Often with the comfort of a furry family member in your home, you can easily get into a daily life routine and forget that they require maintenance to keep their bodies functioning smoothly and healthily. Many U.S. dogs and cats have not seen a veterinarian in the past year for check-ups and preventive health care. In fact, according to a 2013 study conducted by Bayer HealthCare and the American Association of Feline Practitioners, more than half of U.S. cats have not seen a veterinarian for checkups. The same way you would change the oil to keep your car running smoothly, preventive care for your pets is essential for their overall health, wellness, body function, and disease prevention.
What is preventive care for your pet?
Regular preventive care visits for your pet at Driftwood Animal Hospital are the best insurance for keeping your furry companion healthy and disease-free. In general, wellness exams for your pet’s preventive care should be yearly, although in some cases, such as geriatric pets, more frequent visits with your veterinarian may be recommended.
While pets and their owners often dread going to the veterinarian for their vaccinations, preventive care involves much more. Regular veterinary visits should start with a thorough discussion of your pet’s medical history and home habits, because subtle changes you see at home can be a red flag for veterinarians to investigate certain disease states. For example, if your cat suddenly increases the amount of water they drink, this could indicate diabetes, and the veterinarian may recommend blood testing.
Following the discussion about any changes you’ve noticed at home, the veterinarian will perform a thorough nose-to-tail physical examination that will involve a hands-on, thorough, pain-free investigation and observation of your pet. Your veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart and lungs for abnormalities in rhythm, rate, or sound. They will check your pet’s body temperature for any fever, which often is the only clinical sign that a pet is fighting off an infection. In addition, the veterinarian may advise annual blood work to properly evaluate internal organ function and health. Subtle changes in organ function can indicate early disease processes, such as cancer or kidney disease which, if caught early, can be more effectively monitored and managed.
Your veterinarian will also evaluate and discuss the following important aspects of overall pet health:
- Vaccination types needed, and their frequency
- Nutritional and dietary needs for various life stages and health conditions
- Dental care
- Overall behavior and habits
- Parasite control (e.g., fleas, ticks, and internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms)
- Breed-specific preventive health—certain breeds are more prone to specific diseases (e.g., large breed dogs have a greater chance of bloat or stomach torsion after large meals)
- Age-related changes (e.g., joint health and supplements)
- Disease screening tests, heartworm, urine tests, thyroid screening, fecal screenings for parasites, blood chemistry, and complete blood counts
Why is preventive care important for my pet?
Unlike people, animals frequently mask signs of disease, illness, or pain, and show no outward clinical signs of stress. Additionally, pets age at an exponentially faster rate—in general, small dogs and cats are considered “senior” at approximately age 7, and larger breed dogs at around 5 to 6 years of age. While advanced age is not a disease, overall body and immune function declines as a pet ages. Regular preventive care will not only vastly increase your pet’s overall health, but will ensure early diagnosis and treatment of any medical problems that may arise. Proactive preventive care also is cost-effective in keeping your furry family members healthy and by your side as long as possible, because the cost of regular care far outweighs the financial burden of treating an advanced disease. During your pet’s physical examination, subtle changes can be an early indication of an impending medical condition or problem, and your veterinarian’s expert eye may prevent stressful, potentially painful, costly conditions or procedures. Examples of preventable conditions include:
- Tooth extractions as a result of lack of dental care
- Parvo and distemper viruses
- Diarrhea and vomiting from intestinal parasite infection
- Heartworm disease
- Dermatitis from flea infestation
- Joint disease resulting from obesity or malnutrition