1. Online information is a minefield. Just as with humans, medical advice about animal health on the Internet can be alarmingly misleading at times. If an odd behavior has you worried, call your vet. If it's after hours, try going to Pearl.com. For about $15 to $30, you can consult with the site's licensed veterinarians around the clock. Simply curious about something? Wendy Hauser, DVM, recommends HealthyPet.com, VeterinaryPartner.com, HealthyCatsforLife.com and AVMA.org for free, reputable information.
2. Pricey tests can be subsidized. We all want what's best for our pets, but sometimes a procedure is unaffordable. "Vets can try to help you find subsidized care options through pet aid organizations," says Dr. Hauser, a board member of the American Animal Hospital Association, Lakewood, CO.
3. You may not even need to talk to us. Much like nurses, vet technicians have the education and training to address many of your questions on the spot, so you don't have to wait for a call back from the doctor. "Over the phone, they can assess whether your pet needs to come in to the office or an urgent care facility or not. If it's an emergency, the vet technicians can also triage and get you booked right away," says Julie Legred, CVT, executive director, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.
4. Protecting your pet safeguards your family. Once a tick hitches a ride on your cat or dog, the same bug can easily change hosts when you touch your animal and bite you. Preventive health strategies, such as monthly deworming and flea and tick control products (not only in summer), benefit pets and people.
5. Your pet may be more than "pudgy." In a study by Pfizer Animal Health, 47% of vets felt their canine patients were obese, while only 17% of dog owners agreed. Vets know how tempting it is to slip treats to a pet, but obesity can lead to chronic health problems or premature death. If your vet says your pet is overweight, strategize with her to develop a better diet for your furball.
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6. We know you don't always brush their teeth. Yes, it's tough to get a toothbrush into your pet's mouth, but vets urge you to keep trying. "This is not a cosmetic problem, it's a health hazard," Dr. Hauser says. "The bacteria that cause dental disease can lead to heart, kidney or liver disease." Ask your vet for at-home methods and her preferred dental chews to use between professional cleanings.
7. It's OK to ask us to repeat ourselves. If you're not sure what the game plan is, have your vet write it down. If you still don't understand, ask her to walk you through it until you do. Or bring someone with you to be a second set of ears. If the vet asks for something that you cannot or won't follow (say, an MRI for your elderly dog), let her know so you can discuss alternatives.