Get the most out of your pet's vet appointments by asking the right questions...
Just like having a regular GP, it's worthwhile building an open and honest relationship with your vet. Your pet's check-ups might seem tedious – and expensive – especially when your pet appears to be in perfect health, but they're an important part of their preventative care. Here are the questions you should ask at your vet to get the most from your appointments.
1. How often should I take my pet to the vet?
For many, this will be once a year, but depending on the type, breed, age and general health of your pet, your vet can advise you best. Knowing how often you should visit will not only allow you to give your pet the best care, but will also help you budget for expenses.
2. Is my pet overweight?
It may be a sensitive question, but it is an important one. We shouldn't normalise pets being overweight, nor underestimate the health implications, which include a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory difficulties, cancer, joint problems, diabetes and many more.
3. How much exercise does my pet need?
It sounds like a simple enough question – but a number of factors, beyond their age and breed, will require a more specialised answer, including new medical conditions, medications, their weight and any recent injuries.
4. What should I feed my pet?
Nutrition is incredibly important to the health of your pet, so it's worth checking in with your vet to ensure that their current diet is meeting all their nutritional needs. Be cautious of words like 'natural' and 'real meat' (they don't always mean what we assume they do) and always check their food's salt and sugar content.
5. Are my pet's teeth and gums healthy?
Most of us don't think twice about brushing our teeth and flossing every day, or attending our yearly dental appointments, but our pet's dental health sometimes slips under the radar. Ask your vet to check their teeth and gums – and, if you don't already have a regular brushing routine, ask for their advice. This is important for helping to prevent the build-up of tartar, which leads to periodontal disease (the name given to all diseases of the gums and the structures that support the teeth).
Ensure you have a routine in place for your pet's dental health.
6. Is this normal?
Your vet may be the expert, but you are their best source of information, so whether it's a change in their appetite, toilet habits, mood or a new lump or bump, make sure you tell your vet. It could be the sign of an underlying health condition, so it's always best to check.
7. Are my pet's blood tests up to date?
Blood tests are an important diagnostic tool, helping to detect certain infectious or congenital diseases, as well as low levels of vitamins or nutrients. As a general rule, a blood test will be done at 6 months of age to provide a baseline, followed by another when they are 4 or 5 years of age. From age 8 onwards, yearly blood tests are recommended (but this does depend on breed). If your pet is on long-term medication, blood tests will probably be done every six months.
8. What are the most common conditions based on my pet's breed and age?
It might not be a nice question to ask, but the answer can help you know what to look out for, as well as give your pet the best preventative care. The sooner a problem is diagnosed, the quicker treatment can be administered.
9. What vaccinations does my pet need?
We tend to focus on our pets' vaccinations in their early years, but as they get older their immune system will get weaker, so it's important to keep them up to date. Your vet will also be able to provide information about any disease outbreaks in your area.
10. Do you have any advice about the financial cost of looking after my pet?
As much as we may want to shy away from financial questions, it's better to have a plan when it comes to looking after our pets. As well as routine appointments, ask about the additional charges for blood tests, samples, vaccines and perhaps even the approximate costs of surgery. This will help you make an informed decision about veterinary insurance.