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30 Jul

How to Choose A New Veterinarian

How to Choose A New Veterinarian

How to Choose A New Veterinarian

How do you know which veterinarian is the best choice for you and your pets?

Do you ask friends? Ask your old vet (depending, of course, on why you need a new vet)? Call the local animal shelter? Just go to the closest clinic?

All of those alternatives have been tried, of course, and with some success. But why are those successful ways to locate a new doctor for your beloved pet?

If you have a normally healthy dog or cat and only need to see your vet for annual exams and routine shots, etc, chances are if you are treated politely and the expense is reasonable, you will probably recommend that veterinarian to others. But what if your pet has a life-threatening or debilitating condition that stretches the veterinarian’s knowledge? Now the choice is of paramount importance. What do you do?

If you are new to where I live, you will find a plethora of choices in Lewisville and surrounding areas from which to choose. All of our local veterinarians boast the latest in equipment, clean clinics, and ample staff. And no, I’m not going to recommend a vet for you. This is where your work begins.

Google “veterinarians in Lewisville, TX” and see what turns up. Probably the first result you’ll see is a map with the locations of seven or more flags showing the locations of veterinarians in the immediate vicinity. Now, obviously, you’ll probably want to choose the clinic nearest where you live. That makes the most sense, particularly when your fuzzy friend has ingested something horrible or fallen down the stairs or suddenly starts having convulsions. You know what I mean. That awful moment when his life flashes before your eyes and you realize you could lose him forever.

That’s why it’s important to become acquainted with your new vet long before any of this kind of thing occurs.
Now that you’ve got that map in front of you, notice that in light blue to the right of the telephone number you see a link for reviews. CLICK THAT LINK. Really. Do it.  And read every review. What you find there might surprise you, or even better, might save your animal’s life.

What you’ll see in these reviews will range from people who have used the same vet for generations and only wish their own doctor was as good, to those who lost a pet due to what is apparently the neglect or ignorance of either the staff or the vet himself.

While I find the positive reviews helpful, what I think is more so are the ones who tell the stories of bad experiences. (It’s interesting to note that the positive reviews seem to “gush,” while the negative ones present the facts of the situation.) What I found was in some cases heart-stopping. Figuratively speaking for me, but quite literally for some of the pets.

One of the reviews I read told about a tumor that concerned the owner but not the vet until it was too late. If you aren’t comfortable, go elsewhere.

Lesson: Follow your gut.

Another cited a story of a stray kitten that was pronounced healthy but then infected the rest of the owner’s cats with a fatal disease.

Lesson: Know your veterinarian’s practices for examining a new animal coming into your home.

Several reviews told of pets who died after being pronounced healthy by the veterinarians who apparently did not do more than a cursory exam when a more exhaustive one was indicated. Lesson: insist that the doctor tell you what he did in the exam and why. You’re paying for it—you have the right to know.

Money will always be an issue. I found it amusing that every complaint about money said that the veterinarian charged two or three times as much as “other vets,” but I didn’t read a single one that said that this was the “other vet” who charged reasonably.

Lesson: Ask your vet for a services schedule with prices.

Discuss his fees at each visit, for each visit. Don’t assume that because you paid a specific price once means that you’ll always pay that price. Make sure you know what tests will be performed and the cost of each, and leave a written letter in your file asking the doctor to call you to discuss any tests or procedures not authorized in the initial visit. (I write down—in front of my vet— everything he says he will do and which tests he will run, and then ask him to read it and make sure I understood each thing correctly. Believe me, he’ll be much less likely to do unauthorized procedures if he knows you are fully aware of what is being done.)

Reviews are very helpful, but don’t rely on them for all of your information. Before you need it, make an appointment to visit your vet of choice and have him (or her) do a tour with you. Be willing to pay for this appointment, as this choice could mean life or death to your beloved pet.

03 Jun

Your Pet’s Healthy Skin

Your Pet’s Healthy Skin

Your Pet’s Healthy Skin

Healthy pets have healthy skin.

With summer here, many pets will have more skin problems than they experience in cooler months. It’s important to keep your pet’s skin as healthy as you keep his insides, and in order to do that, you need to educate yourself about skin issues in dogs and cats.

When your pet’s health is compromised, it is often seen first in skin problems. Itching, scratching, chewing and licking are all indications that something isn’t right. Many things—and combinations of things—can cause skin disorders, including:

  • external parasites
  • stress
  • diet
  • infections
  • poor metabolism
  • allergies

How can you tell if your pet’s skin is in need of medical treatment?

Here are some common signs, and if you see them present, it is wise to take your animal to see his vet.

  • scratching, licking, rubbing or chewing in excess
  • ear infection or inflammation
  • scabs or scaly patches
  • dandruff or dry, flaky skin
  • irritated skin
  • unpleasant odor from the skin or ears
  • swelling or hives
  • bumps or lumps
  • hair loss, baldness, or excessive shedding
  • “pimples”
  • redness, inflammation or rash
  • hot spots (areas of intense discomfort)
  • drainage of blood or pus
  • changes in hair or skin color

happy-dog-set-23

There is a wide gamut of reasons your pet may be experiencing discomfort in his skin. Here are some of the more common reasons:

  • fleas
  • ringworm
  • lice
  • mange mites
  • ear mites
  • infections
  • allergies to food or environment
  • skin tumors
  • stress
  • grooming products

What will your veterinarian do to diagnose the problem?

First, a thorough physical exam. If the problem isn’t apparent with this exam, other diagnostic tests may be performed. Some common tests include blood tests to check overall health and hormonal situation, cultures to check for fungal infections such as ringworm, allergy testing to determine sensitivity to environmental factors and possibly a diet change. Additionally, your vet may check for yeast or bacterial infections via a skin impression, or a skin biopsy may be necessary to check for cancer.

There are some basic things you can do to make sure your cat or dog doesn’t have skin problems.

Here are some helpful tips.

  • Bathe your dog regularly and be sure all shampoo is rinsed out of his coat
  • Brush your dog frequently to remove mats and debris and to check for problems arising
  • Feed your pet a diet recommended by a veterinarian
  • Prevent parasites with a regular parasite-prevention regimen or flea-treatment program
  • Use products your veterinarian recommends to help assuage problems before they become health issues
  • Be sure the area where your pet sleeps is clean

A regular check up with your pet’s doctor is a key component to making sure your pet stays healthy. Our dogs get regular twice-yearly health checks and have their teeth cleaned once a year.