10 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know

Pet owner talking to veterinarian
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If you don't understand what you vet is talking about, speak up and ask him to explain.

Your veterinarian is trained to care for your pet — and is privileged to do so. But no amount of training or fancy, high-tech equipment can replace one crucial piece of the animal-care puzzle: your input.

Here are 10 things most veterinarians would like you to know.

  1. Communication is key. While medical advances mean vets can do more and more for your pet, not all pet owners want a no-holds-barred approach. Make sure you discuss your expectations for your pet’s care. A complete cure? Pain managementHospice? Veterinarians won’t order unnecessary tests or procedures, but they do need to know the level of care you expect for your pet, as well as your emotional and financial limitations, so they can deliver optimum care.
  2. The more information — and questions — you have, the better. There’s nothing more helpful than bringing in a list of problems your pet has, concerns you want to discuss and questions you want to ask, so that you don’t forget anything when you visit. There’s a lot going on when you come to the veterinary practice, and it’s beneficial to have all the pertinent information ready when you arrive at your pet’s appointment.  
  3. There's no such thing as a dumb question. If your pet’s behavior changes or you have a concern, however slight, vets would prefer you call and ask about it. Sometimes odd behavior is nothing to worry about, but sometimes it can be a sign of a bigger health problem. You should never hesitate to call a veterinary professional to see what they think.
  4. The sooner you call, the better. Along these same lines, don’t wait too long to address an issue your pet is experiencing. Some problems in pets can turn into emergencies within 24 hours. For many conditions, fast action and early treatment can save your pet suffering and ensure a more complete cure. Remember, the first time you think about calling, you should.
  5. If you don't understand something, speak up. If your pet receives a diagnosis or treatment plan that you have questions about, ask your vet to explain it as many times as is necessary to help clear up any confusion. Request handouts and reference materials so you can read about your pet’s problem. And if you want to see a veterinarian with advanced training in your pet's condition, ask for a referral to a specialist.
  6. Use the Internet wisely. The Internet is a great source of information — if you go to the right sites. Look at your veterinary practice's website for reference links, or ask your vet for an authoritative site that covers your pet’s illness. And never try to diagnose your pet based on Internet intel alone. It can cause unwarranted concern that your pet has some terrible disease, when more often than not, your pet has a common ailment with an easy cure. In the same way, never treat your pet based on suggestions you find on the web. It's always better to consult your veterinarian first.
  7. Consider pet insurance. Medicine isn't cheap. MRIs, neurosurgery and joint replacements are common procedures for pets nowadays. While vets are able to deliver excellent health care for pets at a fraction of what it costs humans, treatments can quickly add up and empty a bank account. Health insurance policies for pets are often inexpensive and may save your pet’s life someday, especially if it covers a costly procedure for which you weren't financially prepared.
  8. Ask about pain relief. Even though vets can’t always provide a cure for certain illnesses, they can usually treat any pain your pet is experiencing. The field of pain relief is well-advanced, and pain relief is generally simple, so make sure you seek out a vet for help, even if your pet has an incurable condition.
  9. Practice prevention. Treatments can be difficult and costly, so it’s best to prevent illness and disease in the first place. While this isn’t always possible, regular exams, proper diet and exercise can delay or prevent many conditions. Ask your veterinarian about wellness care and preventive steps, especially if your pet is predisposed to a particular problem.
  10. The best time to find a veterinarian is before you get a pet. Vets can tell you if the pet you’re considering has predispositions to health problems, and give you a sense for whether or not the pet’s temperament is a good fit for you. Most animals end up in shelters because of behavior problems, and those are often due simply to choosing a pet that isn't a good fit for your home or lifestyle. Ask a vet first, and you're less likely to have regrets later.

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