Whenever you take your kitty to the veterinary hospital, it’s always a good idea to arrive with a written list of your questions for your veterinarian. You may have a crackerjack memory, but it’s easy to become forgetful or distracted in the hospital setting. After your veterinarian is through explaining things, you can reference your list to see if all of your questions have been answered.
What are the right questions to ask? In addition to the questions that pertain to your cat’s specific health issues, I recommend asking the five general questions below. By the way, it is important to ask them at each annual visit as the answers may change from year to year.
1. Is my cat at a healthy weight?
While it’s unusual for a healthy cat to be too thin, it’s very common for an otherwise healthy cat to be overweight. A study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 53 percent of cats were overweight. Just as in people, feline obesity predisposes to a number of health issues with diabetes at the top of the list. Veterinarians sometimes fear pointing their finger at the fat felines in front of them for fear of offending their clients. Asking the question yourself will make it easy for your veterinarian to have candid conversation about your cat’s body condition.
2. What should I feed my cat?
Speaking of body weight, how about learning more about what type of diet will best support your cat’s health. Ask about canned versus dry food and whether or not your veterinarian prefers a particular brand for your kitty. Recommendations will be based on your cat’s life stage (kitten, adult, middle age, senior), lifestyle/activity level, and health issues.
3. Which vaccinations are appropriate for my cat?
There are no “one size fits all” vaccination protocols. In order to answer this question, your veterinarian must know a good deal about your cat’s lifestyle. What is his prior vaccination history? Does he ever go outdoors or contact other cats? How many kitties are there in the household? Where does your cat stay when you go out of town? Also, let your veterinarian know if your cat has ever experienced a negative reaction to a vaccination.
4. Should I be doing anything differently at home?
Your veterinarian may recommend that you change things up at home for your kitty. Her request might be as simple as increasing litter box access for your older cat with a bladder issue or as complex as obtaining blood sugar measurements from your diabetic kitty (of course, any such requests are always subject to negotiation).
5. When should I bring my cat back?
Whenever you and your kitty see your veterinarian, always find out what is supposed to happen next. Perhaps your vet would like you to call her in a couple of weeks with an update on how your cat’s cough is responding to medication. She may ask that you bring your cat back to her office for a follow-up visit in four months. Or, if your cat is in excellent health, your next recommended visit may be in a year. The goal here is to always come away with a plan.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
5 Questions All Cat or Dog Owners Should Ask Their Vets
Bring this list of questions to ask your vet at your next appointment.
Ms. Wells is a staff writer at Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The New York Times Company.
Whether you’re a lifelong pet owner or a first-time adopter, a trip to a rowdy and crowded vet’s office can be a frazzling experience. I was once so distracted by my dog Sutton’s incessant licking of her lips, an indicator of stress, that I forgot all about my mental checklist of questions until after the appointment ended.
If your attention is easily diverted by your pet’s antics or you get nervous around doctors, make a plan. To ensure history doesn’t repeat itself, I now save my questions, along with my pet’s medical history and dietary notes or troubling symptoms, to my phone ahead of every visit.
Dr. Leni Kaplan, a clinician and lecturer with Cornell’s Small Animal Community Practice, said in an email interview that owners shouldn’t feel embarrassed by coming in with a list of questions. “Veterinarians have pets, too, and have often faced the exact challenges our clients face,” she said. “The more questions we can answer, the more successful owners and veterinarians will be in delivering the best care possible.” Here’s what both novice and experienced pet owners should always ask their vet at their next wellness exam.
Latest Blog Posts
A typical series of the questions I commonly get is, “Doc, how often does my pet need to go for a checkup?” This question is often then followed up by a pet owner stating their pet is mostly indoors or around the house and is not exposed to many other pets or diseases, and eats and acts totally normal.
The answer to such questions will vary depending upon the individual pet, in terms of his or her age, lifestyle, and risk of exposure to other animals and/or infectious diseases. Animal guardians often don’t realize many people can act as what are called “fomites,” which means we can carry infectious diseases into our pets — even those strictly inside or that stay in the yard. The best example of this is canine parvovirus, which can live in the soil for years and can survive in oral or fecal secretions that we may carry in on our shoes or clothing, especially if we handle other pets or go where pets are typically walked or may roam.
Proper but not over-vaccination can help prevent such infectious diseases. The frequency and type of vaccinations your pet will need will again be determined by your pet’s age, lifestyle, and general state of health. We’re starting to learn that immunity to many core viruses in dogs and cats lasts for several years, making annual vaccination for many diseases unnecessary and overkill. However, it’s important for us as veterinarians to re-educate clients away from the need to only see the veterinarian just for shots when that time comes, and to stress the importance of an annual or semiannual physical exam in older pets. These exams may include a complete oral and physical exam, as well as blood work, urine testing and/or x-rays to detect early diseases seen as pets age.
Conditions like periodontal disease are seen in the majority of pets past middle age, and early heart, kidney or liver problems can be detected by a thorough exam and bloodwork, urine analysis, x-rays and EKGs if needed. As with people, middle aged and older pets can suffer from hormonal conditions of the thyroid gland as well as diabetes, which when detected early on, can be more easily managed. Annual microscopic stool exams can detect microscopic parasitic eggs that sometimes pose risks to humans, as well as annual blood testing for the mosquito-transmitted heartworm disease. Both tests should be completed to insure both your dog and cat aren’t harboring potentially dangerous worms.
Various flea and tick preventative products can help you and your veterinarian come up with the right product or group of products to help protect your pet against fleas, ticks and other external parasites. The selection of the appropriate heartworm and intestinal worm preventative is also important to stay current on so your pet remains protected against both heartworms and intestinal parasites.
Over time, more vets are stressing earlier preventative dental programs using great dental products like C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste or C.E.T. Rinse to help prevent tartar buildup, premature tooth loss, gum inflammation, and oral pain, as well as secondary infections elsewhere in the body that begin in the mouth. Even with regular dental preventative care, many pets will still need their teeth cleaned periodically with ultrasonic scaling, which is another reason to see your vet once to twice yearly. And as a perfect example of early detection, if an older pet is diagnosed with clinical symptoms related to early heart disease, newer and revolutionary prescription drugs like Vetmedin, have been shown to actually enhance survivability of dogs when used early on in the course of this disease.
All of these reasons are why your pets should have at least one annual exam, and semiannual exams for older pets. Most veterinarians are aware of the current economic stresses of modern times and will work with pet owners on which tests and products are necessary for their individual pets, based on their lifestyle and physical exam findings.