How To Talk To Your Vet

Jan 7, 2015 · Updated Dec 15, 2016 · ·
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  1. Anne
    Vets bustle in and out of the exam room, talk about symptoms and prescriptions and rarely have time to really explain or listen to your concerns. That’s fine if there’s an emergency elsewhere in the clinic, but otherwise an appointment should allow time to consult about general question on aging, seasonal queries about fleas or how to keep an arthritic cat comfy during colder weather.

    Here are some tips about which topics you can and should bring up during your appointment, and how to approach them.

    Plan Ahead

    Make a list of questions before you go to the appointment. It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially if Kitty does something cute (or embarrassing) during the exam. You don’t want to get home and realize, oops, forgot to ask the most important thing.

    When the vet comes into the room, mention you have some concerns you’d like to discuss after she checks Kitty over. That way you’ll both remember and the vet won’t be off to the next appointment before you can get the list out of your pocket.

    During the Appointment

    Take notes as the vet talks. You don’t want to get home and not be able to remember just what he or she said to do. Tell the vet, “If I don’t understand something while you’re talking, I’ll just raise my hand, okay?” It will keep his attention more focused on you that way.

    It’s not hard to ask questions of the vet. Mostly, just let him know you have questions to ask, keep to the point and be sure to say thanks when you’re done.

    What to Ask Your Vet

    Keep your questions to the point. The vet’s time is as valuable as yours so don’t say things like, "My friend has a cat who…" Keep on the topic of your own cats and concerns about them.

    New cat concerns

    For a rescue cat, whether from a shelter or off the street, your concerns might be more about parasites or diet. You’ll need to know which tests are done and why. Many times, rescues are gluttonous little guys. They never knew when the next meal would be so they take advantage of any food they see. This might include the food on your dinner plate if you’re not fast enough.

    Behavioral issues with your cat

    The vet might not be much help if Kitty is just showing signs of youthful exuberance but sometimes weird behavior is an indicator of a physical problem. Older cats may walk around the house crying. Kitty could just be complaining in general or saying she’s in pain.

    Your cat's diet

    Weight gain or loss is always a concern, especially if the change is sudden. Questions are definitely a must in those cases. Regardless of fluctuations in the cat's weight, your vet should be the first one you should talk to about Kitty's diet. While he or she may not be a feline nutrition expert, your vet should be able to tell you if your cat's medical condition requires specific nutritional adjustments, and may refer you for a consultation with a proper pet nutritionist.

    Other Treatments To Consider

    If you're considering changing your cat's diet, adding supplements or using alternative therapies, you should definitely discuss these with your vets first. Do your research online prior to the appointment and ask your vet for his or her opinion.

    Establish Follow-Up Protocols

    During an appointment, hopefully the first, discuss the ways in which you can reach the vet for follow-up questions.

    Ask about return phone calls: If you have a question, are calls returned the same day? When is it okay to do what the vet tech says without talking to the vet himself? If it’s an emergency, will the staff break in on an appointment to put your call through? When you do make that call, keep it short. You wouldn’t want your appointment to run behind or be interrupted by another client.

    Emails are a great way to communicate with your vet. Some vets use email regularly, while others rely on their staff to print out emails, and then relay their reply via the phone. Talk to your vet and see if email works for them, or if they prefer phone calls. When writing an email, read it several times before hitting the "Send" button. Make sure it's short and precise, yet recaps all the important details and clearly sums up your questions.

    Having open lines of communication between you and your vet is very important for your cat's health. Don't be shy and don't hesitate to get all the information you need. It is in the best interest of all concerned.


    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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  1. maiaelizabeth
    youre paying for the vets time so his/her focus should be on your cat. i would probably walk out.. lol nah i dont think its rude to call them out if you feel theyre not paying attention.. its a lot of money youre paying so the most important "person" in the room is your cat!
  2. pisces7386
    What about talking to a vet who doesn't pay attention to you?
    I had brought my cat in for a suspicious red spot on his foot (turned out to just be irritation/dry skin) . After the vet looked at it and we discussed it I asked her what she thought of his weight. She looked at the scale (not at him) and told me that he was actually heavy and she suggested I be careful not to let him gain any more weight. She didn't even look at him, never mind touch him! (the tech had been holding him and the vet really only looked at his foot). He is large, fluffy, long haired, and fixed; at the time he was 14 months old and weighed 14.5 lbs. I was kind of shocked that she didn't look at him! I tried twice to redirect her attention to him, but she did/said the same... don't let him gain more.
    Is there any advice on talking to a vet who doesn't seem to be paying attention to you? Would any of you consider being 'rude' and asking why they won't look at the cat as an individual? I have to admit the only reason I didn't raise a fuss at the time was that I had called only an hour earlier and they had been able to fit me in (even though the waiting room was empty).

    (side note, since then I have done more research on cat weights; my cat is now up to 15 lbs 2 oz and I feel very comfortable with gaining a bit more)
  3. kittymomma1122
    Great info.  When I am having issues and they are seeing my cat later in the day I drop off stool/urine samples early in the morning with a list of symptoms, diet log, litter box log and when and what if they vomitted. The vets staff has time to review and run test on samples for my appt later in the day.