Ask a Vet: 10 Important Questions to Ask at Your Next Vet Visit
Sometimes bringing your pet to the veterinary hospital can be overwhelming. Often, you’re struggling to get your cat in a carrier, driving with a dog that is terrified to be in the car, or wrangling multiple animals at a time. It can be stressful and lead to a frazzled, forgetful state of mind where you finally end up in front of the vet with a complete blank as to all the questions you had planned on asking! A good tip is to write down all questions and concerns ahead of time. Keep reading to learn about the top 10 questions you should ask a vet at your next visit!
1. When does my pet need vaccines and which ones should they get?
It can be confusing when you first get a puppy, kitten, or adopt an adult dog or cat. Dogs and cats need core vaccines, which cover viruses and bacterial diseases in the environment that are unavoidable. There are additional vaccines based on your pet’s lifestyle and environment, especially if they spend a lot of time outside, near wildlife, in the woods, in a warm tropical environment, etc.
- Click here to see our article on vaccinating your dog
- Click here to see our article on vaccinating your cat
2. What should I feed my pet? Is their weight appropriate?
There are so many different types of pet food out there. How do you know where to begin? Start by choosing a food that is geared towards your pet’s size, age, and even breed. Next, make sure that the food has been deemed “complete and balanced” by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This is the AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement and indicates that the food will provide all the vitamins and nutrients your pet needs. If your pet has any vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, weight loss, obesity, or suspected food allergies, consult your veterinarian, as your pet may need a prescription diet.
- Click here to see our article on choosing the right food for your dog
- Click here to see our article on choosing the right food for your cat
- Click here for prescription diet information
Many pets are overweight because people don’t realize they are feeding too much, or when they look at their pet, they’re not sure how big they should be. When we discuss weight in pets, we often refer to their ‘Body Condition Score’ instead, since the weight of a dog can vary greatly, depending on whether you are a Great Dane or a Chihuahua. Dogs and cats should have somewhat of an hourglass figure when looking from above, and you should be able to easily see their waistline from the side. You should typically be able to feel the ribs but not see them (this may vary if you have a very lean dog such as a Greyhound).
3. How often should my pet get exercise?
Dogs and cats should get exercise every day, just like people. It’s important to keep the joints and muscles moving, to maintain an acceptable weight and body condition, and to keep pets stimulated and entertained so that they don’t become overweight, bored, and possibly destructive.
4. What are common diseases to look out for?
The most common diseases seen in dogs and cats are dental disease, skin infections, ear infections, and non-cancerous skin masses. Annual exams and open communication with your vet can help prevent these and other diseases from becoming severe and can help your pet live a longer, happier life.
5. When should my pet get bloodwork?
Often, vets will advise bloodwork annually starting around 7 years of age, which is considered to be the beginning of the ‘senior’ years. All dogs and cats should receive bloodwork before general anesthesia if possible.
Bloodwork helps determine whether a pet’s red and white blood cell count is normal, whether their liver, kidneys, pancreas, and other internal organs seem to be functioning well/normally, and whether their electrolyte balance and hydration status are normal.
6. Should I brush my pet’s teeth? When do they need a dental cleaning?
A veterinary dentist will tell you that ideally, a pet needs to have their teeth brushed at least 4 times a week to make a significant difference. However, other products can help with dental care for those pets that won’t allow brushing or need a little extra help.
7. What if I find lumps on or under my pet’s skin?
Dogs and cats can develop growths and masses on the surface or under the skin. This is quite common in dogs, and there are a wide variety of malignant (cancerous) as well as benign (non-cancerous) growths and masses.
Because there are so many types, and cancer is “the great imitator” and can look like anything, it is always advised to have each and every lump and bump evaluated by your vet. A fine needle aspirate (using a needle to obtain cells from the mass) and cytology (examining the cells under the microscope using special stains) can help lead to a diagnosis, but sometimes a surgical biopsy or completely removing the mass is necessary to diagnose it.
8. What monthly preventative medications should my pet be getting?
Ideally, all dogs and cats should receive monthly heartworm prevention and flea/tick prevention (some products last longer than a month). Remember, mosquitos can come indoors, so ANY pet can get heartworm disease. In addition, heartworm prevention also contains intestinal parasite control, so your pet is a lot less likely to get roundworms, whipworms, or hookworms if they’re on monthly heartworm preventative.
Flea and tick prevention is essential for all pets with sensitive skin, those that live in warm or tropical climates, and those that spend a lot of time outdoors. Fleas carry tapeworms and several types of bacteria that can cause severe disease in dogs and cats. Ticks can carry Lyme and several other bacterial diseases that can cause severe illness and even death in dogs.
9. Should I get pet insurance?
The answer to this is always yes! No matter what age and what pre-existing conditions, there is probably a pet insurance out there for you. There are many types of pet insurance, so please see our article to better help you choose one. Veterinary costs can be extensive if you have even just one emergency, so pet insurance is always advised.
10. How often should I bathe my pet?
In general, cats don’t need to be bathed because they groom themselves. Most dogs shouldn’t be bathed more often than every 2-3 weeks, or you may be removing some of their protective skin oils. This can obviously change if your pet has a specific skin condition, for example, so check with your vet if your pet has special circumstances, allergies, or a skin infection.
- Click here to see our article on grooming your dog
- Click here to see our article on grooming your cat
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