Taking your pet to the veterinarian once or twice a year for a checkup is part of your job as a responsible pet owner. You know how to care for your pet on a day-to-day basis, but you don’t have the years of education and veterinary experience needed to diagnose and treat health problems. When you go to the vet, you can rest easy knowing that he will give your pet the attention he needs but, once you leave the office, it’s up to you to continue that care.
To ensure that your pet remains happy and healthy for as long as possible, you need to be proactive about his care and that means taking advantage of your veterinarian’s knowledge and experience. During each visit to the vet you should ask the following ten questions to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of your pet’s needs.
1. Is my pet a healthy weight?
More than 50% of cats and dogs in the United States are overweight and many pet parents fail to realize just how serious a health problem obesity can be. A gain of even a few pounds can be significant and could put your pet at risk for chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.
2. Is my pet getting enough exercise? What type of exercise is best?
Exercise is important for helping your pet to maintain a healthy bodyweight but some pets have a lower ability to tolerate exercise than others. Brachycephalic dog breeds, for example (like Bulldogs and Pugs), have low exercise tolerance and may overheat easily with vigorous exercise. Your vet can tell you what kind is best for your pet and how much is appropriate.
3. Am I feeding my pet the right food?
The quality of your pet’s diet is directly related to his total health and wellness, so it is important that you feed him the best pet food you can consistently afford. It should be made with healthy, natural ingredients and free from artificial additives.
4. Is my pet up to date on vaccinations?
Discuss vaccination protocols with your vet as some are following newer guidelines, so ask your vet which shots your pet is going to need next and when he is going to need them.
5. Does my pet need flea/tick protection and which product should I use?
Dogs and cats should both be protected against fleas and ticks, even if you think that your pet won’t be exposed. Parasites have the potential to carry deadly diseases so it is worth protecting your pet with a monthly topical preventative.
6. Are my pet’s teeth healthy?
Many pet parents overlook their pet’s dental health which, unfortunately, leads most pets to develop some degree of periodontal disease (gum disease) by the time they are three years old. Your pet should have an oral checkup every six months and you should brush his teeth as often as you can.
7. Does my pet need a blood test or urine test?
Most veterinary checkups do not include blood and urine tests unless the pet is showing signs of some form of disease. It never hurts, however, to ask your vet whether one of these tests might be beneficial just to make sure your pet is healthy, especially for senior pets.
8. Is [insert behaviour here] normal?
Cats and dogs exhibit some strange behaviours and they aren’t always easy for pet parents to understand. If your pet has recently started to exhibit an unfamiliar behaviour, it’s worth asking your vet to make sure it isn’t a sign of a developing health problem.
9. How can I better care for my pet?
The best question you can ask your veterinarian is how to be a better parent to your pet. There could be something simple that you aren’t doing which might be very beneficial for your pet but you’ll never know unless you ask.
10. When should I bring my pet back for the next checkup?
Regular veterinary care is the key to catching health problems in the early stages when they are still treatable. As your pet ages he may require more frequent trips to the vet to ensure he is maintaining good health.
The more questions you ask your veterinarian, the more knowledge you will gain and that can only help you to become a better pet parent. You need to do more than just ask the questions, however – you also have to put that knowledge to use in caring for your pet.
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