How To Help Your Vet Help Your Pet
Some minor differences in what you do when you bring your pet to the vet can really help (or limit) how effective the visit and outcome can be for you and your pet. Here are a few small things to consider…
- Give us a complete, detailed history.
Because your pet can’t speak to us, we need to work as a team to figure out what is happening and how to help. We can tell a lot by the details of what’s been going on in your pet’s life. Length of time and frequency of symptoms, whether they’re improving or worsening, diet, supplements, current medications, and any changes in schedule or environment can all help us understand what might be happening. Also, general lifestyle information helps as well (inside or outside cat? Free fed or meals? Leash walked, or roams in yard?)
And if there are any gastrointestinal or dietary issues, diet information becomes vital. Often when we ask what a pet eats, the owner is unsure (most of us don’t know the specifics off the tops of our heads!). “That dry dog food in a purple bag from the grocer” doesn’t really help us. Before leaving the house, make a note of everything that the pet eats, including specific brands, amounts, and frequency, as well as any supplements (again with specific amounts and/or strengths), and any medications. Obviously, anything out of the ordinary the pet might have gotten into is important as well.
- In fact, bring a list.
Sitting down and making a list before your visit really helps us both. As stated above, listing the details of diets, supplements and medications insures we are on the same page. (Assuming we know or that it’s “in our records” sends us searching for information, and doesn’t insure that everything you give came from us).
Just as important is to list all of your concerns and questions you’d like answered during the visit. Often we will all get so focused on one issue, and you may forget to ask about that lump, or occasional cough, or which flea preventative may be best. Or maybe you read some things on the internet that you have questions about. We definitely want to address it all.
Additionally, all those historical clues of timeline, symptoms, responses to treatment, etc., are easier to remember and put down on paper before you come, rather than trying to remember when your dog is on the exam table and we’re asking questions. A little organization and preparation goes a long way.
- Turn off your cell phone.
We have set aside your appointment time to give our undivided attention to you and your pet. As I said before, we need you engaged in the conversation to help tell us what’s going on. We work very hard to respect people’s time and stay on schedule, so if you choose to spend your appointment time on the phone, we will do our best to figure things out without you, but your pet will not be getting the best of care without you helping to speak for him. And we simply can’t keep everybody else waiting while you take a quick call. So tell them you’ll call them back, because you’re at a loved one’s doctor’s appointment!
- But use your smartphone…smartly!
We all carry these amazing little computers around with us at almost all times, so let’s take advantage of that. Taking periodic pictures of lesions, eyes, areas of hair loss, etc can be a big help in determining if something is healing, or growing, or changing. Actions that can be hard to describe (a specific kind of cough or sneeze, an abnormal behavior, a suspected seizure, etc) are easily conveyed with video. Snap a quick picture of the dog food bag or can, including the nutritional label to quickly have all that information readily available. Same with supplements and medications. Remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words!
- Give us specific symptoms.
This is especially important for drop-off appointments, but applies in all cases. There are often many more considerations than you may know for many symptoms, so while you may assume that your cat is constipated because it’s straining in the litterbox, we may be equally concerned about a urinary blockage, behavioral issues, inflammatory bowel disease, a urinary tract infection, or a perianal tumor, to name a few. So we’d rather have that cat present for “straining in the litterbox” than “constipation.”
A common example of this is when someone calls and requests medicine “because their dog has worms.” When we ask specifically what the dog is doing that makes them suspect worms, they say scooting along on their butt. While parasites are still a possibility, and we may indeed check for them, by far the most likely issue is impacted anal glands. This uncomfortable condition wouldn’t be helped by deworming, and could easily progress to more significant issues like abscess and rupture.
Also, as stated earlier, we really need your help in knowing what’s been happening at home. So when a patient is dropped off to “check skin,” we need to know what you’re specific concerns are and what the patient has been doing. Is he scratching excessively? Does he suddenly smell? Are you concerned about that small lump? I’d hate for you to come pick up your pet to find we’ve addressed the wrong thing, or run far more diagnostics than you’d anticipated.
Our staff is trained to ask for symptoms when taking in a patient for drop off. They know that if they bring me a dog to look at with the instructions to “check eyes,” I will gleefully reply, “There’s two!” and they will soon be on the phone to get more details.
So help us by giving us very a specific description of symptoms. We’re happy to address all your suspicions and concerns, but give us the specific clues we need to make sure we don’t miss any underlying problem. Remember, we’re in a partnership to provide your pet with the best healthcare possible. And finally…
- Trust the partnership.
Nobody cares as much about your pet than you, but we probably run a close second! We’ve dedicated our lives, and lots of schooling, to helping pets live longer, healthier lives. Yet as a small family practice, we get to know you and your pets on a personal level. Nobody else is in such a unique position to help you and your pet maintain good health and happiness! Trust us, we’re on your side!