Get the most value from veterinarian visits

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Going to the vet can be overwhelming for pets and owners. Taking time to read, make lists and prepare questions can help you and your veterinarian create the best care for your companion.

As a vet, I am frustrated by records that reflect excessive vaccines given when owners have forgotten records repeatedly and then hurriedly decided “to just give him everything, so he can go to the kennel.”

On the other hand, pets getting illnesses such as Parvovirus, flea infestation, heartworm disease or whipworm diarrhea, which can be prevented, is equally frustrating. Pet owners often come to visits misinformed and unprepared to answer basic questions regarding appetite, how much a pet is eating, drinking and urinating and if the stool and urine are normal.

The following pointers can help your next appointment go smoothly:

When making the appointment, give yourself enough time in case of traffic or difficulty finding your cat.

While on the phone, the veterinary receptionist should prompt you to fast your animal if appropriate or collect any samples that may be needed. If she doesn’t, ask about stool and urine samples.

Bring previous records (not the same as receipts) to your visit or order the records from all prior vets. If bringing more than one pet, ask a friend to help with crowd control.

You will need to give the vet your full attention. Take your pet to potty before the visit, unless the vet needs to get a sterile urine sample (in cases of inappropriate urination). If you get a card that says your pet is due for vaccines or tests, bring it to the visit. Also, be sure to tell the receptionist about any problems, such as hairballs or skin allergies when scheduling.

If you will be boarding your pet or traveling with him, bring the specific requirements from the kennel or airline. Your appointment will require more time and planning for you and staff when there is a health problem or when information is missing.

When you are asked to bring urine or stool, or your pet needs blood testing, such as drug levels for seizure medication, ask about timing for your appointment. Bring supplements, foods and flea products in the original packages.

Before your visit, make a checklist of any problems your pet has experienced since your last visit. Go to a trustworthy animal care website, such as pethealthnetwork.com for some insights into the possible causes of your pet’s symptoms. Make a list of questions based on your reading.

Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier until the technician or doctor is ready. Make sure the collar is snug. When consulting with the vet, write the answers to your questions. This will provide a way to share with the family, exactly what the vet said.

Write or record special instructions such as when to schedule a re-check exam and tips for giving medications.

Ask for an estimate and treatment plan prior to consenting to tests and any procedures. This will allow you to see what the estimated costs will be for the procedures recommended.

Ask why specific tests and treatments are being performed. Know your budget and have a financial plan for what you would do if the vet found something unexpected, like an abscessed tooth.

If care is recommended that goes beyond your budget, ask about alternate solutions. Bring a shoulder bag to place any bag of “goodies,” written instructions, your notebook of questions, an extra potty bag and treats from home. Some of my clients use a treat-filled toy to distract pets during nail trims and other procedures.

Before and after your visit, when in doubt, call. Most veterinary staff love to answer questions and give instructions. If you have lots of questions, ask when a veterinary technician (nurse) can return your call. The receptionist may sometimes be frazzled when several phone lines are ringing and you are asking about how to give the dewormer.

Keep this column with your pet’s records and reread it when you get that next reminder for vet care.

Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like addressed, please email ellwoodvet@msn.com.