The Vet’s Corner: Five Questions Your Vet (or You) Should Ask during Every Visit
I like to think I’ve learned a few things during the past 28 years of practicing veterinary medicine and starting a pet food company. I’ve learned to always be polite and control my emotions, no matter how cross or ill-mannered a pet parent may act. A good vet listens, looks, and feels more than they talk. And the best vets know when to “trust their gut” no matter what the high-tech test results say. Now that I’ve turned my focus toward improving the lives of pets through better plant-based pet food, I’ve discovered many of these lessons also apply to our work at Wild Earth. I’ve also learned that there are five very important questions your veterinarian – or you – should ask during every visit.
1) What are you feeding your pet? The single most important pet health decision a pet parent makes each day is what they feed. Every vet visit should begin by discussing your feeding habits: what brand of food, how much you feed, how often, and even where your pet’s food bowl is located. The key to sustainable healthy feeding habits is aligning the best nutrient formulation with your personal food philosophies. It’s essential that each pet parent is confident in the food they feed their pet at each meal. While science backs that a plant-based diet is better for the planet and has significant health advantages (hello, dietary fibers and zero-meat contaminants!), what you feed your pet should be a decision you take seriously and give considerable contemplation. I also encourage you to “think beyond the bowl” into the impact your pet food has on the world around us. These basic questions will help your vet advise you on the best nutrition for your pet’s lifestyle and life stage.
2) When is the last time you administered heartworm preventive? Heartworm disease kills untold thousands of dogs and cats each year. These 14-inch long worms are transmitted by the innocent prick of a mosquito bite. Many pet parents, especially those in colder climates (or California, although I’ve never understood that one) don’t believe their pet will get heartworms. That’s a potentially deadly mistake. Heartworm disease is present year-round in all 50 states. The treatment for dogs is challenging and costly; there is no cure for feline heartworm disease. I prefer combination heartworm and flea preventives to make administration more convenient (and less forgetful) and save money. Modern heartworm preventives also protect your pet against internal parasites that can infect people such as roundworms and hookworms. I’m incredibly concerned about roundworm infection in humans, especially young children.
You never know what they might pick up rolling in the leaves!
3) Have you noticed any lumps or bumps? If you observe, feel, or think you’ve imagined a suspicious growth or discolored patch of skin on your pet, have your vet check it out. Immediately. My veterinary memory is littered with too many tragedies of “I could’ve helped if the owners had brought the pet in sooner.” In many forms of cancer, a few days or a couple of weeks can determine life or death. The same rule applies to coughing, decreased energy, reduced appetite, or any other change in attitude. Don’t delay having your pet checked by your vet.
4) Is your pet doing anything that bugs or annoys you? Barking at neighbors, jumping up on guests, the occasional accident in the house? Behavior problems rarely burst on the scene, they typically gradually escalate over months or years. The best (and most effective) time to correct unwanted behaviors is when they’re just beginning. Too many pet owners are embarrassed or think the problem isn’t “vet-worthy.” There’s never a behavior I consider insignificant. Subtle can become significant quickly. Bring up any (and all) annoying or embarrassing actions or habits of your pet. Treated early, most can be corrected and others can be controlled.
5) Do you have pet insurance? While this may seem like an odd question for your vet to ask, I have a simple reason for asking: I want to eliminate economic euthanasia. A veterinary survey found that 95% of veterinary practices reported they offered limited treatment options to pet parents because they feared the client couldn’t afford the care the pet needed. Innumerable dogs and cats are euthanized simply because the owner can’t afford veterinary care. The relief I’ve witnessed from clients with pet insurance after an injury or serious illness has been diagnosed is priceless. We can then focus on getting the pet better instead of how we’re going to pay for it. That’s why I’ve been asking this question for the past twenty years. I hope you answer “yes.”
These are five questions I think every veterinarian should ask pet parents. There are many more important questions based on each pet’s unique circumstances. If your vet doesn’t ask you these questions, I recommend you ask them. A close, open, and informative bond with your veterinary healthcare team is the best way to ensure your pet receives the finest care possible.