When visiting their doctor, smart people make a list of things they want to discuss: moles, fungus, headaches and heart palpitations. If you’re lucky, you’ll have 10 minutes with the doctor, so you have to make those minutes count.
The same is true with your veterinarian, especially if you see her only once a year. Your pet can’t tell you if he’s feeling poorly, so be proactive. The next time you take in your dog or cat for an annual checkup, take along this list of 10 questions to ask your veterinarian.
1. Is my pet at a healthy weight?
Pet obesity is just as much a problem as human obesity.
The main culprits are poor diet, overfeeding and a bad defense against pet mind powers (“Look how sad I am. A taste of that bacon sure would make me feel better”), but lack of exercise brings up a close second. Dogs need about 30 minutes of exercise a day, and most don’t get nearly enough.
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Ask your vet to tell you your pet’s ideal weight. If he’s underweight, ask how much food you should be giving him. If he’s overweight, talk with your vet about a diet and exercise program…and stick to it!
2. Does my pet need a dental cleaning?
After your dog or cat turns 3 or 4, it’s a good idea to have your vet monitor dental health. As pets age, they can develop the same types of dental disease as humans.
Vets recommend brushing your pet’s teeth daily, but at the very least, they should be cleaned regularly as soon as your pet begins to develop tartar or periodontal disease.
3. Does my pet need a blood test?
Every pet — especially seniors — should have an annual blood test to screen for kidney and liver disease, as well as cancer, diabetes, thyroid problems and a host of other congenital illnesses that can be treated if caught early enough. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your pet, a blood test will provide a baseline against which your veterinarian can analyze your pet’s blood over time.
4. Could I be providing a more appropriate food?
Although the pet food industry has made excellent progress in developing healthy foods high in protein and low in fillers, not enough people choose premium pet food. Talk to your vet about the food you’re providing and ask her for her recommendation for healthy, age-appropriate pet food.
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5. My pet has been acting weird. Any idea why?
If you notice any behavioral changes, such as inappropriate elimination or aggression, tell your vet about it. Pets must often resort to bad behavior to let their families know that something isn’t right inside.
6. What are these lumps and bumps?
As pets age, they naturally develop lumps, bumps and moles. Aging is the main reason for skin changes, but you should make sure that none of the lumps are cancerous. Point out any fatty lumps, hard bumps or strange moles, and ask your vet for a biopsy if she’s concerned.
7. What are the latest recommendations for vaccinations?
Although vaccinations are undoubtedly essential for your pet’s health, especially for puppies or kittens, there’s a great deal of controversy around how often to vaccinate. Ask your veterinarian for her recommendations regarding rabies and other vaccinations.
Learn more about puppy vaccinations:
8. Should my pet take supplements?
Although premium pet food contains all the nutrients pets need for optimal health and diet, many families add supplements to their pet’s food, especially supplements for joint health. Your vet can tell you if your pet may benefit from other supplements, such as fish oil for a healthier coat.
9. Can you please give my pet a rectal exam?
No joke! Unless you ask, veterinarians don’t usually give your dog or cat a full rectal exam, which screens for prostate and rectal cancer. Both are treatable if caught early enough, so make sure a rectal is part of the annual checkup.
10. Can you please explain my bill to me?
Have you ever wondered why a 10-minute visit and routine procedures cost so much but were afraid to ask? Speak up. Most veterinary bills contain line-item expenses, but the descriptions can still be obscure. Talk with the front office staff about these charges, and ask as many questions as you’d like.