10 Questions Every Dog Owner Should Ask the Vet

Written by: Dr. Bo Bergman, DVM

Dr. Bo Bergman offers advice for making the most of your visit to the vet.

[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.

29 thoughts on “10 Questions Every Dog Owner Should Ask the Vet”

  1. Thanks for the information. The puppy in your picture is adorable! I actually just bought one just like it. I want to make sure I take really good care of it, so I’m definitely going to follow your tips. Following tip number 1 is probably most important; how do I prepare my pet for a visit to the veterinarian? It would be awful if he was scared. I’ll make sure I prepare him as best as possible.

  2. Thanks for the information! I recently got a new dog, so I was told that I should take it to a vet for a checkup. I’ve never owned a dog, so I don’t know what I should ask the vet once I go in for an appointment. I really liked your tip to ask about vaccines that my dog should get, and about any parasites that I should worry about. It’s important to me to know about any vaccines that will help keep my dog healthy, and I don’t want him to ever get parasites, so it would help to know how to prevent my dog from catching them.

  3. I have two dogs that I have loved very much thus far. I want to take care of them, but I was unsure how often I should visit the vet or in what circumstances! It is interesting that you should mention the pet’s weight! It is good to know that you can visit the vet for something like that. This has been a very helpful and interesting article, I will be visiting my vet soon!

  4. My husband and I recently adopted a dog from the pound a few days ago. We have been wanting to take him to see a veterinarian just to make sure that everything is okay and he is healthy. I haven’t really been sure as to what ask the vet so this list of questions will be really helpful. I wouldn’t have ever thought about asking about parasites. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing! I am going to get a little Scottish Terrier puppy in a few days, and I’m so excited about it! However, I also want to be sure that when I find a vet, i will be able to ask all of the right questions about her. At the very least, I’ll be sure to ask about parasites. Since puppies tend to have worms, it’s important that I check for that first! https://metzgeranimal.com

  6. Great list on things to ask the vet if you have a dog. I didn’t realize that a change in the dogs behavior could indicate that there is an underlying disease that should be taken care of. My brother is looking into getting a dog for his children. When he does get a dog, he might consider asking the vet these questions to be more aware of how to keep the dog healthy. https://www.robertirelandvm.com/

  7. I really love these suggestions especially since my dog is deathly afraid of the veterinarian. I usually try to get her to come by enticing her with come dog treats, but she is catching on to it. I think it is also a good idea to just have a walk through with your dog to get it used to the vet.

  8. When the first time I have a dog, I always ask the veterinarian many question about my dog. haha. thanks for posting!

  9. I agree that it is important to always check with your veterinarian before giving any meds to your animal There are enough side effects with medicine intended for humans, I can only imagine how those could affect animals in the wrong circumstances. I appreciate you shedding some more caution on this subject in order to protect our animals. https://foothillsanimals.com

  10. Thank you so much for talking about how it is important to consult with your vet to know what type of food to give to your pet. I’m glad you talked about this since we are planning on getting a golden retriever and want to make sure we know what the best food to keep him healthy is.It is important to remember that taking the time to compare several vets can help you find one you can trust and who can help you keep your animal strong and happy. https://www.southseattlevet.com/emergency-services

  11. The part where you mentioned that avoiding retractable leashes and bringing some toys for our buddy when visiting an animal hospital to keep his attention is a very helpful advice to have. It would be our pet’s first visit to a veterinarian which is why we would like to do the best we can for him to have a great first visit. I’ll try my best to jot down your queries to ask his potential doctor so that we can better care for him. Thanks for the helpful questions to ask our pet’s veterinarian! https://www.centersinaianimalhospital.com/our-services/time-saver-forms/surgery/

  12. My dog has been pretty sick and we’ve been trying to figure out how to help her get better, but it’s actually only got worse. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to talk to the vet about behavior changes and how to react to them. We’ll have to start looking around for a pet hospital so we can start asking needed questions about our dog’s health to make sure everything is okay. https://svg-vets.com/

  13. I’ve been looking for a good animal hospital, and I think that being able to get some tips would be nice. I’m glad you talked about asking a vet what you should feed your pet, which I think would be smart. I’m going to have to look for a good animal hospital and a good vet, and see what we can find! https://www.phoenixvilleanimalhospital.com

  14. My husband and I recently bought our first dog and we have never owned a pet before. I am so glad that I found this article because I had no idea that you should ask your vet if your pet is at a healthy weight because a healthy weight will lead to a longer life for your dog. Also, it is interesting that you mention asking the vet when you should schedule a dental cleaning for your dog because 70 percent of dogs have oral disease by age three! I will definitely remember to ask my vet these questions. https://www.gambiervets.com.au/

  15. These are really great tips on animal care. I didn’t know my dog barking at the wall can indicate an underlying disease. We’ll have to look more into scheduling an exam for our dog. She’s been acting really odd lately so this is good to know. Thanks! https://oakhillsanimal.com/

  16. Just recently, my fiance and I adopted a cute little puppy named Boomer. We want to make sure that our new addition to the family will be able to live a long and happy life. We will be sure to find an animal hospital and visit with the appropriate frequency. https://www.norwinpethospital.com/

  17. You make a great point that you should get your pet accustomed to riding in the car and do small practice trial runs before taking them to their first vet appointment. I recently bought my first dog and I had no idea that a healthy weight will help them have a longer life, so I will be sure to ask the vet about this. Plus, I will make sure to ask the veterinarian when we should come back and set up the next appointment. https://arkvethosp.com/

  18. It will be the first time that I will be bringing our pet to a veterinarian. Our pet is still a puppy, so it’s important that it gets the vaccination it needs to keep it away from diseases. I am grateful for sharing these tips to help me have a meaningful vet visit this weekend. My favorite part was when you suggested asking about the behavioral changes in dog’s since it can also indicate that there might be a disease developing. Thanks! https://www.countrysideanimalhospitalfl.net/

  19. Thanks for listing down the things that we need to ask the vet when we visit one this weekend. I never knew that we should be asking about the type of vaccines for the breed of my dog. Like you said, the vaccine for the New England breed might be different for a lap dog. I will keep this in mind since it’s the first time that I will be owning a dog, and I want to make sure that it will be vaccinated properly to protect it and the people around it. https://www.baywoodanimaljax.com/

  20. My sister has just gotten her first dog and it would be helpful for her to take him to the pet. It would be really helpful for her to have a professional look at it. I’ll be sure to tell her that she should ask if her dog has a good weight. http://www.totalvetcare.com.au

  21. Thanks for explaining that we should start the process of finding the right food for our pet by asking a veterinarian. My husband and I were finally able to find a pet friendly apartment and are really excited about using a goldendoodle adoption agency soon. I’m glad I read your article because now I feel a lot more prepared to talk with a vet and prepare to properly care for our new goldendoodle. https://braveheartspuppies.com/adoptions

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