The first time that you take your puppy or dog to the vets there will be more information required than on subsequent visits so be sure to arrive to the appointment early enough to complete the questionnaire and information required. Typically this paperwork will include the name and age of the dog or puppy, the breed or breed cross if known, as well any medical history that the owner is aware of. This history should include past vaccinations so bring the dog's vaccination record, as well as any surgical procedures or drug treatments that the dog has been placed on at any time in the past.
In addition most vets will also want to know a bit about the living arrangement and the lifestyle for the dog. Some of the questions you may be asked include:
Is he or she an inside, outside or combination of inside and outside dog?
Are there other pets in the house and are they healthy and up to date on vaccinations?
Are their children in the family and are they responsible for the dog or puppy?
How much exercise does the dog or puppy receive per day?
Does the puppy or dog eat and drink normally or are they always hungry and thirsty or seem listless about food?
How often does the dog urinate or defecate and have you noticed any changes in this routine?
What is the puppy or dog's normal temperament and have you noticed any changes?
Are there any behavioral or health issues that are of concern at the time of the visit?
These questions help the vet and vet assistant get a picture of the dog's life, which can then help interpret various medical results or help in allowing the vet to answer the owner's questions. Be honest and open with the vet as you have to speak for your dog, he or she cannot speak on their own.
Typical First Exam
Usually for a regular first exam or vaccination visit the vet or vet's assistant will start by just petting and calming the dog, trying to relax the dog and make the visit as pleasant as possible. The vet will then weigh the dog, usually by standing on a large floor scale with the dog, then subtracting their weight to get the weight of the dog. With very large breeds the vet may use treats of have the owner work with the dog to get him or her to stand on the scale, which will look very similar to a home treadmill, but will not move.
After the dog is weighed the vet will listen to the dog's heart and lungs, just like a doctor listens to a person's heart and lungs. If the dog is nervous the owner may be asked to hold the dog's head and comfort and reassure the dog. If the dog appears very aggressive the vet may require a muzzle or head restraint be used to ensure that the dog will not bite.
The vet will also look into the dog's eyes and ears and check the teeth. This is usually just a visual examination unless there is something of concern noted. The vet will also check the skin by brushing back the hair to look for rashes, hot spots or possible flea infections.
In areas where heartworms are a problem the vet may draw a blood sample for testing and will typically ask for a urine sample, especially in older dogs. The urine is collected in a small cup attached to a long handle and the owner and the vet assistant take the dog outside. Most dogs will immediately want to relieve themselves, and the vet assistant just slips the collection cup into the stream of urine to collect the sample. Some vets will ask the owner to bring in a small stool sample so the vet can check for worms through a microscopic examination of the fecal material. The vet will also take the dog's temperature and this is done rectally. The vet will usually have an assistant or the owner hold the dog's hindquarters up as most dogs will immediately try to sit down with the thermometer is inserted.
Finally the vet will vaccinate the dog if required, as well as talk to the owner about any concerns they may have. Usually the vet will want to record the feed and amounts of food given, as well as any other information that may be helpful in current or future diagnosis.
What To Look For In A Vet
A vet, like a doctor, can work best with the dog if there is a history of working together. Try to find a vet and stick with him or her as much as possible, especially if your dog has ongoing health issues. When choosing a vet do some research, stop in and look at the clinics and ask a few questions. Some of the key points to consider are:
Is the facility clean and well maintained, safe for your dog and yourself?
Do you know other dog owners that use the vet and what are their thoughts on the professional and his or her staff?
Do you feel welcome when you walk in and does the staff seem genuine in their interest for your dog?
Can the staff and the vet answer your questions or do they seem evasive or too busy to stop and talk even though you have an appointment?
Does the clinic offer emergency services for out of business hours or are they associated with a clinic that does?
Does the vet have knowledge of working with the breed of dog that you have?
Does the dog seem to like the vet and does the vet try to make the experience pleasant for both the dog and the owner?
Does the vet explain what is happening and why it is important?
Does the vet take the time to listen to your concerns and talk to you about several different options?
Finding the right vet is a key in working with someone that has your dog's best interest at heart. Ask various breeders and dog owners in your area for recommendations for a kind, professional and caring vet.