Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is the major health concern that brought you and your pet to the clinic ? What other minor concerns do you have?
- When did you first notice something was wrong ?
- What was the first sign of illness you observed ?
- List, in order of time of appearance, the other symptoms you have noticed ?
- Which of these symptoms are still present ? Have they improved, gotten worse ? Or remained the same?
- Have you done anything at home to treat the problem. Have you had the pet to a veterinarian for the problem ?
- How is the animals appetite, thirst, urination, defecation, and activity ?
- Have you noticed any changes in behavior, movement, or breathing?
If there is a lameness be sure you know which leg has been favored at home.
It is commonly accepted amongst veterinarians and physicians that a good history often provides more information than does the physical exam. Therefore, it is important that pet owners observe their pets carefully and report their findings accurately. The more accurate information you can give your veterinarian the easier it will be for him /her to evaluate your pet. By performing a weekly home exam you will be able to more easily recognize symptoms of disease and provide your veterinarian with a more complete history. Changes in a pet’s personality, normal behavior, and physiology can signal the onset of a disease process. Paying attention to the way your pet breaths, eats, drinks, urinates and defecates can provide early clues that your pet is not healthy. More rapid, labored or jerky breathing, loss of appetite, increased or decreased water consumption, changes in frequency and effort at elimination, and changes in the appearance of the stool or urine are all signs of a health problem. A change in personality such as lethargy, hyperactivity, a tendency to hide or to want to be left alone, or a tendency toward biting people, or becoming more friendly than usual, warrants a veterinary evaluation.
If your dog or cat is not acting right and you are concerned, it will be up to you to help your veterinarian discover the cause of the problem by providing him or her with as many details as possible that could serve as clues . Accurate reporting by you regarding how your pet acts at home will be greatly appreciated by the doctor and will go along ways to helping him or her make an accurate diagnosis
Always pay careful attention to your pet’s eating, drinking and elimination habits.
This will require that you accompany your pet when he or she has to urinate or have a bowel movement. Observe the color and consistency of the stool and whether there is any mucus or blood present. Does your pet strain to urinate or defecate. Is the urine dark in color. Is the animal eating less or drinking more?
If your pet’s problem is vomiting then notice when the vomiting occurs in relationship to eating. Does it occur soon after meals or hours later? Does the vomiting seems to occur soon after drinking water or does it occur in the early morning before eating breakfast ? What does the vomitus consist of : digested or undigested food ?, hair balls?, yellow bile and mucous, grass and foreign debris, or just clear fluid ? Is there any black or dark red material that could suggest digested blood ?. Are there any of the pet’s toys missing or chewed up ? Do you think he or she may have swallowed a foreign object ?
If your dog is breaking training and urinating in the house then pay attention to how your pet urinates and how much he drinks. Is your pet asking to go out more often? Is there a lot of urine produced with each urination or does he or she move around the yard straining to produce just a small amount of urine. When your dog messes in the house, does the accident happen when he is sleeping or resting or does it happen when the dog is wide awake?. Try to catch a small sample of urine so you can see what color it is. Save the sample and bring it to your veterinarian for analysis. If your cat stops using the litter box the problem is usually stress related and not due to an infection. If your cat is spending a lot of time in the litter box he or she could be constipated but it is more likely that the cat is either experiencing urinary urgency or is at least partially obstructed. An obstructed male cat could easily be confused with one that is constipated. It is important to distinguish between the two because an obstructed cat is an emergency situation. When cats break training the problem requires a good deal of detective work to discover the cause so it is important to schedule a consult with your veterinarian.
Is your pet acting stiff and sore or is he just not walking right? It is important to note when he or she is most symptomatic. Is the pet the worst in the AM but improves as the day goes on ? Does he or she still want to go for walks? Can he jump up into the car or go up the stairs? Does she seem in pain he or is she just weak and uncoordinated ?
If a pet is lame but not carrying a foot then it can be difficult to tell which foot is injured. If you do see the one that is favored write down which one you saw. If your not sure don’t guess because your veterinarian could end up examining the wrong foot. It will be the veterinarian’s job to distinquish a neurological lameness from a musculo-skeletal disease.
Providing your veterinarian with an accurate history is an important responsibility which will often save you money and your pet discomfort. So don’t expect your veterinarian to do it all, he needs you as his diagnostic partner.