The Importance of Sharing Medical Records

Why does my new veterinarian need to see my pet’s records from other veterinarians?

Complete and accurate medical records are like a medical diary for your pet. While it can be challenging to remember all the events of your life, if you were to pull out your diary, you could accurately describe exactly what happened to you and when. The same is true of a pet’s life. While we know our pets very well, sometimes, exactly what illnesses, test results, and responses to different treatments can become less than clear in our memory. Your pet’s medical record lays this out in a concise, ordered fashion.

Important information in your pet’s records includes:

  • Drug and food allergies
  • Details of any vaccine reactions
  • Trends in your pet’s physical parameters, including weight, muscle condition, and blood work. Trends are important to track as they can be subtle cues to your pet’s health.
  • How your pet prefers to be handled (e.g., if your pet is fearful of men, where they are most comfortable having blood taken, and whether any sedation is needed before certain treatments or procedures). The veterinary team will also note how well that sedation worked, allowing for any adjustments required to keep your pet as comfortable as possible.
  • Responses to anesthesia and sedative medication, allowing for more customized drug selection and dosing so any drugs that have caused an adverse reaction will not be used again.

Suppose you have kept any diaries about your pet’s care at home, such as a nutrition journal, glucose test results, or pain score monitoring. In that case, sharing this information with your new veterinarian will be helpful.

"The ability to review your pet’s medical history before the first appointment will allow your new veterinarian to provide exceptional care that is tailored and timely."

The ability to review your pet’s medical history before the first appointment will allow your new veterinarian to provide exceptional care that is tailored and timely. It will prevent unnecessary duplication of laboratory tests and ensure that treatments that were not effective in the past will not be repeated, allowing the process of diagnosing and treating a medical problem to be sped up (and saving you unnecessary costs).

Don’t my old invoices have this information?

Invoices provide a detailed list of which vaccinations or medications were given and when but do not tell a veterinarian about previous physical exam findings or diagnostic test results. Invoices also lack the history of concerns you have had about your pet and the discussions you had with your veterinarian about them.

How do I get my pet’s previous medical records?

Often, records can be obtained by request from the new veterinarian; however, most states and provinces require the pet owner’s permission to share them, so it is best if you request records to be sent ahead of your appointment. If you decide to obtain a copy of the records, whether in paper or electronic form, sharing them with your new veterinary office ahead of the first appointment is in the best interest of you and your pet.

What if I adopted my pet from another person or animal shelter?

When adopting a pet, it is best to ask the previous owner which veterinarian has cared for them and request that their records be transferred to your name. If you prefer not to continue your pet’s care with this veterinarian, you can request that the medical records be sent to the veterinarian of your choice. Animal shelters will often provide your pet’s medical history for their time at the shelter.

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