Veterinary Visit Checklist: Before the Visit

Do you know what questions to ask your veterinarian?

What questions to ask a veterinarian: Veterinary Visit Checklist: Before the Visit

In the past, when I was going to a vet, whether it was for a scheduled exam or with a medical problem, I just went. What else would one need, right? Show up, bring the dog–that’s it, isn’t it?

Then I came home and realized how many things I forgot to ask or mention.

You can do that only so many times before you realize that perhaps you should get better prepared. I started making notes beforehand, making lists, tracking symptoms. Today, I would not go unprepared. The more you have your sh*t together, the better value you get out of the visit.

How to prepare when visiting your regular veterinarian

Make a list of all your concerns

If you have the time, start a day or two beforehand; you’d be surprised how many times you’ll go back to add things. I put down everything that is bothering me, however trivial it might seem. You never know what’s important and what is not.

Your list should include

  • all symptoms and signs you observed
  • when it all started or how it all happened
  • how often does it happen and how long it lasts
  • when it usually happens (daytime, nighttime, after exercise …)

If the symptom is intermittent, bring evidence

Many times your dog might be limping, showing other signs of pain and act perfectly fine when at the vet’s office. It’s not unusual. As the adrenaline gets going it can mask many symptoms. Other things just happen only from time to time. If you can, videotape the concerning behavior. It is much easier to show than trying to explain or re-enact.

If your dog has diarrhea or vomits, bring a sample. Bring a urine sample. Ideally, you want first-morning pee but you also want the sample to be fresh. Come clean to your vet when you collected your samples and how and how you stored them.

If symptoms are chronic, chart them

With an ongoing issue, I like to keep a visual chart. I include the symptom(s) in question as well as other details and things that I figure might influence what’s happening. Jasmine’s chart got quite elaborate. You can keep a diary too but I find that a visual chart allows seeing any progress, decline or correlations in a glance. It is much easier to glean some information that way.

If the time of the day is relevant, include that in the chart as well.

Be prepared for questions

  • Have your dog’s elimination habits changed?
  • Any changes in appetite, activity level or behavior?
  • Is your dog drinking less or more than normal?
  • Has your dog lost or gained any weight?
  • What are you feeding?
  • Are you giving any supplements or junk food? (do not lie to your veterinarian)
  • Did you introduce any new food items?
  • Are you giving any OTC medications?
  • How about flea or tick medications or collars?
  • Has your dog had exposure to wildlife or farm animals?
  • Had your dog been swimming or drinking water outdoors?
  • Any suspicious vegetation you might have encountered?
  • What about insects, snakes or frogs?
  • Does your dog have a history of eating things that are not meant to be eaten?
  • Does your dog have access to dangerous household items such as cleaners?
  • Did you and your dog travel and where?
  • If you have other dogs, are they showing similar signs or are they perfectly healthy?

The more accurate information you can give your vet, the better they can diagnose the problem.

If you’re visiting a new or a second opinion veterinarian

Beyond the things on the first list, these are things you will need

  • Have all your dog’s medical records transferred beforehand if you can
  • I brief bullet-point medical history
  • Vaccination records and any medications you’ve been giving. Make a detailed list including dosing or just bring the bottles with you
  • Copies of all recent lab work results. The might be included with the medical records but it is always best to have your own copy of everything on hand anyway

How do you typically prepare for a veterinary visit?

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Related articles:
Veterinary Visit Checklist: Before You Leave the Office

Further reading:
Five Questions To Ask Your Veterinarian

Categories: Dog careDog health advocacyVeterinary visitsWellness examsWorking with Veterinarians

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

  1. I really appreciated what you said about taking note of all of your pet’s symptoms if they have anything chronic. My dog is pretty old and he has started having some joint issues that I am worried about. I want to find a good vet to take him to so they can look at his joints and see what needs to be done.

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