Dog people know that their pooches are part of the family. And just like kids need checkups with their doctor, your pup needs regular trips to his veterinarian as well. How can you get the most from those visits? Make sure you ask your vet the right questions about your dog, from nutritional needs to vaccinations to behavioral issues.

If your pet has any new or unusual issues that worry you, be sure to mention them to the vet. But if he’s perfectly healthy, you can still cover the basics.

Preparation

Before you can ask your questions, you need to schedule your visit. It's best to call ahead for an appointment -- "walk-ins" can be hard for some clinics to work into the schedule. Another way to streamline your appointment is to tell the receptionist or technician about any specific concerns you have when you check in. That way your veterinarian has a heads up. Also, find out ahead of time if the vet will need a sample of your dog’s pee or poop -- if so, keep that in mind before you arrive. And make sure your pup is on a leash or in a carrier!

Does my dog have all his vaccinations?

Hopefully you've kept up with your pet’s vaccination schedule, but if you haven't (or if you've rescued a dog and don’t have his medical records), you should make sure his shots are up to date. It's not a bad idea to ask your vet or her staff about which ones your pooch needs, now or in the future, and note the info on your calendar.

How do his teeth look?

We humans brush our teeth twice a day, but we forget that our four-legged friends need to take care of their pearly whites, too. Gum disease is the most common condition that affects adult pets, and it's one of the most preventable. Besides daily brushing at home, your dog may be due for a professional dental cleaning, which means putting him under general anesthesia so that the vet can properly check, X-ray, clean, and polish his teeth.

Is he at a healthy weight?

A proper weight is crucial for your dog’s health and well-being. Because every breed is different, it's hard to know the right number for your little (or big) guy. But it’s especially important for specific breeds that are prone to conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia, heart disease, and more. If your pup does have a few extra pounds to drop, ask your vet if he can recommend any weight loss and exercise plans.

What food should I give him?

The many aisles of dog food at the pet store can be a bit overwhelming. Ask your vet for advice on types and brands that may work best.

What kind of flea and tick medicine should I use?

Most dogs love being outside, but that means annoying, and sometimes dangerous, pests who may choose your pet as their next meal. Ask your vet about which flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medicines she recommends for your pooch. The right ones may depend on where you live, your pet's lifestyle, and your budget. Some flea and tick meds are pills they swallow, medication you put on their skin, or collars or tags they can wear.

Is my pet normal?

This is your chance to ask the doctor if Fido's behavior is just a quirk or a sign that something is going on with his health. If something seems off, your vet will likely recommend treatments or refer you to a qualified trainer or veterinary behaviorist to solve problems like aggression, anxiety, a lot of barking, urine marking, and other issues. 

How much will this cost?

Ask your vet about costs for routine tests as well as specialized exams before your dog gets them. Make sure you understand each fee and why it is necessary for your pooch's health.

Your veterinarian is here to help your dog, so don't be afraid to ask what's going on and what you can do to help him live a long life.

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