Getting the Most Out of Your Vet Visit
by Carie Broecker
Write down your observations, questions, and concerns beforehand
Before the appointment take the time to write down all of your dog’s symptoms, what is concerning you, and specific questions you would like answered.
Go for a walk first
Depending upon the state of your dog’s health, go for a walk before the vet visit. This will burn off excess energy and help your dog be calmer at the visit.
Bring treats, toy, another dog
Bring your dog's favorite treats, favorite toy or another calm dog to take your dog’s mind off the vet visit and help ease his nerves.
Bring a Friend and a note pad
If your dog is facing a potentially serious diagnosis or has had a complicated, ongoing issue, bring a close friend along to be your second set of ears. It is said that we only retain 20% of what we hear. Your friend can help get clarification and take notes that can be referred to later. You will leave the visit retaining much more information than if you go alone.
Ask questions, ask questions, and ask more questions
There are no dumb questions. Speak up if anything is not clear. Don’t be shy. Rephrase and repeat to the vet what you think you've heard to make sure you have it right. Vets can sometimes use words that are foreign to lay people. Get clarification on any words you are not familiar with.
Ask what each medication is being prescribed for
Get as much information about prescribed medications as possible. What is it? What is it supposed to do? Is this is an antibiotic, antifungal, painkiller, anti-inflammatory, etc. What is the purpose of the medication and what changes can you hope to see? Are there any potential side effects you should be aware of?
Agree to diagnostic procedures one at a time
Depending upon the seriousness of the situation you may not need to agree to every blood test, x-ray, exploratory surgery, etc. all at once. Explore the options of the least invasive diagnostic procedures first, talking about the results, and deciding if further testing is necessary. Can you wait a few days and observe before jumping into a procedure? Of course if the situation is life threatening there may not be time to take things slowly, but often times you can.
Ask the vet, “If this were your dog, what would you do?”
My favorite question that I ask vets after they have described my options to me is “What would you do if this were your own personal dog?“ Most vets are happy to answer this and will give you an honest, candid answer.
Research the diagnosis and treatment options before deciding on a course of action
Again, this depends upon the seriousness of the situation. If you have time to take a few days or a week to do your own research on a diagnosis and the possible treatment options it can be very empowering for your decision making process.
Get a second opinion
I’ve found that ten veterinarians can examine the same animal and come up with 10 different diagnoses or at the very least, 10 different treatment plans! The other possibility is that your second opinion may confirm the first diagnosis and treatment plan, which can be very validating.
Bonus: Many of these same tips can be used for human medical appointments too!