Preparing for Your Next Vet Visit

If you have ever returned home from a vet visit and realized that you forgot to ask an important question, you are not alone. It’s easy to become distracted during the appointment, particularly if your pet is frightened or anxious. Preparation is the key to ensuring that all of your questions and concerns are addressed during the visit.

Bring Medical Records

Bring any records you received if your pet visited another veterinarian or received treatment from an emergency clinic since your last appointment. These records provide important information about your pet’s health and will help your vet prepare a treatment plan if there is an ongoing or chronic problem.

If this is your first visit with a new veterinarian, ask your previous vet to transfer your pet’s records a few weeks before your appointment. Records offer details about your pet’s medical history, previous illnesses, surgeries and illnesses, and provide other information that your new vet will find helpful.

Note Recent Changes

Your vet needs to hear about any changes in your pet’s health or daily routine. Tell him or her if you have recently changed the brand of food your pet eats or if another veterinarian prescribed a new medication. Changes in your pet’s habits can be a sign of illness or injury. Make a list of any recent changes and bring it to your pet’s appointment. The following types of changes should be discussed:

  • Changes in bathroom habits. Does your pet urinate more or less frequently than normal or have trouble urinating? Have you noticed diarrhea or constipation?
  • Water intake. Do you have to fill your pet’s water bowl more often lately, or is your pet suddenly uninterested in drinking?
  • Behavior. Have you noticed a difference in your pet’s energy level or interest in playing?
  • Physical signs. Note any symptoms that concern you. These might include lumps or bumps, frequent vomiting or difficulty walking or jumping.
  • Appetite. Has your pet’s appetite changed?
  • Weight. Has your pet recently gained or lost weight?

Ask About Samples

Avoid a return trip to the office by asking if the vet wants you to bring a stool sample with you when you visit. If a sample is needed, find out how large the sample must be and how it should be collected and stored. In some cases, your vet may request a urine sample. If you have a dog, getting the sample may be as easy as placing a container under the urine stream when your pet urinates. Getting a sample from a cat can be a little more difficult. Your vet may suggest that you use a special type of cat litter. Because this litter isn’t absorbent, you can simply pour the urine from the litter box into a container.

Bring a Carrier or Leash

Even the best-behaved dog or cat can become overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells at the vet’s office. If your pet is frightened or feels threatened, it may try to escape or might become aggressive toward another animal. Maintain control by using a leash, crate or carrier.

If the only time you use a leash or carrier is when you visit the vet, your pet’s stress level may rise the minute it spots these items. Walk your dog on a leash occasionally before your visit, even if he or she usually roams your property without one. Make your pet’s crate or carrier a tempting place to rest by placing a soft cushion and toys inside.

Questions to Ask When Considering Which Pet Health Insurance to Buy

We all love our pets and many consider their pets to be their furry children. When they get sick we want to be able to take care of them properly. With technological advances in veterinary medicine, much more is available now in both diagnostics and treatment. Procedures such as MRI’s, CAT scans, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment are all common but they can be quite expensive. Many people are now considering pet health insurance to help with the costs. It is important to ask the correct questions when interviewing companies that offer this insurance, so you know what you’re getting.

Pet health insurance is different from “human” health insurance in the way that with pets, the doctor is paid first and then the pet owner is reimbursed by the insurance company. There are several companies offering pet health insurance in the United States and they differ in their policies. Other companies offer pet insurance in other countries. Some companies offer different levels of care. There basic plans that cover accidents and illness, as well as premium plans that cover all aspects of health and wellness.

Most plans do not cover pre-existing illnesses, and this may be important in how other symptoms are covered by your plan. If your pet, for instance, has an ear infection in its history, ask if in the future the pet is diagnosed with an allergy, but with other symptoms, if that will be covered. An ear infection is often caused by an allergy. If your cat has been treated in the past for vomiting, and is later diagnosed with another disease that can cause vomiting such as IBD or kidney disease, will that be covered?

Another issue with the pre-existing clause is that it is important to ask if your pet is evaluated for coverage when first obtaining the insurance, or with each renewal. For instance, if after you get the insurance, it pays for treating your dog’s ear infection, will another ear infection treatment be covered next year?

Many plans do not cover “genetic” diseases. With advances in DNA studies, veterinary medicine is discovering more and more diseases are genetic based. It is important to ask what diseases they consider to be genetic for the breed that you own.

Some policies cover only up to a certain age of your pet. Some do not cover prescription drugs or dental disease. Others have a yearly or lifetime dollar limit.

Most companies have a deductible and then pay a percentage of the bill, usually 80% to 90%. Some companies have a set dollar reimbursement for each problem or procedure.

Another consideration is whether to obtain a basic or premium plan. It is important to compare the costs of each option. In many cases, it may be more prudent to purchase the basic coverage.

A small percentage of pets are covered by health insurance at the present time but this is expected to change in the near future. More than 1600 companies, including Google and Office Depot, offer pet health insurance as an optional employee benefit.

Saving On Pet Costs Doesn’t Mean Reducing Care

Having a pet can cost owners hard earned money. There are food costs, recreation or pet-sitting costs, grooming fees and veterinary visits. When you want to save on the dollars you spend keeping your family’s pets healthy and well remember that reducing their care is not the first choice to make. Reducing care usually means reducing veterinary visits, omitting recommendations veterinarians make, delaying vaccinations, dental care or surgery, or purchasing nutrient-lacking foods and reduced-quality medications. It is possible to maintain your pet’s well being and save on pet care costs.

Quality Foods
Veterinary Secrets Revealed by veterinarian Andrew Jones asks, “What is going in your Pet’s Mouth? After surgical procedures, food is the second most expensive item for pet owners. Individually, Americans spend about $250 a year on food for their pets making it a $15 billion industry. I firmly believe that a big key to avoid the excess veterinary expenses is by feeding your pet the best quality food you can. Diet is a big key to a healthy pet. The healthier the pet the more you save on vet costs.”

Multiple Pet Discount
Multiple pet discounts are often offered at veterinary clinics and offices. Owners must ask about the discounts and their availability. Remember that office policies in pet care establishments can change occasionally. Be kindly consistent in asking if multiple pet discounts are available. If this discount is not provided at your current veterinarian’s office, ask that the doctor consider it for patients and families in the community.

Senior Discount
Reduced fees or discounted pet services for senior citizens are often offered at veterinarian offices. It’s a good idea to ask when you schedule your appointment if this discount is available to you. The discount may be recognized on a “by request only” basis. This means you probably won’t see a notice about it posted anywhere when you visit the office for vaccinations, check ups or food purchases.

Vaccinations
Vaccinations must be maintained on a regular basis for your pet’s best health. Sometimes vaccinations may be reduced or delayed due to your pet’s health. Your veterinarian can help you recognize circumstances that may require delaying, omitting or reducing vaccinations for your pet. Talk with your veterinarian in advance about the consequences or any problems that could arise if recommended shots are not given.

Medications
Your pet may require medications on an on-going basis or after a surgical procedure. Medications can be conveniently purchased at your veterinarian’s office while you are attending a visit with the doctor. If you want to save on the cost of medications for your pet, talk about it during your visit with the doctor. Medications are oftentimes readily available through Internet purchases and discount Websites. Your vet will help you make informed decisions about these purchases before you make them. Your veterinarian will also help you avoid providing medications for your pet that are sub-standard in quality. You’ll also want to be sure the dosages of reduced cost or discounted medications will meet your pet’s needs.

The Canine Genome and DNA Testing

Have you ever looked at your adopted dog with its short legs, shaggy hair and brown spot encircling one eye, and wondered what dog breeds are in there? Now that science has decoded the DNA of dogs, science can tell us many things. Harvard and MIT programs unraveled the canine DNA sequence in 2006, which unleashed the potential for useful information. Since then, many companies have begun doing genetic testing for dogs.

Two main types of information are gleaned from testing: identifying what breeds are in a mixed -breed dog and looking for the presence of genetic mutations causing disease. Now that we know what genes are normally present and in what order, we can compare any dog’s genes to that normal. We know the normal order of genes for most of the dog breeds. Scientists have also found that many diseases have a genetic basis, and have found genetic markers for them.

Some people want to know what dog breeds are represented in their cross-bred dogs. Most want to know just for the fun of it, but there is an advantage to knowing, in that you can predict some behaviors or diseases that are prevalent in certain breeds. If your dog has any Border Collie or Australian Shepard in it, it will likely need a lot of exercise, and not be a good dog for living in an apartment. If your dog has any Boxer in it, you would know to watch for heart disease, lymphoma, and tumors in general. The reports identify which are the major breeds in your dog, and also find the breeds that are represented to a minor degree.

There are three main companies performing dog breed identification. The Wisdom Panel can detect the most number of breeds, 157, and is done on a blood sample, so a visit to your veterinarian is needed. More information can be found at wisdompanel.com. The Canine Heritage Company can identify 105 breeds and uses a sample from a cheek swab. More information can be found at canineheritage.com. The BioPet Company can identify 63 breeds and uses a cheek swab; the kit is sold at many pet and on-line stores. Their web address is biopetvetlab.com.

More valuable to veterinarians is the fact that now we can test for some diseases using genetic tests. The laboratory looks for genetic markers, that is, changes in the DNA sequence that have been shown to be associated with a certain disease. An example is a genetic mutation in Dalmatians discovered by University of California at Davis researchers. Most mammals metabolize the amino acid purine (found in meat) into allantoin, which is excreted into the urine. But, people, great apes, and some Dalmatians produce uric acid instead of allantoin. This concentration of uric acid in the urine causes Dalamtians commonly to form urate stones in their bladder, and surgery is needed to remove them. The identification of the genetic mutation now enables breeders to correct the problem.

Another genetic condition we can test for is Von Willebrand’s Disease, a blood clotting disorder common in Doberman Pinschers. These dogs do not clot their blood properly, and are at risk for severe hemorrhage even with a simple surgery. Many veterinarians recommend that all Dobermans have this test before they are neutered or have a hysterectomy (spay) or any other surgery. If they are shown to have this disease, they can receive a plasma transfusion to replace the missing clotting factor before their surgery.

The ability to test for genetic reasons for disease is a huge leap forward in medicine. The future not only will show more diseases that have a genetic basis, but hopefully a method of changing or eliminating these mutations.

Vaccine Reactions in Pets

Vaccines are intended to stimulate the immune system. In effect, they induce the response the immune system should have in the face of a real infection. They are like a fire drill for the immune system. As a result, our pets’ bodies can have appropriate vaccine response symptoms as well as unexpected adverse vaccine reactions.

Normal or Expected Vaccine Response Symptoms:

  1. Soreness at the site of vaccination / itchiness. Small gauge needles are used to administer vaccines in the subcutaneous space between the skin and underlying muscle. There is no penetration into the muscle, but the local immune response causes inflammation and often soreness at the site. In most pets this soreness can persist for a few hours up to 2-3 days.
  2. Swelling at the site of vaccination. In some cases with dogs, inflammation results in immune cells crowding the injection site, causing a lump or firm swelling at the site of vaccination. In most pets this will go away over a few weeks or months. Your veterinarian can distinguish between a vaccine reaction and other types of tumors by sampling the cells in the lump.
  3. Decreased appetite/tiredness / fever. As the vaccine is stimulating the immune system your pet can experience symptoms similar to those of a person who receives the flu vaccine. A reduction in appetite, increase in sleeping, or a lack of energy are normal for 2-3 days after vaccination.

If your pet experiences any of these symptoms it is important to notify your veterinarian so it can be documented in your pet’s medical record. However, none of these reactions are a reason to stop vaccinating your pet against infectious diseases.

Abnormal, Unexpected, and Possibly Dangerous Vaccine Reactions:

  1. Repeated vomiting and/ or diarrhea. If your pet begins vomiting or having diarrhea after a vaccination it is important to notify your veterinarian and have your pet examined. Often these symptoms do not lead to dangerous reactions, but your veterinarian can prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms and may elect to modify your vaccine schedule.
  2. Facial swelling / hives. Immediately return to your veterinarian if your pet experiences these symptoms. Swelling can be an early warning sign of a severe reaction and your pet needs to be medicated and monitored. Again, this may not be a reason not to vaccinate.
  3. Loss of consciousness / disorientation / seizures. If your pet is unconscious, stumbling, or has a seizure — go immediately to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency hospital
  4. Difficulty breathing. If you see your pet struggling to breathe or he is unable to breathe (the gums and tongue may appear dark in color or purple), go immediately to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency hospital.

If your pet experiences a vaccine reaction, from mild to severe, it is important that you notify your veterinarian and any future veterinarians so that appropriate measures can be taken to ensure your pet’s health.

Source:

Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association 2005 Oct 1;227(7):1102-8, Adverse events diagnosed within three days of vaccine administration in dogs

Veterinary Laser Therapy Eases A Pet’s Pain

Laser therapy is a cutting-edge technique in veterinary medicine for managing many conditions, including chronic pain in pets. Class IV (cold) laser therapy is especially effective for treating pets that struggle with osteoarthritis pain whether or not they have orthopedic surgery.

Cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate blood flow and increase circulation. It is not a surgical laser which cuts tissue, but a laser with different wavelengths to help heal tissues. The laser may even be used as a part of acupuncture in place of the needles.

Your veterinarian will first assess a pet’s pain management needs to determine whether he or she is a good candidate for laser therapy. It is not recommended for pets with cancer to have laser therapy as it could worsen or spread the malignancy. The doctor will create a custom treatment plan. Dogs and cats generally receive the greatest pain relief benefits from a series of eight to ten sessions, usually starting two to three times weekly, tapering down to weekly appointments.

Treatment sessions are tailored to each pet’s individual needs. Smaller dogs may only need eight to 10 minute sessions. A larger dog that suffers from arthritis in multiple joints may benefit from a longer, 30-minute session. During a treatment session, the pet reclines on a table or may even lie on a blanket on the floor. Some veterinarians will even dim the lights and play soothing music, creating a mini “spa” experience for the pet. Your veterinarian may allow you to be present for these sessions, but you will need to wear special goggles to protect your eyes.

Pets that undergo orthopedic surgery may need up to six months of recovery time. Physical therapy helps the pet to recover and become active again. Laser therapy is a common adjunctive treatment that allows faster healing of the surgical incision, and also helps to relieve the arthritic pain.

Many arthritic pets respond positively to laser therapy. In fact, some pets even fall asleep during treatment sessions as it is the first time they are finally able to relax and not be in pain.

In addition to helping manage arthritis pain, veterinary laser therapy has numerous other applications. Treatment with a Class IV laser may help heal wounds, treat skin disorders such as lick granuloma, and help surgical skin incisions heal faster.

Sources:

LiteCure LLC

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