Big dogs usually only go to the vet for two reasons: for their annual exam and vaccinations, or if there’s a problem. So with that limited time at the vet, how do you make the most of it? Here are a few ways to get the most out of each vet visit.
1. Choose the right vet. What is “right” depends on what you and your dog need. Is your dog more comfortable around men or women? Do you want a vet who makes house calls? Does your dog have special needs? Do you feel comfortable asking the vet questions? Is the vet familiar with the specific needs and issues of your dog's breed? Choose a vet that will meet your needs and your dog's needs, and one who will take the time to educate you on the best care for your big dog.
2. Get to know your vet’s staff. There are times when the staff can answer questions if the vet isn’t available – vet techs are a wealth of knowledge – so get to know them too. And if your dog recognizes and likes the staff, it will be less scary to him when they walk into the room.
3. Be observant. In between visits, take note of any unusual behaviors your dog has. Does he get stiff in cooler weather? Are his bowel movements abnormal? Does he seem to have allergies? Keep track of anything out of the ordinary, writing them down if you need to, so that you can address all issues with the vet. This goes for behavioral issues too: some behavioral issues are rooted in medical problems, and if they’re not, a good vet will tell you when a trainer or other professional is needed.
4. Do your research. If you think you know what the problem is that your dog is having, take some time to research it beforehand. It may answer some basic questions and raise other, deeper questions that your vet can answer better than the internet can. This research will also help you understand your vet’s answers better. If your vet recommends a procedure that you are unfamiliar with or unsure about, ask your vet questions and do further research before making a decision (unless it’s an emergency, of course). When you have time, don't be afraid to get a second opinion.
5. Ask about alternatives. When your vet makes a recommendation, ask what other options are available. Often times the first recommendation given isn’t the only option. For example, I was told that Nala (pictured above, at the vet) needs to lose some weight. In addition to more exercise, the vet recommended a prescription food sold at their office. When I asked what other options there were, we discussed non-prescription foods and homemade dog food, and the pros and cons of each compared to the prescription food. I now understand it a lot better and can make a better-informed decision for my big dog. Ask for alternative explanations as well - when I talked more about Nala's weight with the vet tech, she explained that if diet and exercise don't help, there may be a thyroid issue that can be diagnosed through blood tests. Knowing this, I can keep an eye on her weight loss and go back to the vet if need be.
Your dog can’t talk to the vet himself and is counting on you to help him get the best care. By following these suggestions, you’ll be prepared to get the most out of each vet visit.
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