5 Reasons a Veterinary Follow-Up Exam Will Help to Keep Your Pet Healthy

Frenchie at Vet
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Returning to your vet for a recheck gives you a chance to make a plan for long-term care after you've already dealt with acute treatment.

I know veterinary follow-ups are a pain. And sometimes they may seem superfluous, burdensome, unnecessary or even like veterinary overkill. But getting a recheck of almost any problem your pet has suffered in the recent past is usually as necessary as the initial visit itself.

Why? It has nothing to do with veterinary practice profitability. In fact, many hospitals under-price the recheck visit to encourage you to follow up. (I know we do.) Instead, it's about the many ways your pet will receive higher-quality care.

Here are my top reasons for asking your compliance in returning for rechecks (in no particular order).

1. Measuring improvements (or declines). The most obvious reason for a follow-up visit is to determine whether your pet’s original issue has improved. Whether that hot spot has wholly resolved, that incision site looks healed, that blood value is worsening or those parasites are gone, it’s important to know the direction of progress, and that may not be as obvious to an owner as the owner would like to believe.

2. Long-term recommendations. Many acute problems (such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, limping or even skin troubles) benefit from a follow-up, not just to check that they've resolved, but to be sure we’ve established a long-term plan for continued care. You want to know how to make sure a problem doesn't come back, and receiving instructions for acute and long-term care in the same visit can be overwhelming.  

3. Double-checking your progress. Are you able to give that medication two times a day? Are you getting your pet to cooperate with the treatment? Assessing your compliance, ensuring no directions were lost in translation and making sure you’re doing things correctly is crucial. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt sure my clients have understood my instructions only to learn that they retained very little of what I told them. That's why I've taken to writing everything down for my clients — but even then, my intent can sometimes be unclear to a pet owner.

4. Continuity of care. In case you hadn’t noticed, many veterinary practices are getting bigger and bigger, which means your pet’s care may be subject to less personal treatment. Returning within a short time to reevaluate an issue’s progress helps ensure your relationship with your veterinarian gets reinforced. And continuity of care at the same practice — preferably with the same doctor — means your pet is more likely to get better care.

5. Assessing other ongoing issues. Each time you see a veterinarian, you’re treated to yet another opportunity to bend her ear about any issue that affects your pet. Regardless of your primary issue, you’re seldom disallowed this nicety. So squeeze in a look-see at the ear that was giving your dog trouble last spring, and make sure those teeth don’t need cleaning while you’re at it.

I know that getting your cat in a carrier or dragging your dog through the door of an animal hospital can seem onerous, but it’s worth the effort.

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