Having a good relationship with your veterinarian is as important as having a good relationship with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician. Sometimes the helpful nature and personality of the office staff and vet techs can also impact your decision.
You should feel comfortable asking them questions about your pet’s health and making sure they support your decisions for your dog. This may include spaying and neutering timelines (early vs waiting), titers vs, vaccinations, feeding options (raw versus dog food), and treatment options for health concerns. If your concerns are ignored or dismissed, it may be time to look for a new veterinarian.
There is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion on a health issue with your dog. People get second opinions on diagnosis and treatment options frequently. You can also have more than one veterinarian to assist your dog. Some people use one vet for annual exams and minor procedures, but may also have a vet that specializes in a specific area (such as ophthalmology, dermatology, cancer, rehabilitation, or holistic additions such as acupuncture, chiropractic and laser therapy).
An annual exam (aka wellness exam) allows your veterinarian to take a close look at your pet and compare findings with those of the previous visit. It’s also your opportunity to share anything out of the ordinary that you’ve noticed such as excessive water drinking, loss of appetite, coughing, diarrhea or constipation. I often recommend making a list of things to discuss with your vet before each visit, so you don’t forget.
At certain ages, it is useful to get a blood test for your dog. The Complete Blood Count, or CBC, shows a veterinarian your dog’s hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A CBC is essential for dog that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums or loss of appetite.
There is a lot of controversy over vaccinations and titer testing. I want to explain the differences below to give you more information.
A titer test is an antibody blood test that can tell you if a previous vaccine is still protecting your dog’s immune system. Many times, a vaccination is effective 3-5 or more years after the initial vaccination.
You can get more information here: https://www.thewildest.com/dog-health/titer-testing
Fecal exams give your vet the opportunity to check your dog or cat for intestinal parasites which are otherwise difficult to detect. Examples of intestinal parasites include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia and giardiasis. Since intestinal parasites live and hide in your pet’s GI tract, they are usually hidden from view.
I highly recommend bringing in a fecal sample for your puppies. Some puppies are wormed when young but many still pick up parasites that can cause runny stools, weight loss and not feeling well.
Annual fecal exams are the best way to ensure that your pet and your family are safe from intestinal parasites. It is easy to bring in a stool sample to have it checked.
Your vet should also do a heartworm test every year. There is also controversy in how often you give heartworm meds to your dog. Since heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos, many times owners skip the cold months when the mosquitos are dead, however, if you have a mild winter, your dog could get infected.
The preventatives are generally available in shots, tablets, or topical liquid form. As an owner, it is important to do your research and consult your vet to determine which brand or option will work best for your dog.
You can also do your research to see what drug-free options may be available. I prefer Heartguard, and that works best for my dogs.
Just like heartworm, flea and tick preventative is important, especially in areas where they are prevalent. And there are a variety of options (topical, chewable, etc). You want to use the option that works best for you. Sometimes what works for one pet may not be as effective for another.
I used to use frontline on my dogs for flea and tick preventative but my dogs didn’t do well with the topical. Then I tried Comfortis, which is a chewable but after a bit, my dogs started spitting the pill out of the food. I am currently using Nextguard. Again, do your research and use the best product that helps your dogs.
Your veterinarian will be an important part of your dog’s life. Find a vet that you are comfortable with and that your dog responds well too. Some dogs are very nervous at the vet so if your vet will offer you the option to come in for happy visits and get pets, treats or play, that will help reduce the stress on your dog.
I also recommend finding a vet that is open minded regarding training methods and tools along with food. There are a variety of training aids and foods that I don’t want dismissed because of prejudice or owners shamed because of the tools or food they choose to use.
And make sure to thank and appreciate your vet, vet techs and office staff. They truly have the best intentions for your dog, even if it takes a few weeks to get in for an appointment. They often get yelled at, cussed out or told they don’t care during the day.
I understand that they are doing the best they can. To show my appreciation, I always drop off a cheese and cracker tray during the year so they can enjoy some snacks while they are working long hours taking care of everyone’s pets.