In order to keep your dog or cat healthy, it is important to have a good veterinarian. This is the person who will keep your dog or cat up to date on shots, worming and preventive measures, as well as your best source of information on diet, exercise, and emergency care.
Choosing a veterinarian should be as important as choosing a family physician. Some factors to consider:
- Do you feel comfortable with your veterinarian? Can you speak openly about your dog or cat’s problems? Do you feel embarrassed about asking questions that may seem “stupid”? No matter how skilled the veterinarian may be, if you are not comfortable with him/her, you cannot make the best use of the services.
- Can you understand your veterinarian? Since most people are not trained in medical matters, you may not really know what the doctor is talking about. Ask for explanations in layman’s terms if the medical terms are unfamiliar. A good veterinarian will be happy to explain things more simply to help you understand your dog or cat’s health more completely.
- Does your veterinarian discuss fees openly? If the cost of care for your dog or cat is an important factor, it is your responsibility to discuss it with the veterinarian. Don’t wait for treatment to be finished and the bill to be presented. Ask for estimated costs before treatment is begun. If the cost if very high, ask if you can arrange payments instead of paying a lump sum.
- Assist your veterinarian. Don’t wait until the animal is so sick it can hardly move before calling for help. Don’t let symptoms persist for days, or even weeks, and then call for an emergency appointment on a Sunday night. And do not expect an instant diagnosis over the phone. Many problems require laboratory tests for complete diagnosis. Sometimes X-rays are needed. Your dog or cat may have to spend time at the clinic in order for a complete diagnosis to be made.
- Follow directions. If you are told to administer medication, ask for a demonstration. Some dogs and cats are quite difficult to medicate. But your veterinarian may be able to help you do it more easily. If you are told to give a pill after feeding or after a fast, follow these instructions.
- Observe your animal. If you want your veterinarian to diagnose your dog or cat’s ailment, you must have some information to give. What is the dog or cat doing now that is different from the normal routine? Is the dog or cat eating or sleeping more or less than usual? Is the dog or cat drinking more water than usual? Have toilet habits changed? Is the dog or cat doing anything more or less frequently than usual? To know the answer, you must know what is usual.
- Visit your veterinarian regularly. It is your responsibility to keep your dog or cat up to date on certain types of medical care. Distemper shots should be given annually. Rabies shots are given every one to three years, depending on the type of vaccine. Check for heart worms in dogs every six months. Take stool samples for other worm checks as often as your veterinarian recommends. Have annual checkups, and take older dogs or cats even more often.
- Communicate with your veterinarian. If you have questions, ask them. If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the treatment, say so. If you would like another opinion, tell your veterinarian. Most are quite willing to get a second or third opinion, especially when there is a possibility of surgery.
- Respect your veterinarian. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine has training which enables proper treatment of the animal. Don’t expect opinions about the show qualities of your dog. Don’t expect answers to training problems. Don’t ask your veterinarian to treat your own medical problem. And don’t expect your veterinarian to see you without an appointment. Most veterinarians are kept very busy with dog and cat health problems. Be courteous enough to call before going to the office.
- Know the emergency procedures. Find out who is on call when your own veterinarian is not on duty. It may occur to your dog or cat that Christmas Eve is a good time to break a leg. Or midnight any day of the week may be the time for getting hit by a car. Or your dog or cat may swallow a frozen package of meat set out to defrost at four in the morning. These are not normal office hours for most veterinarians. Knowing an emergency number in advance might save your dog or cat’s life.
In general, your veterinarian is a highly trained person. With your cooperation and good sense, this person can keep your dog or cat in good health for a lifetime. Choose your veterinarian wisely and carefully.