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5 Questions to ask your veterinarian

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Make the most of vet appointments

Taking good care of your pet requires regular visits to the veterinarian... and that ain't cheap! Make the most of every vet appointment by being well prepared with a list of questions.

Make the most of vet appointments

1Is my pet healthy?

Your vet will check your pet's overall health, but it's up to you to bring your concerns to the doctor's attention. This is your chance to find out why your cat coughs so much or why your dog has awful breath. Some of the areas you may want to cover with the veterinarian include hair loss, hot spots, worms, teeth and weight. Approach this part of the exam the way you would your own wellness checks with the family doctor.

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2What should I feed my pet?

We can refer to the food pyramid for our family's diet, but not for our pet's. Ask your vet what your pet should eat, how much and how often. Nutritional requirements vary among species, so find out if there's a particular brand of food your pet needs. Determine whether your furry friend needs supplements. And ask the scary question, too: What foods are toxic to my pet?

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3Why does my pet do that?

Every animal, like every human, has its own personality and quirky behaviors. Some behaviors, however, may be worrisome to you. Your veterinarian can help. Ask why your cat is suddenly hissing at you. Find out why your dog constantly barks at nothing. Get help with troublesome behaviors.

Your pet's behavioral health is just as important as its physical health, says certified professional dog trainer Joan Hunter Mayer of The Inquisitive Dog. "More often than not, it's behavioral issues, not health problems, that land animals in shelters."

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4How can I keep my pet looking good?

Your family will feel a lot more comfortable snuggling with an animal that's well groomed and nice smelling. Talk with your vet about bathing your pet. Ask about shampoo brands, recommended washing techniques and tips for cleaning teeth, ears, eyes and anal glands.

Most importantly, discuss the best ways to treat flea and tick problems. Find out if you can treat just your animal or if you must treat your home, too.

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5How often do we need to visit the vet?

Regular vet visits will help you stay on top of key developmental issues. Is your puppy or kitten growing on target? How often does it need to be vaccinated? At what age should your pet be spayed or neutered? For the most part, your pet will need more visits when it's young and again when it's old. During the healthy and active adult years, one annual visit should suffice.

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Make the most of vet appointments The ASPCA estimates the average cost of basic food, supplies, medical care and training for a dog or cat ranges from $700 to $875 per year. Over a 14-year life span, the cost of pet ownership can reach an average of $12,250. Depending on health issues and other outside factors, some estimate this can go up to as high as $38,905.

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