Before and After a Visit to the Vet

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on August 15, 2022
3 min read

No one loves your pet as much as you do. Part of that love is making sure they get the best veterinary care possible.

You can help your vet deliver it when you prepare for routine checkups, know when there’s an emergency, and follow up after your pet gets care.

Your vet will need some basic info on your animal pal, especially if you’re bringing him in for the first time. Take notes with you on:

  • The names and doses of all of your pet’s medications
  • The kind of food they eat
  • Their eating and drinking habits
  • Their toilet habits
  • Any recent travel or tick bites
  • Past medical records, including vaccine history

Your vet may also want a stool sample. Call ahead and ask. If you have a bird or small animal like a hamster, you might not need to collect one: Chances are your pet will provide one on the way to the appointment or while you’re in the office.

Visits to the vet can be stressful for your buddy. Bring along some of their favorite toys and a blanket. Ask if it’s OK for them to eat before the visit -- some health tests require animals to fast beforehand. (Water is OK -- you don’t want them to be dehydrated.) If food is OK, you could bring their favorite treats.

Cats, small critters like ferrets and hamsters, and birds should be in carriers when you bring them in. Dogs should at least be on a leash, although small ones may do better in a carrier.

If your pet doesn’t get along well with other animals, let the office staff know. It might be easier for it to wait in your car with you until the vet is ready for the appointment. Call ahead of time to see if the clinic is running on schedule so you don’t end up waiting too long.

Know what your budget is, too. This will help the vet know how extensive a checkup should be. Some people and vets prefer for their pet to get routine bloodwork. Others are fine with the basics, like listening to the animal’s heart and checking their eyes, nose, ears, teeth, and poop. Figure out how much you're prepared to spend if a test shows that your pet needs treatment.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take notes. That’s what the vet is there for.

Some situations call for a trip to the emergency vet clinic or animal hospital, such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Sudden paralysis -- your pet can’t move all or part of their body
  • Seizures or unconsciousness
  • Nonstop vomiting for a whole day or more
  • Trauma, like being hit by a car or another heavy object
  • Bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, or mouth
  • Blood in their poop
  • A possible broken bone
  • Your pet has gotten into chemicals like household cleaners, antifreeze, paint, makeup, etc.

Learn about the special traits and habits of your type of pet. For example, some reptiles can go a month without eating, and dogs and cats may skip a meal sometimes without a problem -- but it can mean big trouble if a small pet like a rabbit, ferret, guinea pig, or chinchilla doesn’t want to eat. The occasional diarrhea may not be a big deal for a dog or cat, and many reptiles can go as long as a month without pooping, but any change in a bird’s droppings should prompt a call to the vet right away.

What to do after your pet’s appointment depends on their health. After a routine exam, you might only need to schedule the next checkup. If they have a health condition or has had an emergency, your vet can tell you what signs to watch for and when to call with any changes or symptoms. Your vet will also show you how to give any medications your pal needs. Make sure you return for any recommended follow-up appointments.

If you’re worried about something, don’t be afraid to call and ask. The office staff can either tell you to come back in or give you some peace of mind.