These tips are good for both first time pet owners and veteran pet parents!

By Zachary Pollack, BVM
March 31, 2021
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Woman holds happy adult bulldog in arms at vet
Credit: simonkr / Getty

Have you ever taken your pet to the veterinarian and drawn a blank when trying to answer their questions or weren't sure how to prepare for your first-ever visit with your new pet? It's OK—we've all been there.

Appointments at the vet's office are sometimes stressful or overwhelming to pets and humans alike, and preparing for the visit can improve the quality of experience for you and your animal. Ultimately, most pet health care occurs at home, and the more efficiently you can use your time with the veterinarian, the more you can collaborate and bring their expert advice home with you.

By writing down a few simple observations before the visit, you can maximize your time there and get more from your appointment.

Top Four Ways to Prepare for Your Vet Visit

1. Be Prepared to Answer (and Ask) Important Questions

Veterinarians either begin or end their examination by asking if you have any questions or concerns. What is pressing to you is extremely relevant as you are your pet's primary health care provider. However, the visit to the clinic may be stressful or your thoughts may slip your mind in the moment. Because of this, it's helpful to write observations about your pet and any questions down ahead of time so you and the vet staff can address them together without having to come back for another appointment. This may include—but is not limited to—any new lumps or bumps, a smell from their mouth, a place your pet itches, a new behavior, or a limp.

2. Know Your Pet's Food and Eating Habits

Your vet is very invested in your pet's nutrition. Although there are separate nutritional specialists for animals, all veterinarians need to know the best diet options for your pet's health. The bond between humans and pets is strengthened with food. Pet health specialists understand that, so it's OK to tell them about any treats and table scraps your pet gets—they probably share with their pets, too!

When it comes to sharing info with your vet, honesty is the best policy. It's better to cover the entire diet than for them to think your pet may have put on weight without any extra treats or diet change, which could incline them to test for metabolic or endocrine changes. Before going to your appointment, take note of the brand of food and treats you use. This information is useful to your vet as they try to help manage your pets' health, while not restricting their treats completely. Weight management is important for your pet's longevity, bones, joints, skin, energy, and gastrointestinal system. When the vet knows the components of your pets' diet, you can work together to create a tailored feeding strategy that keeps everyone happy and healthy.

3. Don't Forget Flea and Tick Preventives

Veterinarians always ask if you use any flea and tick preventives. Whatever your preferred method, it is good to share that with the vet so they can include that in the history of your pet. If you do use a parasite preventive, write down the brand before coming to the vet—it will tell them a lot about what your pet is protected against. A good flea and worming strategy can improve your pets' skin, appetite, behavior, and health.

4. Your Pet's Bathroom Tendencies

Every appointment with a veterinarian will include questions about your pet's eating and drinking, bathroom habits, and any vomiting. Your answers to this topic are like a treasure trove of information to the vet. Write observations about your pet's tendencies before the visit to help make the exam productive. What you noticed can tell the veterinarian useful information about your pet's gastrointestinal system, dental health, kidneys, metabolism, endocrine system, and more.

Some vets may even ask you to bring in a fecal sample. While picking up poop is definitely one of the less-fun aspects of pet parenting, it will give your vet crucial information into your pet's health. It's a sure way to get more out of your visit.