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What Your Vet Wishes You Knew: How to Prepare for Your Next Visit

7 min read

Updated - Mar 7th, 2022

As a dedicated pet parent, you want to give your fur baby the best life possible, and taking care of your pet’s health and wellness is a huge part of that. You know that the ultimate health resource is your veterinarian – but how do you make the most of your time together?

We can tell you that a little preparation goes a long way. Whether you’re coming in for your annual wellness exam or an unexpected sick visit, these tips will help set you up for success. Let’s dive in!

1. Make a list of everything you want to cover

With so many new sights, sounds, and smells, a trip to the vet can be overwhelming for your furry family member. It’s easy to forget your healthcare goals when your pup is romping around or your cat is exploring the exam room. That’s why it’s important that you jot down a list of any questions or concerns you have prior to your visit. Make a list and check it once you arrive at the vet hospital! This way, you can be sure everything is communicated to the veterinary team when you check in, and you can easily reference your notes afterwards.

Tip: Check your vet’s website for a “documents and forms” tab. Complete these forms before your visit to save time in the waiting room, especially if your pet tends to be nervous.

2. Schedule your pet’s appointment well in advance

Be sure to schedule your pet’s appointment as early as possible if you have a preferred time or a favorite doctor. Most vet practices will schedule you at a selected time of day with enough notice. They may even have a scheduling link on their website so you can lock in appointments months ahead of time. Remember: Primary care vet hospitals are the ideal care facilities for wellness needs, whereas emergency rooms and urgent care facilities are best for sick visits and emergencies. If you’re bringing your pet in for a routine check-up, avoid urgent care facilities as they use a triaging system that can extend wait times for non-life-threatening needs.

Tip: If you have an anxious pet, ask when the hospital tends to be the least busy. You can inquire about scheduling directly after your vet’s lunch break or first thing in the morning. If you have an anxious dog, you may also implement Fear Free behavior modification and socialization techniques prior to the appointment.

3. Consider pet insurance

The truth is, pets get sick or hurt all the time, and the cost of vet bills can add up fast. Pet parents are forced to make difficult decisions when money is tight, but when they find out their bill is covered by pet insurance, they experience incredible relief. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider getting pet insurance before your next vet visit. Keep in mind that most providers have waiting periods and don’t cover pre-existing conditions, so the sooner you get it, the better. Pumpkin’s pet insurance plans cover 90% of your eligible vet bill, only have a 14-day waiting period, and it’s so easy to get a quote. Best of all, it helps you to say ‘yes’ to the best care.

4. Start the experience at home

What many pet parents don’t realize is that the vet visit experience starts before you even get in the car. For cats, it’s important they become accustomed to their travel carrier well before the vet visit. Place your carrier in a low-stress area of the home for at least 3 days before the appointment. You can add their favorite treats, catnip, and even comforting synthetic feline cheek pheromone into the carrier to encourage your cat to step inside and explore. This will help to reduce fear and anxiety during transport. In a purrfect world, the carrier would be omnipresent in the feline household, but even a few days before travel will do the trick.

If you have an anxious kitty, and know you have about five minutes in the exam room until they go wild, knowing the weight of their cat carrier can come in handy. For example, if you already know the weight of their carrier, your cat can stay in their cozy hideaway while they’re weighed on the scale. If you subtract the weight of the carrier from the total weight of your cat in the carrier, your vet will know the weight of your feline friend. This is also very helpful when your vet wants to order the correct drug dosage in advance. Label your cat carrier with the carrier’s exact weight for next time! Weight of Carrier with Your Cat – Weight of Carrier = Your Cat’s Weight

Tip: For active dogs, consider a long walk before wellness appointments to burn off extra energy. If your dog is new to a leash, practice walking on a short non-retractable leash before you come to the hospital. If you’re having trouble with pulling, try a training harness where the leash clip is located on the front of the chest for better control. In some cases where pets have behavioral considerations, your doctor may recommend calming medications or a desensitization program. If your pet acts out of character at the hospital, consult with your veterinarian about a pre-visit anxiety protocol.

5. Come hungry!

So long as there are no health contraindications, bring your pet hungry. If you have a food-motivated pet, you can provide maximum distraction with their favorite treats. For example, if you’re bringing in your rambunctious puppy for their vaccines, set up a stuffed food puzzle to keep them occupied, or if your cat is particularly nervous, bring along a satchel of their favorite catnip. This way, you won’t have to stress about their behavior and they’ll receive a thorough exam. Bringing in your pet on an empty stomach also allows your vet to collect fasting blood work as needed. When your pet eats a fat-containing meal before blood collection, the sample can become “lipemic” or fatty.

Tip: If your pet is having a surgery or procedure, ask your veterinary team what the fasting protocol is for your pet.

6. Send over any historical medical records

Your veterinarian will want all of your pet’s historical records sent over prior to your appointment. When your pet is checked in by the veterinary team, be sure to describe important medical history and provide their most recent vaccination record. The last thing you want is to waste valuable time with your doctor by shuffling through paperwork. Take advantage of this one-on-one time and ask all of your burning, pet-related questions.

7. Don’t skimp on SOAP

It’s not bath time, but don’t overlook the importance of SOAP! SOAP is a method veterinary teams use to record medical notes. The “S” stands for subjective, which is your pet’s medical history, the “O” stands for objective, which is your pet’s physical exam, “A” stands for assessment, which is the diagnosis, and “P” stands for plan, which is your pet’s treatment plan. A technician often records your pet’s medical history before you even see your vet, and many people tend to overlook this critical step. It’s important that you share all the pertinent information with your technician so that they have it transcribed on the record. Tip: Important information that’s often overlooked or misremembered is a current medication list. List the dose size, frequency of administration, and when you gave it last.

8. Set reminders & schedule rechecks

Unfortunately, not all pets will receive a clean bill of health which means that you may have some post-appointment homework to do. Follow your vet’s care recommendations and schedule follow-up appointments before you depart from your appointment. We understand life is busy, but your pet’s health should be a priority. Try your best to set calendar reminders for monthly flea prevention dosing, six to 12-month wellness visits, and an annual dental cleaning.

Though simple, these tips will help you optimize your time at the vet immensely. Remember that just like you, your vet wants to see your pet happy and healthy – so taking a little extra time to prepare will help ensure that this happens at your next visit and beyond.

Pumpkin Pet Insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For full terms, visit pumpkin.care/insurancepolicy. Products, discounts, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Pumpkin Insurance Services Inc. (Pumpkin) (NPN#19084749) is a licensed insurance agency, not an insurer. Insurance is underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company (NAIC #21113. Morristown, NJ), a Crum & Forster Company and produced by Pumpkin. Pumpkin receives compensation based on the premiums for the insurance policies it sells. For more details visit pumpkin.care/underwriting-information and pumpkin.care/insurance-licenses.

Veterinarian
Dr. Stacy Choczynski Johnson is a veterinarian and strategic sales representative at Pumpkin. Our resident veterinary expert, Dr. Stacy has 12 years of clinical experience and over 20 years of experience working with animals ranging from kittens to beluga whales.