Content reviewed by Nell Ostermeier, D.V.M., CVA, FAAVA.
In celebration of International Day of Veterinary Medicine, we're pulling back the curtain on the world of pet health. Veterinarians dedicate their lives to ensuring our soulful sidekicks are in optimal shape, but they can't do it alone.
That's where we, the pet parents, come in. Ever wonder what insights or advice your vet wishes you had up your sleeve during visits? We consulted with Figo’s resident vet resource, Nell Turano, D.V.M., CVA, FAAVA, to shed light on the top things he wishes every pet parent knew. Let's dive in!
1. Yes, your pets really do need regular check-ups
You might wonder if your pet's routine check-ups are just a ruse for vets to cash in. Let’s pull back the curtain: these check-ups are truly about your pet’s wellbeing, from their teeth to their tail. Regular visits help spot troubles early, potentially saving you money and saving your pet from discomfort.
Regular check-ups, whether annual or biannual, are an key aspect of a preventive health care plan for your pet. During these visits, your veterinarian will discuss dental health, nutrition, weight, behavioral concerns, assess for pain, and perform a complete physical exam.
They will then come up with a wellness plan specific for your pet, that may include diagnostics such as blood and parasite screening. The main reason vets recommend regular check-ups is because they want to help prevent and detect problems early when there is still the possibility for a better outcome for your pet.
In that respect, regular check-ups may help save you money in the long run by catching any issues before they snowball into bigger problems.
2. Fake news? Not all online resources are bad, but your vet knows best.
The internet is a jungle of pet advice, and it’s tempting to turn to "Dr. Google" for quick answers. Remember, not all that glitters is gold. While there are trustworthy sites that can provide excellent information about pet health, diet, behavior, supplements, and specific diseases, your vet's office is the gold standard. They can point you to reliable information and debunk the myths.
Your veterinarian can be your best source to guide you to these trusted sites that can help supplement regular vet visits. If you do go down the rabbit hole of digital info, please let your veterinarian know what you’ve found.
At the end of the day, it's vital that you have all your pet care questions answered by a professional. You should never diagnose and treat your pet based on information found on TikTok, Instagram, or elsewhere on the web.
3. Vaccinations can be vital for your pet. There are also some alternatives.
The vaccine debate isn’t just for humans. When it comes to pets, they can be lifesavers. But it's not a one-size-fits-all.
Your vet wishes you knew that they're in your corner, aiming for your pet’s health and happiness with every tool in their kit, including vaccines and alternative measures in place of vaccines. It's a partnership where you call the shots, with your vet as your guide.
You should be having regular conversations with your vet regarding which vaccines should be administered to keep your pet healthy. They may even recommend checking titers that test your pet’s level of immunity against certain diseases. In that case, a vaccine may not be needed.
In the end, clients are in charge of their pet’s health. Your vet is there to help you navigate the course.
4. There's no "ideal diet" across the board. Different pets have different needs.
Is this food fad fabulous or a flop? Is raw food better for pets, or grain-free? Well, your vet has some food for thought.
The "ideal diet" is a myth; each pet is unique, and so are their nutritional needs. Take a seat at the vet’s table to dish out the best meal plan for your pet. It’s a conversation worth having for their health's sake.
Just as in humans, nutrition is the foundation of overall health. What you feed your pet, the quality and amount will have both short-term and long-term effects. If you want those effects to be positive, it is important to feed a diet that is balanced and nutritious.
Ultimately if you need help decoding your pet's ideal nutritional guidelines, it's best to ask your vet. You both know your dog or cat better than any internet expert and can make an informed decision together.
5. Your pet's behavior can be a window into their well-being
If pets could talk, vet visits would be a whole different ballgame. Until then, vets wish you’d watch for the silent signals your pet sends when they’re not 100%. These could be clues to bigger issues.
Some obvious signals of distress include difficulty breathing, limping, crying, or not eating. However, there are less obvious tells as well. If your pet exhibits any significant change in behavior, your vet's trained eye can decipher these signs. When in doubt, don’t wait to give them a call.
6. Dental health is more important than you think.
Dental health is a window to overall health, and those pearly whites need as much attention as their shiny coat. These measures aren't just about fresh breath (though that can be a welcomed side effect). It's about preventing health issues that can take a bite out of your pet’s well-being—and your wallet.
While it's often overlooked, brushing your pet’s teeth is the number one way to maintain dental health at home. If this is not possible, then your pet may need more dental cleanings than average to keep away bacterial plaque. The dental exam is part of the regular check-ups recommended by vets. Look ma' — no cavities!
7. Exercise is as good for your pets as it is for you.
You may hit the gym, but your pet needs their own kind of 'reps' too. Your vet sees too many bored pets with pent-up energy leading to swallowed socks, escape artists, and more. They wish you knew that a good romp or interactive play does wonders for their health and your peace at home.
Exercise benefits your pet’s mental and physical well-being in more ways than one. Many behavioral problems are rooted in a lack of exercise and enrichment. While it's normal for adult dogs to sleep on and off most of the day, it can be equally important to incorporate some focused play, training, or brain time - even if weather or physical limitations don't allow your dog to get multiple walks per day.
Investing a little time to make sure your pet moves daily, even if it's just indoors or in the yard, can make a huge difference in their emotional and physical health.
8. Be careful with over-the-counter medications.
That medicine cabinet might be a trove of remedies for you, but for your pet, it can be a box of dangers. Vets want to shout it from the rooftops: Consult before you treat.
Nearly every veterinarian has experienced the pain of witnessing unintended harm well-meaning pet parents can cause. So, let’s keep it safe—talk to your vet before you reach for that pill bottle.
9. There's a legitimate reason vet costs are rising.
Why are vet bills rising? Your vet wishes you knew the whole story. From cutting-edge technology to advanced training that saves lives, the price of progress is real. Healthcare for every species comes with a cost.
Multiple factors have led to and will continue to lead to rising vet costs. A few of the factors though come from better care for your pets with improved diagnostics, more specialized care, and better wages for staff.
In the end, while these rising costs are tough for the average pet parent to bear, in the long run, they may lead to better pet outcomes. With preparation, planning, and options like pet insurance, you can keep your pet in optimal health without breaking the bank.
10. Holistic treatments are a major trend in pet health care and may be a good treatment option for your pet.
Jumping on the holistic health bandwagon? Your vet's got the map for that journey. They wish you knew that holistic care is more than just a trend—it's about integrating the best of all worlds for your pet’s health.
There are many viable alternative or adjunctive therapies that could help your pet stay healthy, but you will need the guidance of a vet who is educated and interested in these options to take advantage of them. Never attempt to treat or medicate your pet yourself without the guidance of a professional.
Read more: A Pet Parent's Guide to CBD Quality Control
Your pet deserves the best
Pet parenting is an adventure from start to finish, full of 3am potty breaks in the rain and couch cuddles after a long day at work. Like any journey, it comes with its share of responsibilities and can often be less than glamorous.
By understanding our vet's concerns, observations, and advice, we not only deepen our bond with our pets but also ensure they lead happier, healthier lives.
These insights are not just words to skim through; they're nuggets of wisdom straight from those who spend their days (and often nights) caring for our copilots.
Let's take a moment to appreciate the veterinarians and vet technicians who guide us to give our pets the life they deserve, as long as we possibly can. And remember, next time you're in for a check-up, bring your questions, your concerns, and a readiness to engage in your pet’s health journey alongside your trusted vet.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.