#1 – Have your pet examined every six months. A thorough physical examination on a regular basis allows for earlier intervention in diseases. Even if your pet is found to be perfectly healthy, more frequent physical examinations allow you and your veterinarian to be closer partners in your pet’s nutrition, dental care, and more. Six months to most pets is like two to four years for people. The cost of two physical examinations per year is relatively negligible considering the overall cost of maintaining a pet. Plus, I have found that over time regular physical examinations and consultations with a veterinarian saves money in the long run.
#2 – Call your veterinarian before making decisions about your pet’s health. I am always shocked by people who choose not to give their pet’s prescribed medication based on what they read on a human pharmacy’s side effect disclosure insert – without ever calling me to discuss their concerns. I frequently have an appointment where an owner comes with a shopping bag full of over the counters sprays, shampoos, vitamins, powders, and pills that haven’t worked. Similarly, I hear stories all the time about people having changed their pet’s food, sometimes three or four times over, to try to address a medical concern. If you have a relationship with your vet (see item #1), please use his/her expertise and experience to help guide your decisions. We really do want to be your partner in your pet’s care.
#3 – Keep up the parasite control twelve months of the year. The savings of stopping for a few months each winter is not worth the risk to your pet’s health or your wallet. Veterinary drug manufacturers offer programs to reimburse for treatment costs in the case of product failure. However, if you stop these preventives for even a couple of months, these warranties will be void. Now that Virginia has five species of ticks with varying lifecycles, there is absolutely no month that is safe to go off of parasite control.
#4 – Do something for your pet’s oral health every day. Not every pet will allow daily brushing – although that’s the best. However, your veterinarian can recommend medicated chews, therapeutic diets, rinses, water additives, food additives, gels, or other techniques for reducing periodontal disease. Most pet owners underestimate the health damage that occurs with unaddressed periodontal disease. They also underestimate the amount of pain it causes. So please work with us to help prevent it. Once it’s there, please let us treat it. The risk of quick, low level anesthesia today is so much less than the increased risks of chronic, untreated periodontal disease and deeper, more prolonged anesthesia in the future to address the consequences of neglect.
#5 – Buy a good pet health insurance policy. Veterinarians can do more than ever before to help your pets. However, the new technologies and medications are frequently expensive. Less and less of a veterinarian’s day is spent saying “nothing more can be done.” Instead, we are spending more and more time watching people decline lifesaving treatments for their pets because they are not financially prepared. There are good and bad policies out there, so choose carefully and seek your veterinarian’s opinion before signing up with a specific company.
#6 – Tell us your financial constraints. Veterinarians are used to working within budgets and understand that many family budgets are unable to provide the highest quality care for all the pets of the household. That doesn’t mean you should stay away. Let us work with you to find the right balance of level of care vs. cost for your particular circumstances. Similarly, if there are financial concerns, please do not authorize every recommended test and treatment and then tell the veterinarian you can’t afford to pay for it.
#7 – Ask your veterinarian about your pet’s nutrition. There is so much bad advice out there that seems perfectly legitimate – especially online. Your veterinarian sees thousands of pets and knows firsthand what keeps them healthy and what doesn’t.
#8 – Ask about what you read online. If you see something that concerns you, please shoot your veterinarian an e-mail. There is so much misleading and inflammatory information out there that it can be hard for a pet owner to know what to believe. Your veterinarian is there to help – and wants to help!
#9 – Write a good online review. Often times only the grumpy complainers of the world go online to share their opinions. Some people even use the treat of a bad online review to threaten a veterinarian into provide free services or going against his/her medical judgement. Since these negative reviews stay around forever, veterinarians love when their happy clients spread good news about their practices. It helps to dilute the bad actors and remove a weapon from the hands of bullies.
#10 – Give us notice if you need to miss an appointment. Believe it or not, we are actually planning our day around seeing you. If you find out that you can’t come in, please let us know as soon as possible.