We get a lot of phone calls from pet owners in the community and sometimes from our own clients with inactive patients. Everyone on our staff is an animal lover, and we are happy to talk with anyone about their pets, but often owners have questions or concerns that cannot be addressed over the phone. This can be frustrating for people who are worried about their pets and are hoping for a quick answer. When you cannot get an immediate answer over the phone, it is usually for one of two reasons.
First, there is no substitute for a good physical exam. Listening to a pet’s heart and lungs, feeling for unusual lumps or bumps, palpating abdominal organs, doing an oral exam, and performing simple diagnostic tests are just some of the things that we can do during an appointment. Because the physical exam is such an important source of information, we often find that we cannot responsibly prescribe medications without a physical exam, because, without an exam, we are not sure what is needed! This can be frustrating to an owner. A good example is a dog with itchy, gooey ears. The owner may call and say something like, “it’s the same thing he had last year when his ears were bothering him.” There are actually many different causes for itchy, gooey ears. Even if it is a simple ear infection, without seeing the pet, we cannot know what pathogen is causing it, and what medication to choose to treat it. And recurrent ear infections may be indicative of a health problem that is more systemic such as Cushing’s Disease or Hypothyroidism. Seeing your pet allows us to provide much better care.
The second reason is more of a legal issue. Unless the pet has been seen for an appointment within the last calendar year, technically it is not an active patient and we cannot legally prescribe medications. Likewise, if we have never seen the pet, it is not technically a patient and we cannot legally prescribe medications.
Finally, please keep in mind that a yearly exam is a vital part of your fur-baby’s health care! We get to know what is normal for that patient by seeing them every year for their yearly wellness visits. In this way we get to know both you and your pet and can guide you in keeping him or her as healthy as possible. Pets age more quickly than people, so an exam at least once a year is vital in monitoring your pet for subtle changes and catching chronic conditions early.
Whatever your concern is, the solution is simple, just make an appointment! It really is the best thing for your pet. And, we are always happy to see both you and your pet!
Penny Iannacone DVM