We love to answer questions from our clients, but sometimes we notice the same questions coming up again and again. To make things a little easier, we thought we’d compile a list of the inquiries that we get most often and share the answers. Please feel free to peruse our list of FAQ’s and gather as much information as you can. If you don’t see your question on this list, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or bring it up at your pet’s next appointment.
01. Why do I even have to go to the veterinarian these days? Aren’t there other options?
Your pet is a member of your family, and in the same way you would never trust medical advice you get on the internet or from your best friend’s sister, you also want to put something as important as this in the hands of true professionals—people who love and have dedicated their lives to helping animals!
Getting one wrong piece of “advice” from what you read on the internet or hear in passing can have terrible consequences, so developing a real and lasting relationship with your local veterinarian is one of the most important things you can do for your pet… and ultimately for you!
02. Since I should have an active relationship with a veterinary hospital, how can I choose the right one for my pet… and for me?
If you have pets, a relationship with a good veterinarian is key. Looking for certain things that are important to you, like convenience (what are their open hours?), reputation (are there others you know who have used their services or can you find any reviews about them online?), will go a long way to helping you choosing the right partner in your pet’s health.
Another component that is very useful in determining the value you might get out of your relationship with a local veterinary clinic is to look at outward signs that it is a quality practice filled with staff that will also cherish your beloved pet. For example, a practice’s website is always a good indicator of how much they are investing back into you; if it looks to be high quality, the team very likely is too!
03. How do I know if I am getting value from the relationship I have with my veterinarian?
A good veterinary practice should be aiming to meet your needs and to make your life—and that of your pet’s—better and more complete. Besides getting good care when you bring your pet in, there are lots of other things a very motivated animal hospital could offer to you that makes the interaction that much more worthwhile.
Or, they may really go out of their way to make sure their website is a very useful tool for you, with built-in forms, maps, information, as well as other functionality, so that your experience with them is as good as it can be.
Good communication, treatment, and follow up is always very important too, so if you ever feel this is not at the level you would expect, most practices would love to get this feedback so they can continue to make improvements and be a real asset in your life. Take the time to address concerns with the practice manager or owner and chances are that the issue will be fixed!
04. What if something happens to my pet but I don’t think it’s too serious…can I just call in for a diagnosis or some advice?
Unfortunately, unless a veterinary doctor has actually laid eyes (and hands) on your pet it is always impossible to say for sure what is going on. Even if it appears to be a relatively minor symptom (like scratching) or occurrence (your cat ate a strange plant from your garden), without looking at other signs and manifestations your vet can never say with any real degree of confidence that things are okay. Because they have a commitment to making things right with your pet, not worse, they would never want to make a recommendation or offer advice based on just a partial picture. This is why they’ve gone to school for eight years and specialized in animal medicine—they are trained to see things and make connections that the average person cannot, and to make sure even small mishaps don’t turn into major losses. Take note: besides being unethical, it is also illegal for a veterinarian to prescribe for any animal sight unseen!
05. What exactly is a veterinarian?
A veterinarian is defined as someone qualified and authorized to practice veterinary medicine. They are medical doctors for animals, and have been trained to diagnose and treat disease and injuries in animals. They administer medication, devise treatments, vaccinate, perform surgery, advise on dieting, and provide general health care.
Veterinarians care for companion animals (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, etc.), horses, production animals (pigs, cattle, sheep, etc.), aquatic animals, and even zoo animals. Different veterinarians may specialize in one area or another. For instance, one veterinarian may be an expert on bird health, while another may specialize in canines. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian if they have a specific expertise.
06. What education does a veterinarian need?
Veterinarians must hold a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, or DVM, to practice as a veterinarian. This is equivalent to a PhD or MD degree, and requires at least four years of graduate school after four initial years of undergraduate coursework. Some veterinary degrees require six years at the university level, as well as more time in pre-veterinary education and clinical studies. After completing their schooling, veterinarians must obtain a license to practice, which requires passing of certain tests and certifications. In addition, they must stay up-to-date on the latest veterinary information throughout their careers by reading the latest veterinary journals and attending seminars and conferences. Feel free to ask your veterinarian about his or her education… they’ll be happy to tell you all about it!
07. Why should I bring my pet in for regular veterinary visits…especially when he/she is healthy?
Just as you would schedule regular doctor visits for yourself or pediatrician visits for your child, it is a good idea to have your pet see a veterinarian regularly. Even if your pet seems to be in perfectly good health, the fact is that you can never tell for sure if something might be wrong until your pet is evaluated by a professional. The peace of mind that comes from knowing your pet is healthy is well worth it! Also, consider this: the cost of treatment is almost always higher than the cost of prevention. Preventative health care procedures like vaccinations and check-ups are far cheaper than treatments for diseases or injuries. For example, say your pet contracts a dangerous virus. A complicated treatment plan will be far more expensive than an initial vaccination for the virus would have been.
08. Veterinarian bills always seem so high…is there a good reason for this?
Consider this: most veterinarians and their staff are in their chosen field for one reason only—they love animals and have a real passion for taking them out of discomfort and keeping them strong and healthy. It is true, however, that veterinary bills can sometimes come as a bit of a surprise to the pet owner, especially when you may only be seeking a small procedure or a routine check-up. But once you realize a few things about the level and type of service you are getting, the reason why this is the case becomes so much clearer. For example, most veterinary practices are much more than that—they are actually self-contained hospitals, complete with surgical suites, exam rooms, labs, recovery areas, and so on. Covering costs to maintain such a facility means that across-the-board prices have to be at a certain level, otherwise it would not be possible to bring these extremely vital services to you and others in your community.
09. After I have my pet microchipped, is there anything else I need to do?
The microchip itself should continue working throughout your pet’s lifetime without any maintenance. However, the microchip won’t do you or your pet any good unless you keep the information in it updated. If you move or change your phone number, contact the microchip manufacturer to have your pet’s implant updated. That way, should your pet get lost or wander off, he or she will be returned to the correct and current address.
10. Will microchipping hurt my pet?
Implanting a microchip under your pet’s skin will not hurt him any more than a standard vaccine would. Your pet may feel a slight pinch, but any pain or discomfort should be over extremely quickly. After the chip has been implanted, your pet will not even know it’s there.
11. Can I get health insurance for my pet? If so, what’s covered?
Yes. Health insurance for pets works a lot like health insurance for humans—there are premiums, deductibles, and various levels of coverage. It’s up to you to decide what level of coverage you think works best for you and your pet. Obviously, different coverage levels cover different services and procedures. Generally, more basic coverage will take care of routine office visits, checkups, and diagnostics while more advanced coverage might include prescriptions, procedures, surgeries, and treatments for diseases. Be aware that pet insurance plans will most likely contain certain restrictions and limits, just like regular insurance. Your vet can tell you more about health insurance for your pet, as well as offer recommendations and considerations if you decide to make the purchase.
12. I brought my pet to see the veterinarian for a problem, and my pet isn’t getting any better. What can I do?
Before you call your veterinarian, make sure you’re aware of the timeframe for treatment and recovery. Did your vet tell you that your pet might take a day or two to start showing positive signs of getting better? Did they advise you that your pet’s treatment won’t yield instant results? If the timeframe isn’t an issue, and you think your pet still isn’t getting better, call your veterinarian immediately. They may need a follow-up examination to check your pet’s progress and condition. From there, they can obtain more information and make a diagnosis. If your pet isn’t improving with the treatment your vet gave him, let them know and they will do everything in their power to help your pet.
13. Does my pet have to get a full set of vaccinations to get a rabies certificate? What shot(s) are absolutely necessary for my dog/cat and how much do they cost?
Only a rabies vaccination is required to get a rabies certificate. Be aware, though, that your pet will probably need a full physical exam before the vaccine can be administered. Your veterinarian can tell you what shots and vaccines are absolutely necessary for your dog and cat. They may discuss “core” vaccines that every pet should have, as well as additional preventatives that your particular pet might require. Costs for these additional vaccines should be minimal. It is important to remember that the initial cost of preventative medicine is much less than the cost of treating diseases or infections later.
14. Is there some way to ensure my pet stays as healthy as they can be, but still make it affordable in terms of vet visits?
The better care you take of your pet at home, the less money you’ll have to spend on visits to the vet’s office. By maintaining your pet’s health in terms of diet, weight, exercise, hygiene, and grooming, you will avoid the need to see a professional on a frequent basis. Obviously, you’ll want to bring your pet in for regular check-ups and to get the proper vaccinations and shots—ask your vet about spacing check-ups and vaccination visits out in order to ease the financial burden. And of course, in the event of an emergency, you’ll want to take your pet to the local veterinarian immediately. It is a good idea to have a “pet emergency fund” set up for such events—simply set aside $5 or $10 a week, and in a couple of months you’ll have a substantial reserve to draw from in case something unexpectedly happens to your pet.
15. My cat doesn’t go outside. Why should I put him/her on a heartworm/flea/tick preventive?
Think about this: have you ever seen a mosquito or other insect inside your house? Of course you have! Your cat may not go outside and come in contact with these parasites, but they certainly can come inside and come in contact with your cat. Mosquitos carry heartworm disease, and can get inside your home and infect your cat. Fleas and ticks can enter your house by attaching to your shoes or clothing, so every time you come home you could potentially be putting your cat at risk. There’s really no way to stop these insects from coming in contact with your cat, but you can have your pet on heartworm, flea, and tick preventative to protect them from the diseases these parasites carry.
16. My pet has the same thing wrong that he/she was just treated for. Can the veterinarian just prescribe the same medication that he/she did the last time?
While that may seem like the easiest solution, it is certainly not the correct one. Your pet’s symptoms may be the same, but their disease may be quite different. Multiple diseases have the same symptoms, or at least similar ones. You may be fooled into thinking your pet’s issue is the same as what he or she was just treated for, when in fact the problem is something entirely new. Your veterinarian needs to examine your pet to make sure they are given the correct diagnosis. Giving your pet medication or treatment for the wrong thing is not only ineffective and potentially dangerous but a waste of your money as well. Be sure to bring your pet into the veterinarian’s office if he or she exhibits symptoms of any kind.
17. Which pet food should I feed my dog/cat?
Each individual pet has different nutritional needs, so there is not one all-encompassing answer for which pet food to give to your dog or cat. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a pet food that is good for your dog or cat. Keep in mind that a pet’s nutritional requirements change as they grow and age. Depending on their stage of life and health situation, you may need to change the food you are giving your pet. Again, your veterinarian can tell you what to feed your dog or cat, as well as advise you on proportions, ingredient lists, and specific nutritional requirements.
18. Why does my dog/cat need to have a blood test before starting heartworm medication?
Giving heartworm preventative to dogs or cats that are already infected with adult heartworms can be harmful and even fatal to the animal. A blood test before starting any medication will tell your veterinarian if your pet is already infected. Heartworm preventatives kill off heartworm larvae—the medicine does not kill adult heartworms. An owner might think his cat or dog is fine if the pet is on a heartworm preventative, but if the pet was already heartworm-positive, the disease is only worsening and the heartworm preventative is not helping.
19. Why should I spay or neuter my pet? Why does it cost what it does?
There are long-term health benefits to your pet when it is spayed or neutered—it can lower the risk of several cancers and diseases. Ask your veterinarian to explain these benefits. Obviously, the primary benefit is controlling the pet population by regulating the number of unwanted pets. Spaying and neutering requires surgery, and surgery requires anesthesia. The cost of spaying and neutering procedures includes the anesthesia, the veterinary team’s time and knowledge, surgical equipment and other medicine, hospitalization, etc. Keep this in mind: a litter of unwanted puppies or kittens will cost far more in the long run than having your pet spayed or neutered early on.
20. I recently lost my pet, and I’m having trouble dealing with the loss. Where can I find help?
Dealing with the loss of a pet can be as difficult and upsetting as the loss of any family member or loved one. Pet owners treat their companion quite literally as a member of the family, confiding in them, celebrating with them, and building emotional bonds that are as real as those in any human relationship. Many veterinary hospitals, as well as professional organizations and therapists, offer counseling for those grieving over the loss of a pet. Call your veterinary hospital to find out if they offer these services—even if they don’t, they can refer you to someone who can help you through this challenging period. There are also pet-loss hotlines and Internet pet-loss support groups. Ask your veterinarian about these services as well. Remember: it’s okay to grieve for your pet, and you don’t have to face this difficult time alone.