Health

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What Types of Questions Should You Expect When You See the Vet?

Posted by at 5:01 AM | Permalink | 1 Comment


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I’ve discussed in previous posts why it’s important to see your veterinarian on a regular basis and what we look for during an examination. An equally valuable part of the visit is what we refer to as “history-taking.” I rely on your observations and descriptions in lieu of being able to ask your dog or cat how he or she is feeling. It’s been my experience that the more “in tune” you are with your animal companion and the better you are able to express your observations and concerns, the more successful we will be at achieving a positive outcome. Conversely, discussions with someone who is not familiar with the animal are often less helpful.

Lesson #1

The person who knows the most about the animal’s behavior should be the one to meet (ideally) or speak with the vet. If another family member is asked to transport the animal companion to the vet’s office, it would be great if he or she provided the phone number of the primary caretaker.

A complete set of questions that may be asked in order to figure out what’s wrong with your animal companion could include the following:

  • Why did you bring Winston in today—what’s going on with him?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • Is the problem getting better or worse or remaining the same?
  • Is Winston’s behavior normal or unusual? Does he seem listless and less energetic?
  • How is his appetite? Is he eating just as eagerly as in the past?
  • Is he coughing or sneezing?
  • Is he vomiting? Has he had diarrhea? (If these are not known because the dog spends a lot of time outside, it’s best to acknowledge that.)
  • Is water intake the same as in the past?
  • Has Winston had any major medical problems in the past? (Certain diseases, such as pancreatitis, can be recurrent or contribute to future health problems.)
  • Is he on any medications? (If so, it would be ideal if you brought these with you, especially if you’re seeing a new doctor.) Why is he on these? Have they helped?
  • What is his regular diet?

The following are some secondary questions:

  • Has Winston had any major surgery in the past or been on medications for prolonged periods?
  • Does Winston travel or has he traveled out of his area of residence?
  • Does Winston have access to or has he been exposed to any chemicals, drugs, or toxins?
  • Has Winston had any dietary changes lately? (“Oh, yes! He had some shrimp and paella over the weekend—is that bad for him, doctor?”)
  • Does Winston spend most of his time indoors or outdoors?
  • Have there been any changes in the household recently (travel, guests, or new animal companions)?

Lesson #2

Try to be aware of your animal companion’s “normal” behavior so that you’ll be able to answer the questions outlined above as accurately as possible and identify any unusual behavior, which could be a symptom of illness. This will be a big help to both your vet and your animal companion.

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1 Comment

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    Melissa says...

    July 16th, 2011, 1:21 pm

    Good article. I would like to add a few things. I am the caregiver of 4 dogs and 5 cats and have more than my fair share of vet visits. I have recently learned quite a few things. Unfortunately, I have paid close to $4,000 after 3 recent visits to an emergency vet and found out afterward that had the primary care vet done his job, the visits would not have been necessary and my animals would not have suffered.
    I pay extra money every year for each of “my” animals to have more extensive blood work done (called a “senior profile”) even though my animals are not seniors. I do this so the vet can have a good look at all the aspects of my animals’ health and see more details of their blood. Long story short… one of my dogs (a Westie) had unkowingly to me been sick for approximately 4 years with a blood-born pathogen (Ehrlichia) which is caused from tick bite. Every year after his exam I would receive a call from the vet’s office informing me, “Everything is good with your dog!” Only after my dog collapsed in his own vomit and went into shock did I ask to see all the past paperwork. Even to my untrained eye, I could see things had not been “good.” One of his levels was 3 times higher than the highest it should have been.
    I took another one of my dogs to the emergency vet two days ago after she began vomiting, showed signs of obvious pain, was lethargic and collapsed in my front yard. It turns out she has a kidney infection. I had her tested almost two months ago and received a call afterward saying she showed no bacteria in her urine but that her PH was high; I was advised to get her to drink more water. I requested to see the paperwork from that visit and had it faxed yesterday. Right there in black and white it showed she had an infection and had crystals in her bladder. It would have cost less than $30 for an antibiotic two months ago but instead I paid out the a** at the emergency vet and even worse than the money shelled out is the fact my baby suffered needlessly!!
    My advice is this:
    1) Pay the extra money for a senior blood profile even if your animal is young and do this every year when you take him/her in for the yearly physical. Some vets do not want you for whatever reason to get the senior profile on a non-senior dog/cat; if he/she refuses, find another vet.
    2) Do not expect the vet to actually do the job you are paying him/her to do. Demand a copy of each of the animal’s results and take the time to view the results. Keep health files on each of the animals and compare this year’s report with that of years past. If a reading is out of range (either high or low), ASK QUESTIONS!!!!! This should be done for the humans you love as well. People doctors are many times just as bad. I always say a doctor who graduated bottom of his/her class is still a doctor and how do we know the ones who were at the top of the class from those at the bottom? We don’t until it’s too late…
    3) If your vet rushes you in the examination room and appears to be taking on more of a work load than he/she should, find a new vet! My ex-vet was good 9 years ago, but over the years because of greed or some other reason perhaps gradually took on far too many clients to show the individual care needed. Things at his clinic became more of an assembly line with a steady flow of patients and a constantly full waiting room. I thought this was a good sign, showing he must be popular and “in demand” but instead, my animals were receiving substandard care.
    I am very relieved to report that I found a very competent, caring vet and took my girl with the kidney infection to him yesterday. He was unbelievable compared to what I had allowed us to become accustom to. It has been less than 24 hours, and my little girl is doing so much better!! I will never allow what has happened in the past to happen again and after meeting our new vet, don’t believe I have any worries. What a relief! When looking over the results of the tests performed by the previous vet, the new vet was appaulled at what was not detected by the other vet. He actually made a comment as to how so many vets do not catch things they should and he wonders if it is incompetence or a lack of caring that causes this. I had been wondering the same thing…
    Best wishes to you and your animal babies!

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