Vet and client discuss pet's health care

If owners only knew to ask the right questions, my patients would have it so much easier. My life would be easier, too! Here are 10 perfect examples:

1. What kind of pet do you recommend for my family?

When I think of how many problems I could head off by having this conversation before the new pet happens, I wonder why we don’t recommend that more clients come in for pre-pet consultations.

2. Where should I find my pet?

A corollary to #1, this is another one of those fraught issues that I wish people would ask me about in advance of any purchase or adoption: no pet stores, no online purchases. Get breed club recommendations. And ask for references.

3. Should I sign up for pet insurance?

I’d much rather have this discussion before the injury or illness happens than once it’s way too late.

4. Is she too old to learn?

I love this question because it’s undoubtedly true that you can teach an old dog new tricks. When pet owners mistakenly assume otherwise, they endorse the notion that to live uneasily with behavioral problems is preferable to taking positive steps to improve their pets’ lives through training.

5. She’s fat, right?

If my clients were willing to fess up to the obvious — and ask for help when it comes to overweight pets — I’m sure that I’d have a healthier pool of pets in my practice.

6. How often should I brush my pet’s teeth?

I love this question because it implies that the owner already knows that teeth need to be brushed. If only I could find someone who’d ask, “Is once a day enough?”

7. How much exercise is too much?

It’s a great question because, if you have to ask, it probably means that your pet is getting lots of exercise. By the way, the rule of thumb is that it’s never enough — unless you’re courting heatstroke or your pet has a disease that specifically precludes exercise.

8. Is it OK to give my pet human meds?

You’d be surprised to learn how many people think it’s acceptable to use ibuprofen or aspirin when they run out of their dogs’ arthritis drugs. Never give your pet medication without consulting with your vet first!

9. Is my pet too old for [fill in the blank veterinary procedure]?

This is not a common question. It is, unfortunately, a common assumption among owners, which leads to many pets missing out on care they really need. I love nothing better than to assure people that if their vets are recommending a procedure, it’s likely because they’ve considered how the risks stack up against the rewards.

10. Should she see a specialist?

Whenever clients ask me this, it gives me a lot of information about the quality of care they want — which makes it a lot easier for me to focus on higher-quality treatments when appropriate.

Check out more of Dr. Patty Khuly’s opinion pieces on Vetstreet.

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