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I might be in pet aftercare, but with 6 dogs of my own and being surrounded by pet parents and vets,  I’ve discovered the 5 questions that you shouldn’t be shy about asking your vet.

The one thing I always remember is that my dog’s vet isn’t much different than my doctor.  What I mean is that they are there to treat me and answer my questions. Just like I make a list of all the questions I want to ask my doctor, you should keep a list of questions for your vet.  And, if you’re like me, unless I have things written down, that mental checklist of all those things my dogs are doing that I’m curious (and/or concerned) about, disappear into the ether as soon as I walk into a busy office.  So, here’s your cheat sheet:

  1. What should my pets be eating?  The pet food business has exploded in much the same way that organic food for humans has.  The choices can be overwhelming. And, remember that you’re being marketed to! Pet food is big business and the marketing is sophisticated.  Age, breed, size and activity all need to be factored in. A pet store employee is not the expert you want to depend on.

  2. Is Spike too fat?  I hate to use myself as an example, but I don’t notice the 5 pounds I’ve put on over a couple of months.  It’s a slow process that I gradually adjust to. It’s the same with a pet – a slow weight gain, when you’re seeing and playing them every day, is pretty easy to miss.  If you’ve got a furry dog or a fluffy cat, weight gain or loss is also hard to pick-up. The important part of this is that our pets get heart disease and diabetes just like we do.  Being overweight is just not healthy. Here’s a not so fun fact: 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% of cats are overweight or obese. Conversely, being underweight can be indicative of a chronic condition or illness.

  3. How much exercise does my pet need?  You really do need to ask about this because it changes depending on age, breed and medical condition.  Puppies need several short play sessions and/or walks to tucker them out. Long sessions aren’t necessarily good because of the pressure it puts on their young, growing bodies.  If you have a big breed in the city, they should be walked two or three times a day AND have regular playtime. But Great Danes and, believe it or not, Chihuahuas don’t need as much physical and mental stimulation.  They’re built to be a bit sedentary. Bulldogs have respiratory problems, so exercise needs to be managed. I never realized that cats need 30 minutes of play each day, ideally divided into two sessions. And, Chihuahuas not needing as much exercise is kind of counter-intuitive – it just shows that you need to ask what is the most healthy regimen for your pet.  And, don’t forget to ask what overexertion looks like, too!

  4. How do their teeth and gums look?   You might already be suspicious there’s something wrong if your pet’s breath is stinky.  That and rotting teeth or loss of appetite can potentially indicate periodontal disease. Or, in a worse-case scenario, mean a heart infection called endocarditis.  Bad dental hygiene doesn’t work for you or them!

  5. Can you please explain my bill?  Don’t be shy! Have your vet talk you through treatment plans and their accompanying risks and benefits.  Good vets want to offer the best possible treatment, but if the budget isn’t there, there might be a viable alternative that will be just fine.  

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