7 Things You Should Ask at a Vet Appointment

Taking your dog or cat to their vet appointment can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Here are some helpful questions we suggest you ask at your next appointment:

1. What diet do you recommend?

Choosing the right diet for your pet is one of the most important things that you can offer them. Unfortunately, it is not a simple question, even for a healthy pet. There are literally thousands of different pet foods with new ones every week. The only way to know is to break down the health concerns, see what we know about nutritional requirements with these concerns and then feed the diet and monitor what happens. Dogs and cats are individuals and what the same food does in different bodies is highly variable.

2. How much exercise should my pet get?

How much exercise a pet needs can vary greatly depending on factors like age, breed, weight and health status. A customized plan should be developed for each pet and adjusted accordingly, just as with diet.

3. What are the most common diseases based on my pet’s breed/age?

There are many breeds that are predisposed to certain diseases. If you know what to look for, the disease can usually be diagnosed sooner and therefore, treatment will be more effective.

4. What blood tests should be done to help detect disease and at what age?

As veterinarians, we often wish we could just ask our patients to tell us where it hurts. Unfortunately, evaluating sick pets is much more complicated, which is why blood work is such a valuable diagnostic tool. Routine blood testing can help determine causes of illness, verify organ health prior to anesthetized medical treatments, and aid in the general maintenance of healthy pets. It is important to get a baseline blood panel around 6 months of age and then another screening panel around 4 or 5 years. Then at age 8, annual blood panels are recommended.  If the animal is on a long term medication, blood work should be performed every 6 months.

5. How do I brush my pet’s teeth and how often do they need a professional cleaning?

A daily teeth brushing regimen is a great way to combat tartar build up, and hopefully prevent periodontal disease. Have your goal be three times a week at first and if the pet is cooperative, it should ideally be done daily. It is important to have a veterinarian examine your pet’s teeth and gums during an exam. If there are significant issues, brushing their teeth could actually be quite painful. During an exam, your pet’s veterinarian can give you a recommendation on having a professional dental cleaning.  Some small breed dogs need annual deep cleanings but it really depends on the oral hygiene being done at home.

6. What are these lumps and bumps?

Are you seeing lumps, bumps or growths on your pet? No matter what you call them, masses of all kinds, from harmless skin growths to malignant tumors, are actually fairly common in our furry friends. While most are benign, we recommend examinations and fine needle aspirates for all new growths. This simple procedure allows the veterinarian to determine the nature of the growth by collecting a sample of cells and viewing them under a microscope. Occasionally, a biopsy may be also be needed. This involves collecting a small tissue sample and sending it to a laboratory for examination.

7. What expenses should I expect annually for a healthy pet?

Having a dog or cat can often feel like having a child dependant. That’s why it’s useful to know what the realistic health expenses are so you can be better prepared (both financially and mentally). Typically, for a healthy pet to be on a good wellness plan, you should expect the following each year: annual or bi-annual exam(s), parasite prevention medication(s), vaccinations, fecal tests, bloodwork (heartworm testing for dogs). Some other very common reasons we see dogs and cats outside their routine preventive care include: ear infections, skin infections, itchy skin, diarrhea, vomiting, and lameness. We highly recommend purchasing pet insurance for your pet while it is young and healthy, before “pre-existing conditions” can develop.

The AAHA also has a list of common client questions that you might find helpful.

Do you need advice, or have questions about your pet’s health? Contact your vet. Don't have one yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian

Contributing DVM