So you have made your first appointment with the vet to discuss your new companion. The first item of business that the staff will discuss with you is getting your dog’s history on file. Either the doctor or a trained assistant (receptionist, technician, nurse) will take the history.

During the course of the examination, additional history may be requested by the doctor, or some questions repeated for clarification. Be as accurate as you can, but under no circumstances state as a fact something you are only guessing at. If you aren’t sure, say so. If you don’t know at all, say so. It is better to give a few bits of reliable information than a plethora of guesses and misinformation.

Questions you might be asked include: Have there been any major illnesses previously? Has there been any coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea? If yes, for how long – a day, several weeks, longer? Is there blood in the vomit or diarrhea? Is the blood bright red or pink or very dark red or black? Is the urine normal in color, and has the frequency or amount changed in any way? Does your dog strain before, during, or after urinating? Does the cough occur more at night than during the day? When your dog is active or at rest or during sleep? Does it wake the dog up at night? Does the lameness improve, get worse, or stay the same when your dog gets up from sleep and has walked around for a while? Does he hold the leg up and hop on three legs, or does he touch it lightly to the ground, or perhaps he drags it behind him? Does the lameness shift from one leg to another? Is it worse during periods of cold or high humidity?

And so the medical sleuthing begins. Like a detective, your veterinarian will collect facts from you, from the physical exam of your dog, and from diagnostic tests. They will be analyzed, compared, and combined in order to arrive at a diagnosis. Having decided to take your dog to whichever veterinarian you are now talking to, have confidence in her and trust her. Remember, her primary goal is to help you and your dog. If you do not honestly believe that, you had best find another veterinarian for your dog!

In the event you have recently moved to a new area or city or, for some other reason, you have changed veterinarians, there will be an additional type of history your new doctor will need. She will ask you about all previous major and minor illnesses your dog has had as well as prior immunizations. Try to recall these to the best of your ability. Of course, if you’ve kept a personal medical diary on your dog, as so many dog owners are doing today, it will be much simpler.

You probably will be asked to contact your former veterinarian – whether she is down the block or across the country – and request that your dog’s complete medical history be sent to your new doctor. Often a phone call is all that is needed, but many veterinarians do ask that such a request, for what is really very personal information, be made in writing. This information is important in diagnosing any dog, but is especially so in the aging dog, as former illnesses very often have a direct bearing on geriatric problems.