Important Questions to Ask Your Pet’s Veterinarian

Photo Courtesy of Army Medicine / Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Army Medicine / Flickr

It should go without saying that every pet parent wants the best for his or her furry friend….and it would, if only veterinary visits weren’t on the decline. This startling new trend has harmed our pets, especially when it comes to preventive care. Avoidable illnesses in both cats and dogs are on the rise, as are chronic diseases that require regular treatment.

Why it’s happening

One obvious explanation is that most new pet parents don’t understand the importance of preventative care. In fact, a recent study from Bayer Animal Health found that one-quarter of them had no idea what veterinarians do during regular checkups. It is no surprise then the percentage of pet parents who make no annual trips to the vet is on the rise.

An ounce of prevention

The decline in veterinary visits has coincided with an equivalent increase in preventable illnesses, the two most prevalent of which are flea infestation and heartworm disease.  Both of these medical issues are far more expensive to treat than to prevent, not to mention the unnecessary pain and suffering they cause our pets. It seems patently clearly then that ignorance, not apathy, is to blame for this distressing trend. How can we address it? Let’s start with a few simple questions all pet parents should ask their veterinarians.

1. What does a routine exam entail?

As we mentioned, many pet owners have no idea what goes into a regular checkup. The answer is as simple as it is familiar. Just like a physical exam for human beings, those for dogs and cats are designed to prevent future illnesses by assessing present health. The veterinarian will check for common diseases and conditions like heartworms, flea infestation, and arthritis. Depending on the age of your pet, neurological and bloods tests may also be ordered during regular checkups.

2. Can I take care of my animal at home?

Pet owners who are also parents sometimes make the mistake of thinking they can use home remedies to treat most sicknesses. But what they may not appreciate is our pets can’t tell us where or how much it hurts. As a result, it is often impossible to tell just how sick an animal is by observing symptoms alone. It takes a trained veterinarian to diagnose most illnesses and then to properly treat them.

3. What should I be feeding my pet?

Food allergies are quite common in domesticated dogs and cats, so don’t ignore any decrease in their appetites. In most cases, the negative reactions are caused by filler ingredients in commercial pet foods. Diarrhea, dermatitis, vomiting, weight loss, poor appetite, and lethargy are the most common symptoms of food allergies. If you observe any of the aforementioned, take your furry friend to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will most likely put his patient on a special diet until the most serious symptoms subside. Also come prepared to discuss what you are specifically feeding your dog or cat so the staff can me a more informed decision; measure out the amounts you would normally serve, as saying you provide “a bowl of  . . .” provides minimal insights.

4. Can I order prescription medications online?

One of the most common misconceptions pet parents have about veterinarians is that they make most of their money selling overpriced prescription pills. The fact is that most veterinarians encourage their customers to explore more affordable options whenever possible. As long as these medications are safe, veterinarians have no compunction about writing prescriptions for pills that will be purchased elsewhere.  This includes preventable medications for heartworms, flea infestation, and other common conditions that can be quite pricey over the lifetime of an animal.

Pet parents who want the best prices on prescriptions pills really should ask their vets for advice. Trust us, veterinarians know exactly where to go for affordable, high-quality medications. As long as you ask them directly, most veterinarians will gladly recommend a few reputable online pharmacies like VetRXDirect.

5. What steps should I take to help prevent heartworms in my pet?

Most pet parents have at least heard of heartworms, but few know how common, deadly and preventable they actually are. The disease is transmitted through mosquito bites, which means that all cats and dogs are vulnerable to it.  These parasites live and grow in the pulmonary artery between the heart and lungs. In its incipient stages, heartworm infestation rarely has observable symptoms. But as the heartworms grow, the host may and often does experience bouts of coughing and fatigue. Unfortunately, the treatments for heartworms can be just as deadly as the disease.

The good news is heartworms are nearly one hundred percent preventable. Available as flavored treats, heartworm preventatives like Tri-Heart-Plus are oral tablets that are safe and easy to administer. But because they must be taken over an entire lifetime, the cost of these prescriptions pills can add up. Ordering online can help loving pet parents save beaucoup bucks year after year.

6. How do I help my cat or dog maintain a healthy weight?

Just like Americans are increasingly battling obesity, so are our pets. More and more cats and dogs are overweight, which makes them more susceptible to related health problems. Your vet should give you an “ideal weight range” you should try to have your companion maintain and, even if your pet isn’t currently exceeding the margins, inquire about what preventative measures are recommended. Exercise is key, and many bags of food record the recommended amount for various sizes; measure out what goes into the bowl so you don’t accidentally overfeed your furry friend. Treats are absolutely acceptable, but get your dog or cat in motion and use it as a reward.

7. What should I do in case of an emergency?

Your veterinarian should be able to provide you with a phone number of one of the staff members to use in the scenario that your four-footed friend is experiencing an emergency. Many communities now have emergency clinics for pets. Your veterinarian may utilize an emergency clinic for after hour needs. Additionally, make sure you have a list of numbers like “poison control” displayed readily on the fridge so you can pull this out at a moment’s notice. 

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