One of our responsibilities as pet owners is making sure our pets are kept healthy. This means a good diet, exercise, training, attention and, of course, veterinary care. There are some things you can handle at home such as a temporary tummy ache or achy joints. But check-ups by your vet and keeping up with vaccinations is crucial.
If you can find a vet via word-of-mouth, you are very lucky indeed. Most of us, especially when moving to a new place, don’t know where to go. First, check the American Veterinary Medical Association. It has state veterinary medical association contact information online. You can also browse Vetratingz.com for vet ratings by state.
Location and hours: Make sure these are convenient for you. The closer you can find a vet, the easier it is to take a sick dog in.
Accreditation: Does the veterinary hospital have AAHA accreditation?
Attention to pets: Ask how much time the vet schedules for an initial consultation/visit. It should be at least half-an-hour.
Emergency care: Find out if the office offers emergency care and, if not, which emergency vet care they are associated with.
Cleanliness: There should be no pet messes in the front area. Likewise, the exam room should be pristine and obviously sterilized. Also, your vet and her assistants should have clean coats.
Credentials: Your vet’s diplomas should be on display in the exam room. She should be willing to discuss her education and training and areas of expertise.
Organization: Is the office organized? Is there enough room in the waiting room so that pets aren’t on top of each other?
Does she listen and answer all of your questions? Is she gentle with your dog? Is she well informed and up-to-date? Is she willing to refer you to specialists if need be?
Weigh-In: The first thing most vets do is weigh your dog. This is to insure he’s a healthy weight and also helps them determine medication doses.
Hands-On Exam: Your vet will run her hands all over your dog. She should approach your dog slowly and be very gentle to put him at ease. This way she can look for any lumps or swellings, check that his stomach feels healthy and notice any signs of pain.
Point Check: Your vet will also check your dog’s nose and ears and anal glands and teeth. She’ll also check his coat to make sure it looks healthy.
Common Tests: Your vet will test for Heartworm, Lyme Disease and other blood tests, including those for Diabetes, kidney disease, and hormonal problems.
Vaccinations: Your vet will give your dog any needed vaccinations. Please see below for details.
Medications: Your vet will suggest any needed medications such as Heartworm or Glucosamine (for hip dysplasia)
Quick Check Over: Your vet will do a thorough intake with you re: the problem and check your dog’s vital signs.
Finding the Solution: Your vet will most likely have a quick solution for everyday illnesses such as diarrhea or a sprained ankle. If she doesn’t, she should consult with any other vets who are at the clinic and offer to call a specialist.
Puppy Vaccinations (over six to sixteen weeks of age):
Core Puppy Vaccines: Parvovirus, Hepatitis, Distemper, Rabies (at one year)
Non-Core Puppy Vaccines: Respiratory disease from canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), Parainfluenza, Bordetella, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, Lyme
Dog Vaccinations (yearly):
Core Dog Vaccines: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Rabies (some vets offer three-year vaccines), Lyme (usually twice a year)
Out of the pet vaccines listed, only the Rabies vaccine is required. However, if you board your pet, Bordatella is usually required by the kennel. Lyme Disease is not a problem everywhere. Puppy vaccinations are always recommended but some people feel the vaccinations actually destroy the immune system. Likewise, some dog vets feel that the immune system makes anti-bodies from the puppy vaccinations and, therefore, annual shots (except Rabies) are not needed.
Veterinary pet care has become very advanced and is partly responsible for the increase in our dogs’ lifetimes. Once you find a good match in a vet, it makes it easier to maintain your dog’s health. But good nutrition, exercise and a good home are just as important. Your dog’s health is in your hands.