Get The Most From Vet Visits: What Questions To Ask And How

Ever get home from a vet visit and realize you aren’t really sure when to start that medication or what exactly the next step is for your pet’s treatment? Happens all the time. Here’s how to get the information you need.

When I worked as a veterinary technician many years ago, pet parents asked questions all the time, but rarely to the veterinarian. Folks often acted embarrassed, or waited to telephone from home hours or days after the appointment. Perhaps they felt intimidated by the doctor or feared their questions were dumb. Maybe the busy schedule of the clinic offered little opportunity to ask.

Whatever the reason might be, remember that there are no stupid questions when it comes to your beloved cat and dog. As your pet’s top advocate, it’s up to you to arm yourself with expert advice and information to provide the best care possible. Here are some tips to be fear free when asking your vet questions.

Why You Should Ask Your Vet

My career as a veterinary technician began long before “Dr. Google” or “Alexa” answers. Today, some pet parents rely too much on the Internet to answer questions or only seek the opinions of friends. Even though I am not a vet, I often am asked pet health or care questions. Here’s what I say when ask about pet health or care concerns.

While some online resources like vet schools are terrific, they can offer only very general information and nothing specific about your pets. Your veterinarian has personally examined your dog and cat, possibly run additional tests, knows what treatments have already been tried, and has the most specific and detailed information available.

When To Ask Your Vet

The veterinarian may have a busy schedule, so plan ahead for your questions. The best time to ask questions is at the beginning of the exam. Ask follow-up questions at the end of the visit before the doctor leaves the room.

If you’ve researched from the Internet or friends, you may think you know what’s needed, but ask anyway. Your pet is unique and could have very different needs than Aunt Freda’s dog’s. Once the doctor has examined your pet and explained any treatment, be sure to ask for any necessary clarification before you leave the clinic.

How To Ask Your Vet

Very often it’s not what you ask, but how you ask that gets the most out of your veterinary visit. The staff may become frustrated by pet parents who base questions solely on “Dr. Google” research that may not be applicable or that could be dangerously wrong.

That said, veterinarians want pet parents to be invested in caring for their cats and dogs. Recognize that the doctor and many of the staff studied for many years to attain the expertise to offer medical advice and care. You know when something’s “off” about your pet—but the vet has the tools and ability to figure out the cause and what to do about it.

By all means, explain to the doctor your concerns, and what research you may have done. Here’s how to ask:

“I found out (XYZ) from (what source). Could that have any bearing on what’s happening with my pet?”

What To Ask Your Vet

Specific questions vary depending on why your pet needs veterinary care. Whether the exam is routine or you have a health concern or emergency, consider asking some or all of the following questions, depending on the situation:

Is my pet a healthy weight?

Should I change my pet’s food? How and why?

What can I do to help him/her maintain dental health?

Which preventive flea/tick products do you recommend, and why?

How often should he/she receive vaccinations or titers for which diseases?

Why does my pet (fill in the behavior), and is that normal? What can I do about it?

Can you recommend a trainer/behaviorist/groomer/boarding facility?

When should I be concerned about (behavior, activity, appearance/demeanor) change?

What are the testing or treatment options? Will they cure, manage, or delay the problem?

How much will the test/treatment cost? Can you please explain the bill to me?

If this was your pet, what would you do?

When a pet suffers an emergency or a serious diagnosis, even when you ask questions and receive answers, it can be hard to remember everything. Many doctors provide written reports but they may be written in technical language harder to understand. Most folks these days have the ability to record conversations. So before your veterinarian starts explaining, ask:

May I record our conversation to refer to later? When would it be convenient for me to call back with any questions?

Your veterinarian will appreciate your concern for your pet and your zeal to understand more about his health or condition. And your pet will be the winner because you will be better able to make good decisions about care.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.