowing them to develop a positive association with it. For dogs, practice regular leash training and take them on short car rides to help them become more comfortable with the journey to the vet.
  • To help your pet develop a positive association with the vet clinic, you can periodically bring them to the vet for social visits, where they receive treats and affection. This is especially beneficial for young pets to build positive associations and teach them that the vet clinic isn’t a scary place!
  • Many vets now use methods to alleviate fear and anxiety in pets. This is known as the Fear-Free Initiative. Ask your vet about the fear-free techniques they use, and if you can contribute by bringing a favorite toy or a special treat from home. Discuss the possibility of using calming medications or supplements in advance of the visit, especially if your pet is extremely anxious. Many vets are open to prescribing medication to make visits more comfortable for everyone involved.
  • Once you arrive at the clinic, a few additional steps can help. If possible, choose less busy times for appointments to minimize stress from noise and crowds. Ask your clinic if they have a separate waiting area or entrance for cats. Place your cat’s carrier on an elevated surface and cover the carrier with a towel to provide a feeling of security and comfort.

3. What preventative care is recommended for my pet?

Preventative care is essential for your pet's long-term health and happiness. Regular veterinary checkups, typically on an annual basis, are key to early detection and management of health issues — especially as pets age and become more prone to certain conditions.

Senior cat laying down with eyes closed

During these checkups, pets often receive a comprehensive physical examination, essential vaccinations, parasite prevention, and any screening tests recommended by your vet. But remember that preventative care isn’t one-size-fits-all. It will vary based on your pet’s breed, age, and lifestyle.

  • Vaccinations are divided into core vaccines, which are crucial for all pets, and non-core vaccines, which are recommended based on specific risk factors and lifestyles.
  • Parasite prevention is another critical aspect of pet care. Regular treatments to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworms can safeguard your pet from these common yet dangerous parasites. Additionally, routine deworming and fecal exams help prevent and manage intestinal parasites like roundworms and tapeworms.
  • Dental care is equally important. At-home dental care, along with routine dental cleanings, is vital to prevent periodontal disease and maintain overall health.
  • Spaying or neutering your pet not only helps control the pet population, but also prevents certain health issues and undesirable behaviors. It's a responsible step that contributes to the long-term well-being of your pet.
  • As pets get older, additional screening tests such as bloodwork will likely be recommended.
  • The annual exam is also a great time to discuss your pet’s weight, diet, grooming, exercise needs, mental stimulation/enrichment, and any other questions that you have.

4. Is my pet a healthy weight?

When it comes to your pet's health, one of the most crucial questions to ask is about their weight. Surprisingly, many pet parents don't realize their furry companion might be carrying extra pounds!

A 2019 study involving adult dogs at Banfield pet hospitals revealed that over 50% were considered overweight or obese. And it's not just about looks — excess weight in pets can lead to serious health risks from diabetes to arthritis.

Discussing and regularly monitoring your pet’s body condition score, a method of assessing their overall body shape and fat distribution, is essential. Your vet can teach you how to use this score to determine if your pet needs to shed a few pounds. They can also provide personalized recommendations for your pet’s diet and exercise routine.

Royal Canin Body Condition Score for Small Dog

5. When does my pet need a dental cleaning?

Maintaining your pet’s dental health isn’t just about fresh breath. Just like in humans, pets’ teeth play a significant role in their overall health, and poor hygiene can lead to medical complications.

For this reason, your vet will be thrilled if you ask about dental health during your appointment! From the early days, when puppies and kittens might deal with issues like retained baby teeth or malocclusion (an abnormal bite) to the senior years, when periodontal disease becomes a common concern, it's critical to keep a watchful eye on oral health.

Home dental care, including regular tooth brushing and the use of products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, plays a key role in maintaining your pet’s dental hygiene.

Dog with large toothbrush in mouth

However, even with the best at-home care, most pets will also require professional dental cleanings under anesthesia. These cleanings allow your vet to perform a comprehensive examination of your pet’s mouth, remove plaque and tartar buildup, take dental X-rays, and address any other dental issues that may have arisen. The frequency of these cleanings can vary greatly depending on factors like your pet's age, breed, and overall dental health.

Your vet is the best resource to determine the appropriate schedule for these cleanings. During your pet’s regular checkups, make sure to discuss their dental health and any concerns you might have, such as discoloration of the teeth or bad breath. If a dental cleaning is recommended, your vet will walk you through the process, including the use of anesthesia and any necessary aftercare.

6. Is this normal?

It's common for pet owners to wonder if certain behaviors or symptoms their pets exhibit are normal. This is where your vet's expertise becomes invaluable.

Whether it’s a new lump or bump, physical symptom, quirky habit, or change in behavior, your pet’s visit is the perfect time to bring up any questions or concerns.

7. What options are available for paying for veterinary care?

Let's face it, veterinary care can be a significant expense. Many vets will provide a cost estimate before proceeding with treatments on your pet, but if they don’t, it’s always okay to ask!

When discussing financial options with your vet, here are some avenues you might consider:

  • Pet insurance: One of the most effective ways to manage veterinary costs is through pet insurance. Like health insurance for humans, pet insurance can cover a significant portion of medical expenses, depending on your policy. It's especially helpful for unexpected illnesses or accidents. Be sure to research different plans and understand what each policy covers. To make the most of your pet insurance, you should sign up when your pet is young and healthy.
  • Wellness plans: Some vet clinics offer wellness plans, which are essentially packages that cover routine care like vaccinations, checkups, and sometimes even dental cleanings. These plans typically involve a monthly fee and can help spread out the cost of preventative care throughout the year.
  • Savings account for pet care: Setting up a dedicated savings account (or emergency fund) for your pet's health care can be a proactive way to ensure you have funds when you need them. Regularly contributing a small amount can build up a reserve for your pet’s medical needs.
  • Preventative care: Investing in preventative care can save you money in the long run by avoiding more serious and expensive health issues, or identifying them earlier when treatment may be less costly. Preventative care includes regular checkups, vaccinations, and routine dental care.
  • Options in an emergency: If an unexpected emergency does arise, options such as CareCredit or borrowing money from friends or family may be your best bet. Most veterinary clinics don’t accept payment plans. In some cases, charitable organizations may offer financial assistance for pet healthcare, particularly for low-income families or in emergency situations.

8. Can you demonstrate how to…?

If your vet prescribes a new medication or treatment for your pet, make sure to nail down the details before you leave the clinic. Things like ear ointment, eye drops, or even pills can be tricky to give, especially if you have a feisty feline or squirmy pup.

Your veterinary team is here to help, and should be able to show you exactly how it's done. They can also discuss options that may make things easier, like getting medications compounded and flavored so they’re more palatable to your pet (yummmm, tuna flavor).

Vet with a needle and cat waiting with hands holding it

Feeling comfortable administering medications to your pet is especially important for treatments like insulin injections or subcutaneous fluids. Don't hesitate to ask for a demonstration! It's all part of making sure you and your pet are on the right track. Your vet's team wants to make sure you're all set and confident, and that your pet is getting exactly what they need for their health.

After all, you're a key player in your pet's care, and knowing how to properly administer their treatment is a big part of keeping them healthy and happy.

9. Where can I find more information about…?

In today's digital age, where information is just a click away, it's easy to find yourself drowning in a sea of pet care advice. And while Dr. Google can often be the quickest way to find information, it’s important to remember that not everything on the Internet is reliable.

When it comes to your pet's health, you want to make sure you're getting the best, most accurate info out there. Your vet should be your go-to for advice, recommendations, or when you just need to be pointed in the right direction. They can suggest trusted websites, books, and even apps that offer detailed, vet-approved information on pet care and common medical conditions.

10. How are you doing?

When you visit the vet, it's natural for the entire focus to be on your pet's health and well-being. But there's another aspect worth considering: the well-being of your veterinarian.

It's a fact that veterinarians are among the professions most affected by mental health issues, and have a significantly higher rate of suicide compared to the general population. This is a serious and growing concern within the veterinary community. 

Not One More Vet - Elevating Veterinary Wellbeing

While professional resources like Not One More Vet are invaluable in providing support to veterinarians, the role of friends, family, and clients should not be underestimated. A simple, heartfelt "How are you doing?" can mean a lot. Asking about your vet shows that you recognize and appreciate their hard work and dedication. It also creates a more personal and supportive environment, which can be incredibly uplifting in a profession that often involves high stress, emotional challenges, and difficult decisions.

Moreover, building a rapport with your vet and showing empathy towards their profession can foster a stronger, more open relationship between you. Ultimately, this will benefit your furry friend and lead to a collaborative and compassionate approach to pet care.

Did we miss any must-ask questions? Let us know in the comments.

Want to read more from Dr. Liza Cahn? See more below!👇

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