When your pet visits the vet for an annual preventative exam or if they become sick, your veterinarian will ask a number of different questions regarding the health of your pet. One such question will be “is your pet taking any medications?” or if your pet is sick “could they gotten into anything?”. Most people think of any pharmaceuticals such as insulin, anti-inflammatories or heart medication but they often forget about homeopathic products and supplements they or their pets are on. In the case of toxicities, many times the owner is ashamed that they let their pet get into what made them sick and is afraid that the veterinarian will be judgemental. In reality, your veterinarian can usually suspect when a pet has gotten into a toxin by your pet’s symptoms and we understand that pets get into things they shouldn’t.
Knowing all the supplements and medications – including natural and homeopathic medications – that your pet consumes regularly or may have accidentally ingested can help your veterinarian make better medical decisions for your pet. Not only will this knowledge impact what medications we use, it can affect your pet’s prognosis. For example, if your pet is lame from arthritis, whether we can manage it successfully will depend on whether it is already on glucosamine and chondroitin or not. Most prescription pain medications are quite safe and effective if used properly, but can cause serious side effects or toxicities if used in combination with certain other pain medications and anti-inflammatories. If you have already been giving your pet human pain medications such as Asprin it is essential to tell your veterinarian, to avoid serious complications. These include natural pain medications as many have willow as the active ingredient in these products. Willow contains a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) similar to Asprin, with the same side-effects. If your veterinarian prescribes another NSAID without knowing about the willow, the two can add up to a toxic dose.
Other things that your veterinarian needs to know is what food and treats you give your pet, including human food. The treats and food your pet eats has a huge impact on the list of causes and, therefore, treatments your pet might need for issues ranging from chronic ear and skin infections to abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. For example, food sensitivities can cause all of the above but so can toxins, infections and hormonal diseases. Veterinarians understand that mishaps occur (we also sneak the odd table scrap to our pets, or forget to close a cupboard door) and its much easier knowing for certain that Fluffy just ate half a pound of butter, than guessing at several culprits and not knowing precisely what to treat for. Many times we have seen allergy flair-ups because the pet has eaten some of another pet’s food, often dogs and cats deciding they want to switch food bowls. If your pet is fighting obesity, it is important that your veterinarian know how much everyone in the house is feeding them and more exact amounts than a “scoop”- even a cup can range from an actual cup measure to a large coffee mug that is 3 times a measured cup. There are several hormonal diseases that predispose a pet to weight gain, but testing for them won’t be top priority if we know your pet is eating three times their caloric requirement.
Your veterinarian is here to help your pets, and is bound by the same client confidentiality that other medical professionals are. We want to work as a team to help your pet and unfortunately, pets can’t talk for themselves so it is up pet owners to speak for them.
Dr. Ryan Ridgway
Dr. Lynn Smart