Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.
It doesn't matter how many years you've been taking your pets to the veterinarian, there are always questions you should ask. When you ask them may depend on your pets age or if and when a medical situation arises. Don't be afraid to ask your vet or their staff questions - it's what they are there for.
1. What vaccines should my pet get? If you have a new puppy, he should start getting vaccines at 6 weeks of age, with his DHLPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, and Parvo). It should be given about every 3 weeks until he's about 4 months old (so a series of 3 or 4). If you have a kitten, he should get his FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) and his FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) vaccines. Again, a series of 3 or 4 shots at 3 weeks apart. Once the puppy or kitten is at least 16 weeks or older, he can get his Rabies vaccine. Depending on your area, your vet may recommend your dog also get a K9 Flu and Kennel Cough vaccines, and even Rattlesnake vaccine.
2. Should I brush my pet's teeth? Yes, you should. Brushing even two or three times a week will help prevent tartar build-up and plaque. Make sure you use a pet safe toothpaste, not a human toothpaste. You can also ask your vet about oral rinses as well.
3. Is it really necessary to give flea, tick and heartworm preventions? This will depend on your area, but yes, in general, you should give these preventative medications. Make sure to ask your veterinarian if you live in a high risk area for heartworm disease. Flea prevention should be given year round, especially if you travel a lot with your pet or you live in a climate that is warmer in winter (like California, Arizona, New Mexico, etc.). Tick prevention is a must if you live in rural areas.
4. Why does my pet eat poop? Even perfectly healthy pets may make a habit out of this. (I once had a dog that loved horse poop. Bleh!). Often it's just a bad (and disgusting) habit they pick up. Either way, it should be discouraged as it's another way for your pet to ingest bacteria or parasites.
5. Can my pet get my cold? Or can I get my pet's cold? The simple answer is no. The human flu/cold viruses are not transferable to your pet. Just as the K9 flu or your cat's upper respiratory infection won't be transferred to you. However, there are some zoonotic diseases like Rabies that you should always be aware of. Also there are some parasites that can be transferred to people, such as roundworm, or even skin diseases like ringworm.
6. How much do I feed my pet? How do I tell if my pet is overweight? Each pet is different, and so is there lifestyle. Most bags of pet food will give you a feeding range for your pet's weight range. Some breeds may be prone to obesity, so you will have to be the best judge. Your vet can give you an idea of how much to feed, but if you notice Fido's waddling more than usual, cut back. Some dogs only eat one cup of food a day. Each "meal" you feed your pet is a nutritionally balanced meal (ideally), so don't think you're starving your dog. Or cat. You should always be able to feel your pet's ribs without having to press hard. And your pet should have a waist past the rib cage. If you can't feel your pets ribs, it waddles around, or has love handles, it's probably on the obese side.
7. Does my pet need bloodwork? Really? This will largely depend on your pet's health and history. Any pet over 7 years is usually recommended to have annual bloodwork done simply to monitor kidney and liver function, diabetes, cancer, or thyroid problems. Even if your vet doesn't find anything wrong, you've established a "normal" for your pet, so it will be easier down the road to notice if something is amiss. Bloodwork is typically recommended before surgeries, but some offices will let you decline it. If your pet has health issues, such as seizures, your vet will usually require annual bloodwork to monitor your pet's liver and to make sure your pet is still doing okay on the dosage being given.
8. What are these lumps/bumps on my pet? As our pets age they grow little lumps and bumps. If you notice a lump or bump that wasn't there before, it's always a good idea to have your vet check it out to make sure whether or not it's cancerous.
9. Should I be giving my pet supplements? This is typically on a case by case basis. Your pet's food is a balanced meal, however some breeds may require something extra. For example, large breeds of dogs have a tendency to have joint problems at a young age, so your vet may suggest joint supplements. Feel free to ask questions of your vet regarding supplements.
10. My appointment was 15 minutes, why is $200?! Most vet offices will give you an itemized receipt so you see the breakdown of why your bill is $200. Don't be afraid to ask about their fees - but please don't be rude if you do so. The vet or their staff will usually be happy to go over their fees, because they don't want you to leave upset. Here's an example from one clinic I worked for:
Office Exam - $45
CBC - In House - $75
Thyroid - Lab - $125
Enalapril 10mg x30 - $20
Furosemide 12.5mg x15 - $30
I kind of pulled the prices out of a hat, but you get the idea. In house testing will usually cost less than sending it out to a lab. If something about your bill bugs you, speak up.
The point is, don't be afraid to ask the vet or their staff questions. They are there to make life better for your pet. A happy pet is a happy owner. We all enjoy seeing your pets come in. We often take these journey's with you, the ups, the downs, and typically the worst day of any pet owners life where they need to euthanize their pet. We'll laugh with you and cry with you and give you a hug and a kleenex if needed. So don't be afraid to ask, because your vet's office is a huge part of your pet's life.