How to Get the Most from Vet Visits: What to Ask & How to Ask
World Veterinary Day is April 29, and it’s a good time to reflect on how to ask your vet questions. When I worked as a veterinary technician many years ago, pet parents ask questions all the time, but rarely to the vet. Folks often acted embarrassed, or waited to telephone from home hours or days after the appointment. Perhaps they felt intimidated by the doctor when they take pets to the back, or feared their questions were foolish. Maybe the busy schedule of the clinic offered little opportunity to ask.
Whatever the reason, remember that there are no foolish questions for your beloved cat and dog. Does your dog hate the vet, or is your cat fearful of vet visits? That can increase your own worry and stress.
As your pet’s top advocate, it’s up to you to arm yourself with expert advice and information to provide the best care possible. Here are some tips to be fear free when asking your vet questions.
WHY YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR VET
My career as a vet tech began long before “Dr. Google” or “Alexa” answers. Today, some pet parents rely too much on the Internet to answer questions, or only seek the opinions of friends. Even though I am NOT a vet, I often am asked pet health or care questions. Here’s what I say when ask about pet health or care concerns.
While some online resources like vet schools are terrific, they can only offer very general information and nothing specific about YOUR pets. Your veterinarian has personally examined your dog and cat, possibly run additional tests, knows what treatments they have already tried, and has the most specific and detailed information available.
The veterinarian may have a busy schedule, so plan for your questions. The best times to ask questions is the beginning of the exam, and ask follow-up questions at the end of the visit before the doctor leaves the room.
If you’ve researched from the Internet or friends, you may think you know what’s needed, but ask anyway. Your pet is unique and could have very different answers than Aunt Freda’s dog’s situation. Once the doctor has examined your pet and explained any treatment, be sure to ask for any necessary clarification before you leave the clinic.
HOW TO ASK YOUR VET
Very often it’s not what you ask, but how you ask that gets the most out of your veterinary visit. The staff may become frustrated by pet parents who base questions solely on “Dr. Google” research that may not apply, or could be dangerously wrong.
That said, veterinarians want pet parents to be invested in caring for their cats and dogs. Recognize that the doctor and many of the staff studied for many years to attain the expertise to offer medical advice and care. You know when something’s “off” about your pet—but the vet has the tools and ability to figure out the cause and what to do about it.
By all means, explain to the doctor your concerns, and what research you may have done. Here’s how to ask:
“I found out (XYZ) from (what source). Could that have any bearing on what’s happening with my pet?” There are good, bad, and nutty sources when you search Dr. Google for answers, so understand why your vet might dismiss some information.
Specific questions vary depending on why your pet needs veterinary care. Whether the exam is routine or you have a health concern or emergency, consider asking:
- Is my pet a healthy weight?
- Should I change my pet’s food? How and why?
- What can I do to help him/her maintain dental health?
- Which preventive flea/tick products do you recommend, and why?
- How often should they receive vaccinations for what disease?
- Why does my pet (fill in the behavior), and is that normal? What can I do about it?
- Can you recommend a trainer/behaviorist/groomer/boarding facility?
- When should I be concerned about (behavior, activity, appearance/demeanor) change?
- What are the testing or treatment options? Will they cure, manage, or delay the problem?
- How much will the test/treatment cost? Can you please explain the bill to me?
- If this was YOUR pet, what would you do?
How to Remember Important Information
When a pet suffers an emergency or a serious diagnoses, even when you ask questions and receive answers, it’s hard to remember everything. Many doctors provide written reports, but sometimes the technical language proves hard to understand. Most folks these days can record conversations. So before your veterinarian explains, ask:
- May I record our conversation to refer to later?
- When would it be convenient for me to call back with questions?
Veterinarians want you to understand and take part in your cat or dog’s good health. Never hesitate to ask questions and advocate for your pet. Should you have concerns about treatment, you may wish to ask for a second opinion or input from a specialist.
This article first appeared in a different form on FearFreeHappyHomes.com
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!