puppy at vetDoes your pet have a regular veterinarian? Waiting until an emergency situation arises to find a vet is “bad medicine.” It is far better to have a working relationship with a veterinarian that you know and trust, that knows your pet and that your pet knows, if and when an emergency situation arises.

Find a competent vet and stick with him/her. Don’t swap vets indiscriminately, especially for light and transient causes. If and when a problem arises, talk to your vet about it. Your goal should be to find and keep a competent vet familiar with you and your pet. That way, if and when an emergency situation arises, the vet who sees your pet will have a point of reference that will enable him/her to make an accurate and speedy diagnosis of what is wrong with your pet and avoid treatment nightmares. When seconds count, you want a veterinarian who knows you and your pet instead of a stranger who must waste precious moments playing medical history catch-up and/or, worse, treating your pet inappropriately for want of important information.

Every pet owner wonders at some point whether or not they should take a pet to a veterinarian. You know your pet better than anyone else, if you suspect that it needs medical attention, take it to the vet. You are far safer taking it to a vet unnecessarily than not taking it if emergency medical attention was needed.

Here are some indications that your pet needs immediate medical attention:

Abdominal swelling
A lack of or decreased appetite
Blood in stool or urine
Diarrhea for more than 24 hours
Distended stomach
Possible shock or heatstroke
Vomiting more than twice within 24-hours
Inability to, or straining to, urinate, increased frequency in urination, or discolored urine

Your pet should be seen immediately by a veterinarian after any accident, fight, poisoning, for a difficult labor or similarly traumatic event, even if it appears healthy. Changes in your pet’s appearance, including unplanned weight loss or gain, loss of coat luster or hair, excessive scratching, or an inability to settle, especially if accompanied by whining, may also indicate the need for a visit to a veterinarian.

Remember: All pets need, at a minimum, annual veterinary care including but not limited to an annual exam, yearly vaccinations, parasite checks, and a dental exam. Young pets and geriatric pets need to be seen more frequently than that.

CAUTION: Some owners try to save money by cutting corners, opting to use discount vaccination and/or spay/neuter clinics. Both are “well-pet” services. While the vets in these clinics may be just as capable as any other vet, they are not there to treat sick animals nor to establish an on-going personal working relationship with you and your pet. If you have no other choice — due to some temporary financial constraints — use a discount vet if you must. If, however, discount veterinary services are the mainstay of your pet’s medical care on an ongoing basis, you should probably seriously consider whether you can really afford a pet.