Written by: Dr. Bo Bergman, DVM
[Editor’s Note: Dr. Bo Bergman—a.k.a. “the Dogtor”—has graciously agreed to answer questions about dog health and care from Orvis Dogs readers and occasionally provide helpful tips, as well. If you have a question for the Dogtor, leave it in the comments section below. Click here to read his introductory post.]
Client communication is an important aspect of veterinary medicine. Our patients can’t speak for themselves, but the veterinarian-client-patient relationship should never be a one-way discussion. So maximize the value and effectiveness of your visit by having these questions ready the next time you bring your dog into a clinic:
1. How should I best prepare my pet for a visit to the vet?
I like dogs who are on a short leash, obedient, and happy to see me. Avoid retractable leashes for your visit, and bring a toy or snack that you know will keep your dog’s attention. Practice trial runs; we encourage dogs to come for visits and walk-throughs and even regular weight checks will allow dogs to become familiar with the hospital. Get your animal accustomed to riding in the car, and don’t feed them right before the trip. Would you want to be motion sick during your annual check-up?
2. Is my pet a good weight?
Obesity rates in our companion animals are too high, and owners can be better trained to monitor their pets’ Body Condition Scores at home. Studies prove that a healthy weight leads to a longer life, and who doesn’t want to spend more time with their pet?
3. What should I feed my pet?
This varies from pet to pet, and finding the right food for your animal starts with your veterinarian. It’s important to take into account who in the household is feeding the pet. For example, if grandma sneaks half her lunch to the family dog, that counts towards the daily nutrition too.
4. Should I be concerned about my pet’s behavior change?
Changes in behavior–whether it is the amount the dog is drinking or if he’s barking at the wall–can indicate underlying diseases. Make a list of concerns with concrete examples before going to the veterinarian. (Taking a video of the behavior with your phone can also be helpful.)
5. What parasites should I worry about?
Different parts of the country and different lifestyles will determine what external (fleas, ticks, mites, lice) and internal (heartworm, intestinal worms) parasites you’ll need to worry about. Some areas of the country don’t have to worry about fleas, while others deal with multiple types of fleas. Make sure to let your veterinarian know if you plan to travel to different parts of the country.
6. When should I schedule a dental cleaning?
Pets need more oral health care, both at home and in the veterinary hospital. By age 3, 70 to 80 percent of dogs and cats have oral disease. There are many Veterinary Oral Health Council Approved products that your veterinarian can help you select from for homecare, and scheduling a dental cleaning at the veterinary hospital can help as a preventative (just like your biannual dental prophylaxis at your dentist) and as treatment for oral disease.
7. What vaccines are appropriate for my pet’s lifestyle?
There are vaccines that a hunting dog in New England needs that would be inappropriate for a lap dog in Texas. Make sure to discuss what your animal’s day to day activities will include and where they’ll be traveling.
8. Can I give this medication to my animal?
We use human medications all the time in veterinary medicine, but always ask your veterinarian before using something they have not given you. For example, a drug as benign as Tylenol can kill cats. Ibuprofen is dangerous to give to dogs. Always ask!
9. Can you demonstrate or watch me treat my pet with this medication?
Not everyone has an animal that will blindly eat whatever is put in front of its nose. (I’m talking about you, Labrador owners.) Getting medication into your pet is an important part of any wellness or illness treatment plan, and we are happy to demonstrate and teach owners how to do it.
10. When should I schedule the next exam?
A young, happy and healthy animal is going to have an exam and preventative vaccines at least yearly. As your pet’s age increases, the frequency of visits should also increase. If your pet has a disease that requires special attention, like diabetes, exams are recommended as frequently as every 1-2 months. Once again, every pet is unique, and each stage of life is different. Your veterinarian will best guide you on when to schedule that next exam.