When visiting the veterinarian with your canine companion, do not hesitate to ask questions and address your concerns in response to the doctor's diagnosis and recommendations. Having professional information in hand will empower you to make decisions about your dog's care with confidence.
Vaccines and Examinations
When your furry friend sees a veterinarian for the first time, the doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination. Ask your veterinarian if there are any genetic health problems that you should be aware of in your dog's breed. Your veterinarian will then discuss a vaccination protocol for your dog. Factors such as your dog's lifestyle and geographic location determine if he needs extra protection against certain diseases that are not included in the core vaccines. Questions to ask your veterinarian on this initial visit include:
- When will my puppy's core vaccine series be completed?
- Will my dog require any non-core vaccines?
- How many boosters will my dog require for each vaccine?
- How often does my dog need to be vaccinated after the initial series is completed?
- What side effects should I watch for after my dog receives a vaccine?
- How often will my dog need a checkup?
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying is performed on female dogs to render them unable to reproduce. Neutering refers to a castration procedure that prevents a male dog from reproducing. If your dog has not already been sterilized, your veterinarian will recommend it. Questions about these procedures include:
- Why does my dog have to be spayed or neutered? What are the pros and cons?
- When is the optimal age to spay or neuter my dog?
- When will my female dog experience her first heat cycle?
- For how long does my dog need to fast before surgery?
- Will my dog be discharged from the hospital on the same day as the procedure?
- How long is the recovery period?
- How do I take care of my dog during the recovery period?
- When does my dog need to return for a suture removal?
In addition to discussing a heartworm disease preventative product, your veterinarian will also recommend effective flea and tick control for your dog. Multiple products are available. Some are topical applications, others are administered orally and are all dosed according to your dog's weight. Ask these questions when discussing the options:
- How often is this product applied or administered?
- What parasites does this product offer protection against?
- What are the potential side effects for this product?
- Do I need flea and tick control throughout the year?
- What is the most effective way to apply a topical product on my long-haired dog?
- What if my dog exceeds the weight limit for this package?
When your veterinarian prescribes a medication to treat a problem, asking these questions will ensure that your dog receives the most therapeutic benefit possible from the medication:
- How often is this medication to be given to my dog, and how much should he receive at each dose?
- Do I finish all of the medication, even if my dog seems fine before it runs out?
- What are the potential side effects of this medication?
- Should this medication be given with food?
- Should this liquid medication be stored in the refrigerator?
- My dog is difficult to medicate. Can you order this medication from a compounding pharmacy so that it tastes better to him?
Read all medication instruction labels in the clinic before you leave and make sure that they match the veterinarian's verbal instructions. If there is a discrepancy, ask for clarification.
Nutrition and Feeding
Depending on your dog's age and activity level, his nutritional needs will vary. Feeding questions to consider include:
- When can I switch my puppy to an adult formula dog food?
- When should I switch my dog to a senior dog food?
- How many times a day should I feed my puppy or dog?
- How much food should I feed my dog for healthy weight maintenance?
Testing and Treatment
When your veterinarian recommends diagnostic tests, familiarize yourself with the tests, the suspected or diagnosed condition and the treatment plan that is being proposed by asking these questions:
- Would you explain my dog's condition to me?
- What will the tests entail? Will my dog need to be anesthetized?
- What will the tests reveal? How long will it take to obtain the results?
- Would you explain the treatment plan or surgery to me?
- What level of home care is expected of me to treat or manage this condition?
- What is my dog's prognosis with and without treatment?
You are the voice and trusted decision maker for your dog. Gathering answers to your questions provides a clear understanding of your dog's health care needs so that you can make the informed decisions that enable him to reap the benefit of a longer, healthier and happier life.