Checking Off the Recheck: When & Why Rechecks are Important
One of the most common messages I find on my board is that an owner wants a refill of a medication. Slightly less frequently, it’ll have written underneath that the owner does not want to come in for a recheck.”Why do I need a recheck? Why can’t they just send me more medications? It’s just the same old thing flaring up again, and this med worked last time.”
Well…from a vet’s perspective, here’s what I’m thinking: “How long ago was that? Did it actually work last time — would you be here if it had? Is it getting worse, or is something else going on here? Is that medication harmful? Are we creating resistance? When did we last check your pet’s organ function?” Here are two factors that determine whether or not a recheck for your pet is necessary because there’s often more to consider than just refilling a prescription.
In order to prescribe for your pet, I have to have what’s called a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (vcpr). I have to have seen them within the last calendar year and know them well enough to diagnose and treat them credibly. So if I haven’t seen you in 15 months, I’m not able to refill anything. Also, that far out is not a recheck; that’s a yearly exam. If I haven’t seen them for the issue you’re concerned about, then I’m not just going to send home medications. Why? Some of the medications we use are dangerous and need to be used carefully. Sometimes that eye issue is actually a nerve problem in the neck. Maybe that ear infection won’t resolve because the eardrum is ruptured. It’s my job to ask and address those questions, and I need to examine your pet to provide those answers.
Ongoing or More Complicated Issues
Suppose I saw your pet two weeks ago for an infection, limp, cough, etc. Perhaps the medication I prescribed helped a little, but the problem is not completely better. Maybe as soon as you stopped the medication the issue came right back, or now it’s a bit different….did the medication actually work? Refilling the same prescription may not be appropriate, or it may actually make things worse. Infections can be resistant to antibiotics, inflammation can look like infection (but doesn’t need antibiotics), fractures are sometimes not evident day 1 or ligament issues become more obvious with time, and kennel cough can cause pneumonia. It’s not about being a barrier to getting your pet medications; it’s about trying to properly diagnose and treat your animal.
Plenty of the medications we use every day are harmful to animals. They may need to be adjusted or switched over time to protect your pet. NSAIDs, in particular, are hard on your pet’s stomach lining, liver, and kidneys. Maybe it’s time to switch or add another medication, so we don’t need to rely as heavily on the anti-inflammatories. There are other ways to address pain, sometimes without medication altogether, or with natural supplements. If I have your animal on medication long-term, there are very few situations that I’m not going to want to check up on them at regular intervals to evaluate blood work or how that medication may be working or affecting their body.
Book a Recheck for Your Pet in Advance
Currently, most vets in the valley, the area, and the state are booked way too far out on appointments. So ask if your pet will need a recheck when you’re in for their initial exam or procedure. We can discuss the importance of a recheck for your pet then and be sure to get you booked so you don’t have to scramble last minute or default to a walk-in.
If it’s an issue we started treating, we will know if we need to follow up or what criteria would qualify for a recheck. We leave appointments available for rechecks because they are necessary. When we’ve started a case, we want to see it through to ensure the animal gets better; I may flex more to get that recheck in because I’m invested in the recovery, and I want to make sure your pet does well. That being said, no matter how much I like a client or patient, if I don’t need to see you again, I’ll tell you. We’re too busy to waste your time and money with unnecessary follow-ups.
Tier 1 Veterinary Medical Center in Palmer is Alaska’s only comprehensive animal hospital. We are available by appointment, in addition to accepting emergencies and walk-ins. With CT, MRI, and Ultrasound available on-site, our facility provides advanced treatment options for your pet. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Paige Wallace is the Urgent Care Coordinator at Tier 1 Veterinary Medical Center. Born and raised right here in the Mat-Su Valley, Dr. Wallace received her education and veterinary training through her service in the United States Army. She served as a Captain with the 218th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support, under the 62nd Medical Brigade. Dr. Wallace has extensive experience treating trauma cases in remote areas and with limited resources, bringing a wealth of knowledge and think-on-your-feet experience to the Tier 1 VMC team.