By Maureen Blaney Flietner
Searching websites for opinions, anecdotes and often unsubstantiated “facts” for your pet’s health? Why not ask your veterinarian?
While you’re at his or her office, you can make the most of your visit by keeping these tips in mind.
Provide a complete picture.
Create a list that includes information such as:
- Any new or out-of-the ordinary behavior. That might include drinking more water than usual, suddenly having accidents in the house or sleeping more than normal.
- Not only the food you provide, the amount and frequency, but also the treats and supplements you give.
- The amount and type of exercise your pet gets.
- Each of us has a different level of medical understanding, and each veterinarian has a different communication style. If you don’t “get” something regarding your pet’s health, prognosis or treatment options, ask.
- You can’t be expected to think of everything. Ask your veterinarian if you can call back or email if you have questions later.
Bring a friend or a tape recorder, especially if your pet is sick.
- Nancy Kay, DVM, DACVIM, at Upstate Veterinary Specialists of Asheville, N.C., and author of Speaking for Spot, says that at stressful times, an owner can get emotional. With a second set of “ears,” important information that may get lost because you’re overwrought is still there to review when you get home.
Get medical records.
- If your pet is sick or injured at an odd hour, emergency veterinarians won’t have access to your pet’s records until your veterinarian’s hospital reopens, says Kay. With your copies, they can quickly get a better handle on what might be happening.
Leave with a plan.
- “It’s important that you are clear with what is to happen next,” says Kay. “Will your veterinarian be calling with an update? If everything is ‘normal,’ when should your next visit occur? You should always know what the next step is.”
Tips for an emergency.
- Don’t think everything has to be decided urgently; Kay says that is not often the case. In an emergency situation, ask if decisions requested have to be made at that moment. She says people often think, for example, if a pet suffers a broken leg when it is hit by a car that the surgery needs to be done immediately. Instead, says Kay, it’s sometimes better to wait and allow the pet to recover from the shock and trauma. It also allows you time to research which veterinarian should do the work.
- Details can be game-changers, so give the complete picture. For example, a dog was brought to an emergency hospital with the explanation that it had been increasingly lethargic with trouble breathing. Many tests were run before it was mentioned that the owner was temporarily staying in a relative’s house that had been closed up for the winter. A check found that the dog had gotten into rat poison that had been set out.