What your vet wants you to know

A good relationship with your vet is essential for the wellbeing of your pets. In this issue we look at those things we don’t always think about, but that are extremely good to know in order for everything to go smoothly in the unfortunate event that your pets get sick.

Is it okay to bring all my pets to one appointment?

Making one appointment to vaccinate a litter of kittens or puppies is in order. Should the litter be very large, be sure to inform the receptionist when making the appointment, as one 15- minute consultation will not be sufficient to examine each individual thoroughly.

Bringing more than one sick pet to an appointment unannounced can cause severe time delays, placing unnecessary stress on your vet and practice staff to catch up on the appointments that follow. Some vets do not work on appointments but on a first-come, first-serve basis. Informing the practice that you plan to visit, including the nature thereof, is to the benefit of all parties involved. Communication is key!

Can my children come along?

Yes! Most vets would encourage children to come with your pets, as a regular consult can be an exceptional positive learning experience for them. Teaching children how to look after and interact responsibly with a pet is central to their upbringing. Encourage your kids to ask questions and be interactive.

My dog gets fearful and aggressive as soon as he enters the consultation room. Can I request that my vet examines him somewhere else on the premises?

Definitely. Once again, if you have an aggressive, very nervous or shy dog, be sure to mention this when you make the appointment and when you arrive, as it takes more time to handle and examine these animals in a way that is safe for all. The waiting room can become a very unnatural and uncomfortable environment filled with nervous pets of various shapes and sizes, so if you have any doubt about the safety of your pet or others, make it known. You are ultimately responsible for your pet and the safety of those handling him. Veterinarians and their practice staff need to handle situations like these on a daily basis, so let them handle it accordingly. Pets often show nervous and unpredictable behaviour when their owners are stressed out; it is therefore important to trust your vet with handling your pet even if you are not in the immediate vicinity.

How do after-hour emergency calls work? Will the vet come to my house?

This depends on your vet and the nature of their practice. In rural areas your vet might be the only one around for hundreds of kilometres and in essence ‘on call’ all the time. In urban areas you have veterinary hospitals that are open 24/7, specialising in emergency care. If you are uncertain, be sure to phone the practice during office hours and get the necessary information, as you do not want to fumble around when you have a real emergency on hand. Remember that after-hour fees apply. Most emergency calls are seen at the veterinary practice, as all the equipment and necessary drugs are at hand to ensure the best treatment for your pet.

I don’t want to unnecessarily bother my vet after hours. How can I tell if I need a vet right away?

In essence there are very few true emergencies that need to be addressed immediately to avoid severe consequences or even death. It appears that modern man is becoming less equipped and confident to treat even minor ailments or apply simple first aid. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to phone, even if it is just for advice. Refrain from giving your pet human medicine if not cleared by your vet.

If your pet shows any of these symptoms, do contact your vet:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • White, yellow, purple or blue mucous membranes (gums).
  • Trauma: hit by a car, broken limbs, severe, unstoppable bleeding, large wounds.
  • Severe and prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Difficulty in birth.
  • Uncontrollable seizures or loss of consciousness.
  • Suspected poisoning.

Can I arrange to pay off my vet bill if I can’t afford the full payment?

In today’s practice small animal vets require full payment before the patient is released from hospital, and they are legally entitled to do so. Most vets are approachable in the case of abnormal or unforeseen circumstances. If you are concerned about the cost of a specific treatment or procedure, communicate this from the start. Unfortunately cost plays a large role in the approach we as vets have to take to treat our patients, and knowing it from the start is crucial. You are entitled to a written estimate of cost for any diagnostic procedure, treatment or procedure before it is started, and most vets require a deposit upon hospitalisation.

Why do some vets keep pets overnight after surgery, and others don’t?

This is dependent on the individual case and the routine followed in the specific practice. In complicated surgeries, your vet needs to monitor the wellbeing of your pet and confirm that the surgical procedure was successful. Should it not be the case, immediate intervention is possible. In routine procedures (such as a neuter or spay) it depends on the anaesthetic protocol used and the time of day surgery took place (am vs pm). In some instances (for example with underlying disease, if the animal is on heat or pregnant) your vet might be concerned about the amount of blood loss during surgery and opt to monitor the patient overnight. Your vet will only release your pet when they feel it is entirely safe to do so.

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