It’s vet visit time and your veterinarian is an important member of your pet’s family. An exceptional vet will make a concerted effort to get to know and befriend your pet. They will also answer your questions, and research your quandaries. They can also point you toward resources like emergency care facilities.
Whether you adopt, rescue, or purchase a pet, building a rapport with a vet early and scheduling regular check-ins can help prevent expensive and challenging healthcare issues later on.
Preparing for a vet visit can help you be more responsive to your beloved pet’s needs. It can potentially make for a more seamless appointment, too. Regardless of how your pet entered your life, there are things that all animal owners can keep in mind when searching for the right veterinarian and preparing for a vet visit.
Considerations When Choosing A Veterinarian For Your Pet
So you’ve welcomed a furry friend into your life, or you’ve had one for a while and are starting to notice concerning signs. There’s never a wrong time to schedule an initial vet visit. Pet owners may ponder these considerations before committing to a veterinarian:
- Location: Ideally, you’ll want to choose a vet who is close by, particularly in the case of emergencies or if your cat or dog does not fare well on long car trips.
- Budget: Pet owners may feel more empowered walking into their first vet visit when they know how much they can expect to spend. If fees are unavailable on a veterinarian’s website, you can always call or email the administrative staff to learn more. Many vets offer payment plans for more expensive treatments and services.
- Qualifications: While cats and dogs are common pets, other exotic animals like hedgehogs, cockatoos, or tortoises require a different level of care. You can research veterinarians uniquely qualified to care for your animal based on its species, breed, or relevant disorder/injury.
- Reputation: It may be challenging to select the best vet if you live in a populated area with abundant options. Fortunately, many vet offices have an online and social media presence where you can learn about the staff’s qualifications, read testimonials, and consider any troubling reviews.
- Expectations: Veterinarians inevitably vary in their approach to care, and pet owners may enter a first vet visit with different expectations. If your animal is struggling with a chronic illness, for example, it is important to know if your veterinarian will have the time and resources to care for your pet’s needs.
- Other Assets: Many veterinarians offer amenities like an on-site pharmacy, boarding facility, or training center. The availability of any of these resources may help you decide between two promising veterinarians.
The Day Before: Preparing For A Vet Visit
If it’s your pet’s first visit to the vet, your veterinarian will likely want to know about its eating, sleeping, exercise, and other behavioral habits. If you have any concerns, those are worth noting, too. It’s easy to forget key discussion points during a vet visit when your dog may be highly animated or distracted. Therefore, it may be helpful to write this information down the night before.
The office staff may call and ask you to bring a stool sample. In some cases, they will ask that your pet fast (refrain from eating) for several hours prior to the visit. Following instructions can better ensure that health screening results are as accurate as possible. You can encourage your pet to drink water and eat a full meal the evening before a vet visit. Then, collect a recent stool sample either that night or the morning of the visit. Many people bring the sample in a Ziploc bag.
Some pet owners will have their critter’s health records, while others don’t have access to them. Gathering documents the night before can help you avoid being late for your first vet visit. Your vet may want to evaluate the following:
- Adoption papers
- Vaccination histories
- Medical records
- Exam results
- Information from previous vets (if you have moved or changed care providers)
Is There Proper Vet Etiquette?
There are several policies that veterinarians may ask their clients to honor when preparing for a vet visit. One of the most important priorities is timeliness. Arriving even five to ten minutes late can create scheduling conflicts for your veterinarian throughout the day or week. Giving yourself enough time to reach your destination, find parking, and settle your pet pal before they enter the facility can help your vet honor their commitment to all animals they serve.
Aggressive and hard-to-manage pets need and deserve care, too. Veterinarians are usually equipped to support animals with behavioral challenges during their vet visits. It is courteous to alert your veterinarian if you anticipate that your furry, finned, or feathered friend may need special handling or attention.
Be Honest During Your Vet Visit
Many pet owners face a dilemma of how honest to be with their vets. Maybe the owner feels they play a role in one of their pet’s current health challenges. For example, being untruthful with your vet about how much your dog consumes and exercises daily is only doing you and your pet a disservice.
Veterinarians are in the business of caring and empowering their pet families with information, not judging them. Sometimes, life circumstances make it challenging to care for a pet; in other instances, pet owners just require information or direction. Being honest with your vet can help ensure your pet gets the care they need and deserve. You might find that a solution to an enduring problem is not so complex or unattainable after all.
Finally, if your pet is experiencing issues like incontinence, diarrhea, vomiting, or other potentially dangerous symptoms, it is wise to inform your vet as you’re preparing for a vet visit. Some symptoms warrant a trip to an emergency clinic. Whereas in other cases, your vet can simply prepare the screening room for a potentially messy visit.
What To Expect During Your Pet’s First Vet Visit
There are certain items you’ll need to bring with you. These items can shorten your appointment time, provide more information about your pet’s health, and help you save money:
- Your current ID
- The names and doses of all your pet’s food, medications, vitamins, and supplements (which might include items like CBD treats, for example)
- A favorite toy or blanket to distract your pet or provide them comfort
- A stool or urine sample, if applicable
- Your pet’s medical records
- A leash, harness, or muzzle to restrain your dog, if needed
It’s always wiser to err on the side of over-preparedness. Your veterinarian may not need to access all of the items described above. If you have them on hand, however, it may save you time and money you spent scheduling a follow-up appointment.
Dogs, cats, and other animals respond to vet visits in different ways. Some will be excited to sniff around, greet the staff, and investigate the space. In contrast, others may feel anxious or frightened, perhaps due to prior traumatic experiences with people or unfamiliar environments. Some pets will be thrilled to be in the company of other animals and people. However, others will retreat and need a little extra support. Of course, how your pet behaves one day at the vet may differ from how they interact on a different day.
When you arrive at the veterinarian, you will typically check in with the front office and wait to be seen. From there, a staff member may accompany you both to a private examination room. There, your pet may stand or rest on a table. The vet may weigh your animal, check its vitals, and manually examine its body. This is to check for proper function and rule out concerns. It is also possible that the vet will administer vaccinations or other shots during this initial visit.
What Questions Will The Vet Ask During An Initial Appointment?
During or after the physical examination, your vet will likely have many questions for you. The first visit may take longer than others. This is because your vet is just starting to get to know your animal. The veterinarian will want to discuss your pet’s:
- Temperament (How do they act alone? With other animals or people?)
- Eating habits (What type of food do they eat, what are their portion sizes, and how frequently do they eat?)
- Exercise routines (What kind of physical activity does your pet engage in, how long do they exercise, and how often do they exercise?)
- Potty business (How regular is your pet when it comes to urination and defecation, and do you notice any concerns with its pee or stool?)
- Parasite protection (Does your pet take medication to repel fleas, ticks, and heartworm?)
- Training (To what commands does your animal consistently respond?)
- Fertility (Has your pet been spayed or neutered?)
- Breed-specific issues (i.e., bulldogs require targeted hygiene to keep their wrinkles from housing mold, while other breeds need routine hair trimming to maintain a clear line of vision)
- Hygiene (How frequently does your pet bathe, brush their teeth, clip their nails, etc.?)
- Tracking devices (Some dog and cat owners elect to insert a microchip in their pet’s body, which can be tracked in instances when they escape, get lost, or are stolen)
- Recent travel outside of the residence (For example, if you’ve been to a densely wooded area, your vet may want to check for ticks)
- Chronic or recent health issues (It’s always better to speak up, even if you think you may be overreacting to a concerning symptom on your pet’s body or in regards to their behavior)
Whether you’re changing vets or preparing for a vet visit for the first time, it’s a great idea to enter your appointment with the mindset that the veterinarian is your partner and a member of your pet’s support network. While pet owners can bestow love, shelter, sustenance, and other comforts, there are certain things that only veterinarians are equipped to provide.
Once your pet is home, you may want to schedule the next appointment. And, if possible, automate your pet’s medicine refills. Some vets have an on-site pharmacy, while others mail them directly to pet owners.
If you’re unsure about something discussed during your visit, the chances are that your vet will be more than happy to explain an issue and point you to helpful resources. Your pet will surely thank you for doing all you can to keep them healthy and happy.