Veterinarians, on average, are pretty busy people. We often mistakenly focus on our sickest patients, and sometimes forget that owners of healthy pets are in need of advice and guidance as well. Although we perform thorough physical examinations, think through our findings and recommendations, and try to cover all of the basics during every visit, we may miss something, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Some people don’t feel comfortable asking the veterinarian questions, or they may think that their question is dumb. There is no such thing as a dumb question! Be sure to get your concerns addressed before you leave the veterinary office. If you are uncomfortable, speak to the staff. Don’t go home wondering about your pet’s care.
Here are five questions to ask your vet that could help improve your cat’s health and lifespan.
1. Is my cat an appropriate weight?
This question has SO many important implications, it may rank as the single best question to ask. This prompts your veterinarian to discuss diet, including dry food versus canned; reminds him/her to review your pet’s weight from the previous visit (both a gain AND a loss may be significant); and gives you insight to your cat’s overall health. Animals who are overweight face one set of potential health problems, while those who are too thin face another. Don’t leave your visit without asking about your pet’s weight.
2. What parasites should I be concerned with given my cat’s lifestyle?
Cats in different parts of the country face different parasites, and those spending time outdoors have more risks than housecats do. Many of these parasites are contagious to people as well. Asking this question will prompt your veterinarian to review your cat’s lifestyle with you, and to be certain that both kitty and family are adequately protected.
3. When will my cat be due for a dental cleaning?
At some point in their lives, essentially all cats will need to have some dental work done. By the age of 5, the vast majority of cats have significant dental disease. These problems are not only painful and capable of causing tooth loss, but the bacteria involved have the potential to damage other organs in the body as well, including the heart and kidneys. Knowing what condition your cat’s teeth are in will help you plan ahead — mentally and financially — so that you are prepared when the day comes that your cat needs to have some dental work.
4. Is my cat due for any routine preventative care besides the reminder I got?
Many veterinary reminder systems are not foolproof; they rely on a human to initially input the data to generate the reminder you get in the mail. Once input, the program simply repeats this reminder as directed. In other words, if your veterinarian recommends a fecal exam yearly, a staff member must first apply this reminder to your pet. Going forward, you will be reminded every year to do this. If, at your initial visit, that information is incorrectly entered, you may never get a reminder for care that your veterinarian actually recommended. Asking this question of the veterinarian (or often, the receptionist) can help to catch these bugs before your cat misses some important care.
5. At what age will my cat be considered a senior, and need additional care and monitoring?
People are often surprised when they get our first reminder for an annual “senior screening.” Intuitively, we all know that our pets age faster than we do, but time flies, and quite frankly, most of us are in denial that our pets are indeed actually getting to be seniors. The threshold for “senior care” varies between practices, as does the actual testing recommended, so knowing what your veterinarian will be advising as your pet ages will help to prepare for that eventuality. Initially, the guidelines may be as simple as twice-yearly exams that incorporate bloodwork, but some veterinarians will recommend more-intensive screening, particularly if your pet tends to be more prone to certain problems. Ask now and save a surprise later!
There are a lot of different approaches to veterinary care, and asking lots of questions — as well as knowing some of the really critical ones to ask — will help you to participate in your cat’s care as part of the veterinary team. As veterinarians, we are very much limited in what we can do for your pet without your help and input. Being a well-educated and proactive pet owner is one of the best things you can do for your pet, so don’t hesitate to ask away!