If you think back to the past few doctor appointments you have had, whether with a general practitioner, a dermatologist, an orthopedist, or an internist, they all tend to have a similar structure. Upon entering the exam room, you are asked several questions in order to determine your symptoms and their duration as well as to rule out possible causes. Then, the doctor performs a physical exam to help decide what diagnostic tests would be most pertinent to the case. Each of these three components (the history, the exam, and the diagnostics) are equally important in establishing a diagnosis so that a treatment plan can be initiated resulting in a resolution of the problem.
A veterinary exam has the same structure but with some significant differences. While the history and physical exam are no less important for us, we can’t ask our patients when they had their last bowel movement or if it hurts when pressure is applied to a certain area. That is why I often say a veterinary exam is very similar to that of a neonatal pediatrician. We both must rely on our patient’s caregivers to supply us with a full and accurate history so our exam can address the problem(s) and we can eliminate unnecessary diagnostics (ie. save you money).
So in order to be fully prepared to provide us with a thorough history, we ask that you heed the following suggestions. And if for some reason you are not able to be present for the exam, make sure you are able to be reached easily or you send someone who knows your pet as well as you do.
- Pay attention to any changes in your pet’s behavior and make note of their duration, frequency, and severity. Has there been any coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea? Any decrease in appetite or increase in thirst or urination? Is their energy age appropriate?
- If your pet is on any medications or supplements, know the name, dosage, and frequency of administration. Some medications can have serious and sometimes deadly consequences when mixed.
- If you have travelled to other states or countries with your pet, even if it was years ago, please let us know. While fungal diseases and certain parasites are not very prevalent in Colorado, they are rampant in other areas and can remain dormant for long periods of time before becoming symptomatic.
- If you are bringing your pet in due to ocular or nasal discharge, please don’t clean it off before the appointment. The color, consistency, and amount of these substances can be very helpful to a veterinarian.
- If you are bringing your dog in for urinary or fecal issues and you don’t have a fresh (less than 3 hours old for urine, 6 hours for feces), refrigerated sample for us, please don’t let them go right before the appointment. That will make it much easier for us to collect a sample while you are here. Also, a fecal sample that is frozen, hardened, or that has been on the ground for more than a few minutes is not able to be analyzed.
- If you are scheduling a vaccine appointment but also have other concerns (lumps, limping, diarrhea, etc.) please mention them when you are making the appointment . This will ensure that enough time is scheduled to address these issues.