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Why Do Vets Recommend Science Diet? And 5 More Questions to Ask

I’m obviously grateful for veterinarians. They’ve saved my dog’s life.

However, I also know vets tend to push certain brands and push certain vaccinations/procedures for all dogs without presenting the actual pros and cons for the individual.

It is, of course, up to the dog owner to ask questions, but new dog owners don’t always know what kinds of questions to ask.

This post will give you a couple of ideas to consider.

Use it as a guide for asking the right questions, and please share your own examples of additional questions you think dog owners should ask.

Six Questions You May Want to Ask the Vet:

Questions to ask your dog's vet

1. Why do you recommend Science Diet? Are there healthier options for the same price?

The dog food company Hills Science Diet has done a really good job getting on the shelves of most veterinarians’ offices, but it’s not the healthiest food for most pets, especially at the price vets are charging.

When the vet recommends you buy Hills Science Diet or Hills Prescription dog food from her own office, take a look at the ingredients. Are you comfortable paying a premium price for the food?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t feed Science Diet. Just make sure it’s really the healthiest choice for your pet based on the price.

2. Is a heartworm test really necessary?

A heartworm test might be necessary for your dog if he is at risk for heartworms. It can also give you peace of mind.

However, vets do not always explain why a dog might need the test, and they never say why he might not. They recommend the test for all dogs.

Do you really need to pay $45 for a heartworm test when your dog has been on a monthly heartworm preventative for the last year? Or even his whole life?

I’m not telling you not to do a heartworm test. Just think about whether it’s really necessary and be prepared for scare tactics if you decide to opt out.

It’s also up to you if you want to give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative all year or if you decide it’s healthier for your dog to opt out of heartworm preventatives during winter months or even all year.

3. Could I pick up the medication at a pharmacy instead of here?

The answer to this question should always be YES. If not, find a new vet.

Yes, you can purchase the medication at your actual vet office if you choose. You can also choose to have many pet medications filled at pharmacies like CVS or Costco and the rest can be filled through online pet pharmacies like 1800PetMeds.

Unlike doctors with human patients, veterinarians are permitted to sell (and profit from) the drugs they prescribe.

Yes, sometimes it’s convenient to pick up the medication right then and there, but it’s usually going to cost more and the point is you have a choice to go elsewhere.

Also remember there are many different names/brands/generics of the same drug. Your dog doesn’t have to use the brand the vet carries.

The blog DOGThusiast had a great post on your right to your pet’s prescriptions (at least in California).

4. Is a dental cleaning really necessary? How urgent is it?

My 9-year-old dog was in for an exam recently, and his vet told me his teeth looked great for his age. Then, when I had Ace in for an unrelated issue at a different vet, the doctor suggested my dog have a dental cleaning after he simply glanced at Ace’s mouth. I felt he was suggesting this only because he knew my dog was 9 years old.

Yes, some dogs and cats definitely could benefit from a dental cleaning. Maybe most of them could. The point is to ask questions.

  • Is this really necessary this month?
  • Are there other options?
  • How urgent is this?
  • What if we wait six months?
  • Could I see a printed-out, detailed estimate on costs?

Also see my posts:

I can’t afford a dental cleaning for my dog and Alternatives to brushing a dog’s teeth.

5. I see you’re charging extra for my dog’s “senior” exam. What is included in the “senior” exam that’s not in a regular exam?

Once my pets hit 7 years old, all the vets I’ve taken them to have tried to charged me about $25 extra – per pet – for their yearly exams. Yes, even for my cats! Instead of the basic exam, they get a “senior exam” for a higher price but no extra tests or anything like that.

My suggestion for this is to simply call the vet out on it and ask if there is anything extra in the senior exam. If you’re paying more, you should be getting more.

My cats Scout and Beamer

6. Does my dog really need a bordetella vaccine?

It might be a good idea for your dog to get certain vaccines, and it might not. Just make sure to ask questions. Sometimes vets will recommend certain vaccines (Lyme, kennel cough/bordetella, rattle snake, etc.) without explaining the actual pros and cons.

So ask!

It’s OK to decline any vaccination or to wait to have it done at a later date. For example, the bordetella vaccine (kennel cough) may not be necessary unless you plan on boarding your dog or taking him to dog daycare.

The only vaccination required by law in most areas is rabies, but it’s still your choice whether to have your pets vaccinated or not.

Everything is your choice, not your vet’s choice. It’s the vet’s job to give recommendations and to provide you with correct information.

For more info, see:

Are too many vaccinations bad for adult dogs?
Dog vaccinations – what not to do
My cats are overdue on shots
Do dogs need flea prevention all year?

What are some other examples where we should ask a vet more questions?

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