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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone. I hope you all got to enjoy the lunar eclipse last night.

I have a 13 or 14 yr old Golden Retriever that I will be taking to the vet sometime this week. He hasn't had a check up in approximately 6 months-probably even longer than that though. I honestly don't know because my parents took him to his last one. He is not overweight but he is not physically active, he breaths heavily, & his legs sometimes give out. Overall he is not in the best of shape... :(

When I call the vet to get an estimate & ask what consists of a check-up what are some other questions that I should ask or concerns that I should raise? I want to make sure that I am choosing the right vet. There are only 3 local vets in my area. Should I choose the one that received the highest ratings?

Also, when I actually go to the check-up what are some questions that I should ask during the check up. I don't want to leave feeling like the vet "ran the show" & I just wasted money. Because I have no stable income at the moment (unemployed) I want to make sure that I get my money's worth & more.

Some questions that I already know I will ask & topics that I will touch on:

-How often & how much should I be feeding my dog per day?
-An exercise plan for my old dog.
-What are some foods that I can add to add to the kibble?

That is all that I can think of off the top of my head but when I go there I will actually have questions written down on a piece of paper so I'm not stumped when it comes to asking questions or raising concerns. I don't want to feel like the vet is there just to take my money & send me on my way.

Please, PLEASE, anyone I really need help. I barely have any money as it is & I really need to get my money's worth on this check-up. Any comments, advice, or tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thread. I hope everyone has a great day. Bye for now. I will be on later.
 

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First suggestion - when you make the appointment with the receptionist, let him/her know that you have multiple questions to ask and request that they set aside a longer than normal appointment time for you. They shouldn't charge extra for this (and it's a red flag if they do). Make sure that you communicate with the receptionist and the vet you see about your financial situation, and what you can and cannot afford.

About expenses - personally, my vet charges $58 for a scheduled office visit. If your dog isn't vaccinated, your vet will likely require that you at least get distemper/rabies vaccinations while you are there. Also, because of your dog's breathing/hip issues, the vet will probably want some radiographs (x-rays), of your dog's hips and chest. Again, explain your budget constraints so that the vet gets as few views as possible in order to attempt to determine the problem.

-How often & how much should I be feeding my dog per day?

Asking your vet about how often and how much you should feed is probably a waste of time. There are many factors that go into answering this question, including what type of food you're feeding, what breed of dog, exercise level, etc. If your dog is in good body condition, keep feeding what you're feeding now. If he's overweight, cut back slightly. If he's underweight, add a little more to the portion.

-What are some foods that I can add to add to the kibble?
Why do you want to add food to your dog's kibble?

-An exercise plan for my old dog.
This is a reasonable question, which you should include with your questions about your dog's leg giving out frequently as well as his breathing issues.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Hello there. How are you? Thank you for your help. I cannot explain to you how much I sincerely appreciate your advice.

On the phone with the receptionist BEFORE I even schedule an appointment is that when I should explain my financial situation? I am worried that when I go to the checkup, from there they will want to do all sorts of other tests/examination. I believe I can at least afford the x-ray. I live with my parents, this is a family dog that I have to take care of now because no one else will. I saved up some money from my previous job which totals approximately $300 but I do not think that will cover the costs of other tests that may need to be done. Should that be enough money for an x-ray though?

By explain what I can and cannot afford what do you mean exactly? As in tell them a dollar amount or say that I cannot afford so & so tests. I'm sorry for asking this I just want to get a better understanding of what you mean. I don't want the vet to take advantage of me. I have never seen this one before & I move so often that my dog doesn't have a go-to vet that he knows.

My Golden Retriever is vaccinated. My parents had that done a while ago & he has a tag on his collar proving this.

Holy cow. This situation I am in makes me want to rip the hair out of my head... but I cannot give up on my dog. I've known him almost my entire life. His name is Billy. He is a good dog but these past couple weeks he seems kind of sad almost. Thank you again for your help. <3

edit:

Okay. I will not ask how much food I should give my dog per day. He is in good shape as it is & always has been-not overweight and not underweight.

I was going to add food to his kibble because I thought possibly the extra protein or other nutrients would help give him some energy or help improve his physical health.

Okay, I will definitely ask for the exercise plan.
 

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Yeah, you may want to jot down some topics you want to bring up
Leg giving out
Heavy breathing
Exercise routine
Perhaps suggestions for supplements to aide in an older dogs day-to-day life

Try to do you best on giving a detailed history to your vet of when you noticed the symptoms, whether they've increased in severity, is it effecting his day to day life, how frequent the problems occur... A good vet should give you the necessary prompts, but you want to be prepared to give as much information as you can.

As for mentioning you don't have a lot of money.
Personally, I would play it by ear. You could mention it to the receptionist when you call, but I'd talk to the vet themselves. He may start offering things to you that you don't know a lot about. Write them down, ask questions about the information he gives you, and ask about the cost. It's not unreasonable to ask the cost of different testing when they offer it to you. Sometimes they offer multiple solutions and testings, that you may know nothing about. There's no problem asking for clarification, and definitely no judgment in asking how much they cost.

It's sometimes easy to get lost in the words they use. I go to the vet with my roommate's mother when she takes her cats because Veterinarians can be wordy sometimes without realizing it, and some people feel silly asking questions.

Here, a simple x-ray cost me $50 bucks (lungs + stomach area for me). The price can vary hugely, even from dog-to-dog as some may need to be anaesthetized in order to get certain x-rays. If you are honest with your vet they should be willing to work with you with the funds you have.
 

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It is kind of expensive but you may want to have a full blood panel done on the dogs if one hasn't been done. Our Vet charges about $150 for it but they may find things a physical won't.

I think sticking to health questions such as why your dog breathes heavily and why it's legs give out are reasonable questions. Maybe ask if the Vet feels that giving the dog suppliments are worth it.

If you're going to a new Vet and have recent records maybe bring them with you so if anything is brought up (vaccines for instance) you'll have some info readily available.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thank you very much for your reply. I just took Billy, the Golden Retriever, on a few laps around the perimeter of my house for exercise. On this walk, his legs did not give out. On the previous walk I took him on, at one point towards the end he fell down & laid there for a few minutes while I sat by him waiting. I think this time he did better this time because the walk wasn't as long. Anyway,

I will be sure to write those down on a piece of paper. I want to be very well prepared for this checkup.

Just to clarify, so what you're saying is that I should FIRST go in for a check-up and:
-Ask questions about the exercise routine & supplements
-Raise any concerns I have (legs giving out, heavy breathing, ALSO I forgot to mention in my previous comment, approximately a week ago I noticed a lump near his groin & he also has one near his throat but in a previous visit the vet said the one near his throat is a fatty non-cancerous tumor.)
-Ask questions about any exams & tests the vet wants to give, wether it be cost related or what exactly it is that it will do to help benefit my dog.

THEN go home & research the exams, figure out what exams I want to have done, after doing all of this I should make a second appointment to do the actual tests & exams?

If that is what you are saying (two separate appointments: First one for a check up-ask questions, figure out costs, etc. Second for the actual exams/tests to be done) I think that is a better idea actually instead of doing it all on the spot. I don't like making on the spot decisions.

<3
 

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It will cost more to do it in two separate visits, but for some things they may request you to schedule an appointment in the future for. So in that case, you'd have all the notes you've taken and time to do research, and post the results of your visit here, and we could further direct/help you.

I think the initial visit to the vet you're going to be doing testing and what not regardless. The vet will be able to explain the procedures and cost to you while you're there, and you'll want to make decision while you're already paying for his time, whether you want to get blood drawn/x-rays or whatever else he recommends. The vet will give you time to make your decision and advice on what they would do in your position, it won't be nearly as pressured as you may be imagining it.

He may throw out some terms, illnesses, and other testing while you're there that he won't be doing on that day. That information is something I'd write down and look into on your own time.

I would think you'd be doing two visits regardless. One to do initial testing and everything and another to discuss what the tests have returned and further treatment if necessary. Which between the two, you can familiarize yourself more with some of the things the vet may have mentioned during the initial exam.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I see... I see...

Personally, what would you recommend if I have only approximately $300 to spend? Do it all in two visits or just go for a check-up THEN schedule a second appointment for the testing (x-rays, blood work, etc). If I do that though (two separate visits) I assume I'm going to have to go for a third visit as well to check the results & what not. Which I assume is going to cost even more money. & Okay I hope not. (referring to "it won't nearly be as pressured as you may be imagining it") I have this thought up in my head that it is going to be like some kind of used cars salesman or car repair shop scenario. I'm sorry if I seem like a really negative/pessimistic person... As you can probably tell already, I have trust issues & am very paranoid because of past life experiences. :(

Also, I will be sure to post here any results or information that I will receive at the vet visit so you folks can help me.

I want to hug all of you. Thank you. <3
 

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No problem!

Some vets push certain food products to owner's that come in, but other than that there shouldn't be any high-pressure sales. They're not commissioned, they're there to help you with your pets, and find what works best for you!

My vet works really well with me, he says a lot of, "If I were in YOUR shoes, THIS is what I'd do first..." statements. Which I really appreciate, because sometimes you're being flooded with a lot of information and it's hard to take it all in. My vet office also prints out some literature for me to read at home. For example, when my girl was diagnosed with Mange they gave me a little booklet to explain to me the different types of mange, the most common treatments, and pictures of the problem. Very useful, I'm not sure if every office has information pamphlets available to them like this, but it's an example of how they will try to help you understand the best they can.

I would recommend going in and expressing your concerns. He'll do a physical examination of your dog, and then may recommend blood testing or x-rays. Or both. Decide what you'd like to do then and there, and follow through. When the results come back, the vet may schedule another appointment for you to discuss treatment or explain why your dog is displaying these symptoms. Some offices, during the follow up appointment to discuss the results, won't charge for the additional visit, but that really depends from vet-to-vet. Two visits is the most cost-effective way, like you said. Rather than three.

Good luck! I'm sure you'll do great! :)
 

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A little late to the conversation, but I thought I would add my two cents here.

You mentioned that your parents had brought your dog to the vet about 6 months prior, you should definitely bring those recent records with you (as a previous poster has already suggested). If you don't have those vet records with you, call up the previous vet clinic and get a copy or call them and ask them fax it over to the new clinic. Having that kind of information would be really helpful for your vet to rule in or rule out certain conditions.

Depending on the vet clinic, going for multiple appointments may not end up costing you extra money but would definitely cost extra time. One of the vet that I sometimes go to charges by the procedure separately so I could go in one day and just get the physical exam, hear options for additional testing, and go back a few days later to get the tests that I decide to do without having to pay an extra office fee, but again, that's entirely dependent on the clinic policies. Your vet may also be willing to tell you your results over the phone, depending on how complicated the situation is as well.

In my opinion, a good physical exam is always the best place to start with these cases, as just listening to the heart and lungs and checking joints for laxity/stiffness/pain could tell the vets a lot of information. Depending on the physical exam, the vet may or may not request X-rays or blood work. When the vet starts to bring up additional diagnostics he/she wants to run, don't be afraid to ask the vet to rank how important/urgent each test/procedure is given that you're working with a limited budget and what the vet would do if they were in your situation (as mentioned by a previous poster).

Try to learn what kind of information the vet would be looking for with each of those tests as well. Keep in mind you should try and factor in cost of treatment in to the final bill as well and whether or not knowing a diagnosis would even affect the treatment. So before deciding on diagnostics, feel free to ask you your vet what he or she thinks the most likely causes of your dog's symptoms and whether or not having a definitive diagnosis would substantially change the treatment plan.

Let us know how things go! Good luck and don't be afraid to ask questions! If the vet gets impatient or does a poor job of explaining things to you or tries to push you like a car salesman, don't be afraid to try a different vet. A vet clinic with a good rating just helps you stack the odds of finding a good vet in your favor, but whether or not you can communicate well with your vet will be important too, and that can be a very personal and subjective experience.
 

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If the dogs have been vaccinated recently then the only vaccine they need to get might be rabies and that is because it is the law. Old dogs probably have been vaccinated plenty over the years and have immunity to those diseases.

Write down your questions!

My vet prints out a treatment plan with prices, maybe these vets do as well. My vet won't do a blood draw or other tests without an exam before hand but will do tests after an exam as those don't need his/her time hands on the dog.

Heart worm test for sure. Tick disease causes horrible issues with dogs as well but am not convinced the SNAP test is worth it or not, you might look into that one. I'd want the skeleton checked by physical exam, really an xray would be to look for cancer rather than to confirm joint problems. I'd ask about degenerative myelopathy, there is a simple manipulation that can be easily done during the course of the exam. Sassy dragged her back feet due to this and it is a nerve issue rather than joint issue. There can be back issues that cause hind end issues as well and the physical will show that as well. With elderly dogs I would want blood tests to look for pancreatic, liver, kidney and thyroid issues.

If you have a clue as to the issues then you might not be blindsided by a terrible crisis where you must decide on the spot to let the dog pass or spend money to get over it - or not. Sassy's kidney disease was detected during a routine blood test done before a minor but essential surgery for instance and she did fine for 3 years after with relatively inexpensive treatment. I knew she had a heart murmur so the heavy panting meant I needed to ease up on walking and walk during cooler weather rather than amp up her exercise program. I knew she had DM so concentrating on gentle exercise rather than more walking was easier on her.
 

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Others have given you good advice above.
It is generally worth asking your vet if there are any particular environmental hazards or diseases (parasitic or otherwise) going around your area that you should be aware of.

I wouldn't necessarily go to the vet with the best ratings. In a wealthy neighborhood, that may be the vet with the nicest reception area and the kindest mannered (or sexiest) receptionists. I'd guess the best vet in your circumstances might be an old country vet type. Sometimes they are a little gruff, and their offices may look a bit worn. But they are usually practical and not inclined to "hear hoofbeats and think zebras" or order unnecessary tests. Having tried several vets in my area, and dealt with misdiagnoses I'm coming to prefer the gal who brings mobile vet services to the local flea market, charges only $25 for rabies vaccination, and is entirely sympathetic to using Ivermectin as a heartworm preventative, and good at recommending home remedies for simple problems . . .she advertises no appointment clinics on Craigslist and has given a lot of support to our local spay and neuter clinic.
 

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Ask for an estimate of costs from the vet. Explain your situation. Most vets will try and work within your budget, so don't be afraid to be upfront. Also you said you found a lump in the groin area. There are several lymph nodes in various spots of the body. You should not be able to feel them if they are normal. Here is a picture with their locations. http://animalclinicsuburban.com/clients/14369/images/Blog Photos/lymph nodes.jpg
 

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I see... I see...

Personally, what would you recommend if I have only approximately $300 to spend?
You need to trust your vet to help you make that decision for you. Eg, say it comes down to a tradeoff between Xrays or doing a blood panel. No one here can tell you which is going to be more useful.
In my experience, most vets will do lab tests on the initial visit, and most vets will want to do a blood panel on an old dog. That will probably put you to the $100 mark, maybe well over it (ask over the phone). You will need to reserve some of your funds for medicines.

As for being negative/pessimistic, or simply cynical: there is every reason to be so. I'd suggest reading, say:
http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2007/12/veterinary-trades-say-its-time-to-rip.html
http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/05/veterinarian-pushes-his-dependency.html
http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/06/payola-and-pushers-in-veterinary.html
(there are many other articles on veterinarians and ways to cut costs on the terrierman blogsite. Try a search on veterinarian or veterinary on the blogsite search box).

There is a big trade association and pharmaceutical industry out there telling vets how to extract more money from clients. Many recommended routine procedures are not necessary.

btw. Terrierman is pretty radical on this subject, and lots of people here will disagree with him or call him irresponsible. Nonetheless, if funds are strictly limited you MUST question what is necessary and whether there might be a less expensive solution.
 

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Most Vets are in it for the love of animals, not the money, so I normally suggest that you be upfront that you don't have much money to spend.

As folks have said, type up the questions and bring a notebook and pen to take notes.

1. Your Golden is old, and possibly in pain (panting). Some pain may be chronic, can't be cured, but might be managed. Some might be due to arthritis, and you can ask the Vet about over the counter supplements, such as Fish oil, Glucosamine, etc., as well as pain meds. Common ones are Tramadol, and Gabapentin ... You can ask the Vet about relative costs, and ease of giving the meds to the dog. Some pain may be due to nerve issues, which may be indicated by falling and feet knuckling under, the Vet will have to diagnose.
2. Note, that knowing exactly what is wrong with a senior dog may not be required, b/c treatments may be the same. For example, if your dog has a problem that requires surgery, specifics may not matter, b/c your Vet may decide that surgery isn't recommended for your situation.
3. Sometimes you can do therapy that will help - walking every day for a few minutes, twice a day; swimming in a pool, pond, or kiddie pool; 10 minutes of general massage therapy.
4. My dog is a Lab/Golden mix ... Altho he has arthritis, he feels better when the temperature is cold, or when he is cold and wet outside [I dry him off carefully afterwards]. Your dog may or may not like to be exposed to more cold.
5. Laser therapy may help, but it may not help all dogs, and treatment can be $25 or more each, requiring about 3 treatments to make a difference.
6. As sandgrubber wrote, always ask for alternatives and less expensive [Free?] methods.
7. Your dog is a senior. Your goal is not rejuvenation, and maybe not even cure. The best may be Quality of Life, Comfort, and free of pain, or reduced pain.
8. Vets are reasonable... but they are also VERY human, so sometimes the Vet will really want to try to cure your dog. Be prepared for the quality of Life vs. possibly of cure discussions.
 
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