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You’ve done your best for your pet by taking her to your veterinarian when you could tell she wasn’t well. Your veterinarian listened to your observations and made many of his own as he examined your pet from tip of the nose to tip of the toes. Maybe tests were ordered and then expertly evaluated. And, finally, your veterinarian has a diagnosis and will be sending you home with medication to address your pet’s condition. Your job is done, right?
Before you go home, you have more work to do. Because you need to be sure you know what you need to about that medication for it to help — and certainly not harm — your pet. I have a simple list of six questions to ask your vet before you walk out the door of that exam room and head home with your pet.
People often take medications incorrectly — or don't take them at all. It’s no surprise, then, that medication sent home for pets is also commonly not given or not given correctly. Part of the challenge, of course, is that dogs and cats can be difficult to medicate. (Yes, we veterinarians are aware of the challenges and want to help, even if we joke a little now and then.)
To make sure you are getting your pet the help she needs, ask your veterinarian:
What is this medication for? Are you managing symptoms such as vomiting or pain? Or treating the disease itself? Knowing what the medication is meant to do helps you with your overall knowledge of what’s wrong with your pet and how this prescription fits in with everything else that is being prescribed or recommended.
How much do I give, and how often? Yes, it’s on the label, or at least it should be. Go over it anyway, just to be sure you understand. People can interpret things differently: Is three times a day morning, noon and night, or is it at precise eight-hour intervals? This is also the time to discuss any problems or challenges you have — for example, you will be unable to give this medicine while you’re at work. Finally, it's a chance to learn about other strategies for giving the medicine — are you familiar with using a pill-splitter to give half-pills?
How fast will it work? In other words, when should I see results? If your pet should react to a medication quickly and doesn’t, you need to know that so you can check back in. You need to understand as well that even if your pet seems “cured,” you should continue to give the medication for as long as it was prescribed. If that doesn’t seem reasonable, call your veterinarian and discuss before you stop giving medications as prescribed.
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