The excitement of getting a new puppy comes with great responsibility – that tiny little life is now in your hands! Your veterinarian will be your partner in ensuring that your dog stays happy and healthy for the rest of his life, and therefore it is up to you to do your research before you even get your pup – you will have to choose your vet in time, and also learn how to be a considerate client.
How to choose your vet
Remember to do your research, so that you know exactly what kind of services you would need from your veterinarian. For example, if your dog has a specific medical condition, you will have to find a vet most suited to handle it. Here are a few pointers:
Word of mouth If you have friends with pets, ask them where they go and why.
Appointments Some practices require that you make an appointment, while others don’t. Decide what suits you best.
Location A practice that is close to your home is often more convenient.
Staff Is the staff caring and competent? Do you trust them with your dog?
The facility Is the practice clean?
Emergencies Find out what kind of emergency services are available. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and it’s important to have access to veterinary care in such a case.
Your annual check-up is a must
As a responsible pet owner, exercising good preventative care should be high on your list of priorities. In some ways, annual veterinary visits compensate for the fact that pets cannot tell us how they’re feeling, as undetected issues can often be picked up during the consultation. Not only intended to administer annual inoculations, annual check-ups are also an effective tool for detecting early warning signs for disease and other problems, especially as pets age. They may also benefit your pocket, as treating full-blown ailments can become an expensive exercise.
Five tips for making the most of annual appointments
- Keep a list of all the questions about your pet that cross your mind throughout the year, so you can discuss these with your vet when you’re next there.
- Often veterinarians can offer guidance on behavioural issues or refer you to a qualified behaviourist for assistance, so be prepared to address any behavioural concerns you may have.
- Keep a list and diary of unusual behaviour to assist your vet with diagnosis.
- Use the session to re-evaluate your pet’s dietary needs, as changes in age, size and health often call for a change in diet. There are many health concerns that can be addressed with a simple change of diet.
- Also discuss new developments in parasite treatment, such as tick and flea prevention, as new, improved products are always being launched.
Although keeping up to date with annual check-ups is strongly advised, there are certain ailments that cannot wait for this once-a-year appointment to come around. Make an immediate appointment if any of the following concerning signs are noted:
- Excessive thirst, lethargy or unexplained changes in appetite or weight
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhoea, especially in the absence of eating and drinking, or constipation
- Discovery of any lumps or bumps
- Coughing, laboured breathing or shortness of breath
- Increase in temperature, pulse or breathing rate
- Abnormal discharges containing pus or blood
Fight the fear!
Some dogs end up with an aversion to going to the vet, and who can blame them? They are in an environment different from their home, and there is a stranger who does all sorts of weird things to them – many of which really hurt!
Sadly, we cannot explain to our dogs why we put them through this. Just imagine being able to say to them: “Don’t worry little guy, we need to do this to make sure you stay happy and healthy, and I will be with you all the way!” But as we can’t, it is essential to resort to other methods to help them cope. Dr Amanda Haechler gives the following advice: “I would recommend that you take your dog to your vet for ‘friendly’ visits. This involves you taking your dog into the practice without anything unpleasant happening to him. You can weigh him, chat to the receptionist, try to give your dog a treat, and then take him home. Repeat this two to three times a week until you can see that he is more relaxed. Once he is more comfortable, start taking your dog into the consulting room, putting him on the table, giving him a treat, and then taking him home. When he is more comfortable with this, ask your vet to come and greet your dog, and to examine him gently. Your vet should then give him a treat before you take him home. This is to try to recondition your dog so that he is less scared and stressed when he goes to the vet.”
Source: Pet Food Industry of South Africa