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Congratulations on your new pet! You’re joining the ranks of the 84.6 million households that have welcomed a pet into their homes.1 Having a cat or dog is a serious responsibility. About six to eight million companion animals end up in animal shelters each year.2 Often, the issues boil down to problems that could have been avoided by seeking the help of veterinary services.
Over 63 percent of owners consider their pets a member of the family.1 It only makes sense to make sure that they receive proper health care. The average annual cost for veterinary expenses is about $477 for a dog and $390 for a cat.3 It’s about the same that you likely will spend on food—and it’s money that is well invested. After all, a healthy pet is a happy one.
How to Prepare for the First Visit
If you adopted your pet through a shelter, breeder, or pet store, you probably received some paperwork that provided details about previous medical treatment. It’ll contain a summary of things, including:
- Vaccination history
- Information about other treatments, medications, or surgeries
It’s essential to bring it with you to your first visit. Some vet clinics prefer to get this information before the appointment. Be sure to ask for a copy for your own records. Most likely, your pet has been spayed or neutered. The latest data estimates that it is the case for about 85 percent of owned dogs and 93 percent of cats.1 In fact, it’s often a requirement for an approved adoption from a shelter or rescue group.
As a family, you should discuss who will be responsible for the care of the pet. That person should be at the appointment. Just like with your own doctor, it’s important to establish a rapport with your veterinarian. It’s something that the animal hospital at Fort Collins encourages. Also, consider questions that the veterinarian might ask you, such as whether you intend to breed your pet or if you’ll allow your cat outside.4
Plan on some extra time for that first appointment. You’ll need time to fill out the paperwork to get you and your pet into the clinic’s computer system. Have your basic information available to speed up the process, such as:
- Your pet’s birth date
- Microchip number if applicable
- AKC registration information if applicable
- Pet insurance information if you have a policy
Also, plan on how you’ll transport your pet to the clinic, whether it’s a short drive across Fort Collins or a long haul from one of the surrounding communities. Make sure you bring your dog to the appointment wearing a collar and a leash. A carrier is an ideal way to take a cat to the vet. Remember that your pet will be nervous, too. Being in a room with barking dogs will add to the stress factor.
As a courtesy to the clinic, dog owners should plan on walking their pets around the grounds before bringing them into the building. Having a couple of treats with you can also calm an anxious pet.
What to Ask the Vet, and Why It Is Good to Ask
There are several basic questions that both dog and cat owners should ask. Others are specific to the pet. When you make your appointment, ask about payment and insurance. For example, some facilities may not accept checks. If your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and other services, you’ll probably just pay a fee for an office visit.
Your first visit will focus on pet wellness. The vet will spend some time allowing your dog time to settle down from the excitement of the waiting area. She’ll let your cat walk around the exam room. Once your pet seems more comfortable, she’ll move on to the external examination.
She will spend time looking at your dog’s coat for evidence of fleas, ticks, or other skin conditions. She’ll check his eyes and ears for any signs of problems.
Ask the vet what are the specific things she is looking for as she exams your pet. If she finds something of concern, make sure to have her show you what she has found so that you can recognize its signs, too. If your pet has a medical history, she may ask you some questions about it and about any follow-up care.
Vaccinations are one of the main topics you’ll discuss with the veterinarian. Undoubtedly, she’ll bring up the topic first. Feel free to ask questions about specific requirements for Larimer County5 or the state of Colorado, especially regarding rabies vaccinations. Your city may have additional requirements.
All pets, indoor or outdoor, must be vaccinated against rabies. It’s imperative to remember that rabies is almost 100 percent fatal once symptoms appear, in both humans and animals. However, that isn’t the only vaccination your cat or dog will need to get.
Cats, for example, will need annual boosters for the following:
- Feline herpes virus type I
- Feline distemper
- Feline calici virus
Your vet may suggest additional preventive care if you allow your cat outside. That’s why you as a family need to make these decisions before the first visit, to make sure your pet gets everything she needs. They may include:
- Feline immunodeficiency virus
- FeLV or feline leukemia
Dogs have different requirements. In addition to rabies, the core vaccinations include:
- Canine adeno virus-2 (hepatitis)
- Canine distemper virus
- Canine parvo virus
There are other ones that your veterinarian may recommend based on your dog’s risk of exposure. They may involve things like hunting or boarding. Again, decisions for these things are something you should do in your preparation for the first visit. Other vaccinations include:
- Lyme disease
- Para influenza
Some diseases are more prevalent in certain areas than others. Your vet may ask about travel to places where there is a greater risk. If you take your dog hiking, you should ask about getting a rattlesnake vaccine, too. Prairie rattlesnakes,6 for example, are found throughout the state.
List of Example Questions
To make things easier, let’s run down the list of questions you should ask during your pet’s first appointment with a veterinarian in Fort Collins, as they apply to your situation. The list starts with business questions and moves on to preventive care that applies to both cats and dogs.
- What pet insurance does the clinic accept?
- Should I get pet insurance?
- What emergency veterinary clinic do you recommend for after-hours care?
- Do you offer a payment plan for costlier medical procedures?
- What do you recommend for flea and tick prevention?
- Does my pet need heartworm prevention, too?
- What do you recommend for a check-up schedule?
- Do you board pets, or can you recommend a service?
Dog owners will benefit from asking some questions specific to their pet. Veterinarians have a lot of experience dealing with problem situations. Nip a potential issue in the bud with professional advice. Possible questions include:
- What additional vaccinations do you recommend for a hunting dog?
- How do I remove a tick?
- What can I do about a barking dog?
- How can I keep my dog from chewing the furniture?
- What should I feed my dog? How much?
- How do I clip my dog’s nails?
- Does the clinic offer puppy playtime?
- Can you recommend a dog trainer?
What about unusual behavior, such as licking paws or acting aggressively?
Cat owners also should take advantage of the expertise a veterinarian has, too, with issues specific to their pets. Doing so will foster a good relationship and help prevent re-homing.
- What additional vaccinations does my outdoor cat need?
- Is it okay for my cat to hunt rodents?
- What are the signs of common health problems in cats?
- What should I feed my cat? How much?
- How do I trim my cat’s nails?
- How can I prevent my cat from scratching the furniture?
- Why does my cat hide all the time?
- How often should I clean the litter box?
- How much should my cat be drinking each day?
No question is dumb. The smartest ones are those that you ask. That’s especially important for first-time pet owners. It takes time to learn what normal behavior is for your new cat or dog. Bear in mind, it’s a learning process for them, too. They need to get familiar with the day-to-day activities at your house and figure out their new routines.
Here at Advanced Animal Care of Colorado, we understand how important it is for you to get the information you need and the compassionate care for the new addition to your home. Call us today at 970-493-3333 to schedule your pet’s first appointment.