You should select a "family" veterinarian who is familiar with the species you have chosen. Your local veterinary associations, friends, and neighbors, or the yellow pages can help you find the right veterinarian for you and your animals. You may have to speak with several veterinarians before you find the right one for your circumstances. Staying with one veterinary group allows them to get to know you and your animal and provides continuity of care for your animals.

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A VISIT TO THE VETERINARIAN

Physical examination

Animals do not always let us know when something is wrong until the disease is quite advanced. Many species provide only subtle signs of disease. Some of these problems can be detected early through annual examinations or more frequent examinations if any problems are seen by a caretaker. This visit is also your chance to ask any questions about your animal's health, nutrition, flea control, behavior, etc. One area often overlooked by caretakers is dental care of their animals. Dogs and cats benefit from having their teeth brushed and can develop severe dental disease before you are aware of the problem. Your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning with polishing or a plan for home cleaning. Your veterinarian can also tell you if your animal is overweight. Each visit to the veterinarian provides a record of your pet’s weight that can be used to see if your pet seems to be gaining or losing weight. He/she can offer suggestions on optimal feeding or how to get your animal to lose weight.

Vaccinations

Periodic vaccinations are important for all dogs and cats to help prevent disease. Vaccinations are especially important in puppies and kittens that are not fully able to protect themselves from serious diseases, with the specific schedule generally starting at 6-8 weeks of age and continuing until the pet is 12-16 weeks of age. These diseases can be fatal but are infrequently seen because of the widespread use of effective vaccines. Just because you have never seen these diseases does not mean you do not need to vaccinate your dog or cat because some of them can survive in the environment for long periods, waiting to be picked up by an unprotected animal. Clinics are available to provide vaccinations without examination but annual examinations are still recommended even if you choose to obtain vaccinations elsewhere.
If your veterinarian feels that your dog or cat has a problem that would be best handled by a veterinarian who specializes in that field, he/she may refer you to a specialist in cardiology, behavior, surgery, internal medicine, etc.  In case of emergency, some veterinarian will take these calls or may refer you to an emergency clinic that can provide care during hours most clinics are not staffed. If you see anything out of the ordinary (such as changes in appetite, water intake, urination, or significant change in behavior) or any obvious injury or illness, call your veterinary hospital to see if they feel an examination is needed.

Routine home check-up

You should check your pets’ body daily for lumps, cuts, swelling, or any other changes. Your veterinarian may find abnormalities that you miss, but generally animals have their veterinary physicals only once a year.Animals can't describe their difficulties, so it is important to be alert and spot problems early, and seek veterinary attention when needed.
Important Reminder:  An annual examination is always needed for the general health and maintenance of your pet. Just because your pet does not seem ill does not mean you should skip his/her annual checkup. Your veterinarian can spot problems before it’s too late.  A thorough examination would include listening to the heart, checking the teeth, ears, eyes, stomach, kidneys, liver, etc.

Remember, they can’t tell you how they feel until it’s too late so it’s up to you to take care of them.

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