10 questions your veterinarian wants you to ask during a visit
With our own medical care it’s often suggested to ask more questions when at the doctor’s office. Did you know the same advice applies to your pet’s veterinarian? By asking more questions during your pet’s next vet visit, you’re not only helping to maximize your pet’s health care, but you’re also ensuring you get the most out of each visit. To help tackle this topic, we asked holistic veterinarian Dr. Dym for his input as to the questions he recommends pet owners ask during vet visits.
1. What do you think of this information I found on the internet?
Pet owners often come in with many preconceived notions about their pets’ medical conditions, as well as how the condition should or shouldn’t be treated by the veterinarian. While searching online for signs and treatments can be helpful, in other cases such information can be confusing and/or even inaccurate regarding diagnosing and/or treating their pets at home. As a result, if you often try to diagnose conditions with the help of Google, always ask your veterinarian upfront about the information you have found.
2. What internet resources can I trust for medical information on my pet’s condition(s)?
Veterinarians may or may not be familiar with which sites can be trusted or whether the information is trustworthy, but clients need to inquire about specific internet resources before blindly taking advice which may not be accurate. For instance, informational content on the 1-800-PetMeds blog and Pet Health Center is reviewed by veterinarians and licensed pharmacists. It is important to note the advice provided in these areas should never be used as a substitution for a visit to your pet’s veterinarian.
3. What can I do to help prevent this from happening again?
This will depend on the diagnosed condition; however, for routine health care such as skin infections and hot spots, this could mean keeping up with flea and tick preventative medication. For other conditions it could mean a lifestyle change for your pet, in terms of diet, exercise, environmental enrichment therapies, etc.
4. Why are you prescribing this medication for my pet, and what are the potential side effects or drug interactions?
Many veterinarians often have pharmacies within their hospital in which they must play similar roles as human pharmacists when dispensing prescription medications for pets. It is extremely important that pet owners understand what their pets are being prescribed, why the medication is being prescribed, and what the potential risks of the prescribed drug may be. Iatrogenic disease is the result of doctor error or medication reaction/interaction, and it is a critical discussion for pet owners to have with their veterinary health care providers to reduce their pet’s risk.
5. Does my pet really need an antibiotic for his or her medical condition?
Over diagnosing and overusing antibiotics in both human and veterinary medicine has led to the development of antibiotic resistance, which is one of the reasons pet owners should consider asking if an antibiotic is necessary.
For example, common upper respiratory conditions, such as mild kennel cough in dogs and sneezing/snuffling in cats, are often predominantly viral in origin. As a result, antibiotics are truly not needed in these situations. A common situation in feline veterinary practice is when cats present symptoms of lower urinary tract disease (urgency, straining, and blood in the urine) and veterinary research has shown the vast majority of these cats do not have bacterial urinary tract infections. Such discussions between veterinarian and pet owners will help lessen the surge and recent increase in resistant superbugs, as well as methicillin resistant bacterial infections (known as MRSA), which is important not only for the health of our animals, but ultimately our own health and survival.
6. How would you take care of your own pets in terms of managing this condition, or the medical or surgical options being discussed?
While it may be helpful for veterinarians to discuss what they would do if this were their own pet, in terms of diagnostics or treatment plans, every client and situation is different, and what is right for the pet, if it were the veterinarian’s animal, may not be the right decision for the animal guardian. For example, costs of veterinary care and services, as well as the clients’ ability to manage or treat certain medical conditions at home, will determine on a case-by-case basis as to what is the best diagnostic and/or treatment plan for each case.
7. How much experience do you have diagnosing and/or treating this particular condition in my pet?
Due to the increasing complexity and specialization of both human and veterinary medicine, it would be helpful if pet owners asked their veterinarians about their experience in working with the current diagnosed condition of one’s pet.
The future of veterinary medicine is toward specialization in different organ systems and disease pathologies. When an animal develops a complex condition such as cancer, neurological disease, cardiac disease, or chronic digestive problems, it’s helpful for the veterinarian to inform pet owners what he or she can offer in his or her practice, or whether referral to a veterinary specialist is needed.
8. What is the best diet to feed to my pet, in order to keep them healthy and/or help in managing or preventing a particular disease condition?
Given the role diet and nutrition play in both preventing and managing acute/chronic disease conditions, it is important for clients to ask veterinarian about their pet’s diet needs. For example, chronic heart and/or cardiovascular disease may require a low salt diet; lower protein diets may be needed with chronic liver and/or kidney disease; novel or hydrolyzed protein diets may be needed for chronic skin allergies and/or digestive tract disease, etc.
In my experience and opinion, for preventative dietary advice, I believe it is best to consult with a veterinarian skilled in holistic veterinary medicine, as traditional veterinarians receive very little training on nutrition in our conventional medical school training. For pets not in need of special dietary requirements, these are the top pet foods I recommend.
9. What should we focus on before the next veterinary visit?
After a condition is thoroughly diagnosed or treated, it would be helpful to veterinarian, client and the pet’s future care, if clients asked about next steps. This stresses the importance of preventative care, rather than being reactive. This could involve basic wellness preventative care as well as preventative supplements, dietary therapies, behavior modification therapies, etc.
10. When should you see my pet again?
An often frustrating scenario for veterinarians is how often clients do not follow treatment recommendations in terms of finishing the course of therapy. For instance, finishing the entire prescription, as well as when the pet should be seen again for follow-up. Many times a pet’s condition will only partially improve or quickly recur, so it’s important to know when to bring in your pet for a follow-up exam to ensure treatment is successful.
What has been your experience in being more vocal during your pet’s vet visits? Are there certain questions you always make sure to ask during an exam? Share your thoughts in the comments!