We all want to keep our pets with us for as long as possible … it’s a natural extension of the bond we share. So, providing your pets with the right preventive care is what we all want. But, how can you discern good prevention and wellness, from being “sold” the latest fad or trendy treatment?
Like so many things, it seems like veterinary care for our pets was much less complex when I was growing up in Texas. I recall seeing the postcard arrive from Dr. Lawrence reminding the family that our Boxer, Hoss, was due for his annual vaccines. We would make the call to set up the appointment, then load Hoss in the car and head over to the veterinary clinic. After a short wait in the lobby, Dr. Lawrence came out and escorted us to the exam room. He listened to Hoss’s heart, asked us a few questions and then gave him his shots. We paid on our way out, received his rabies tag and told “Doc” we would see him next year.
Nowadays, visiting a veterinarian can seem like an endless array of choices and information and every kind of supplement you can imagine. You may wonder: Is the rabies vaccine due this year or is it Distemper this time? To complicate things further, the instant communication and often dubious information from the Internet provides more confusion.
To keep your pet as healthy as possible, how can you know the right thing to do and make common sense choices?
First, let me explain that I am all for the great advances we’ve made in this profession. I would much rather vaccinate and prevent a disease like parvovirus, than watch that horrible disease take a dog’s life. And, I really like the fact that better medicine, technology and nutrition have helped our pets live significantly longer. But, in recent years, I have become concerned that pet owners, making their annual trip to the veterinarian, are finding simple routine care pretty overwhelming.
So, what exactly does your pet need for their “wellness care”?
By far, the most important thing you can do for your four-legged friend is to make sure a veterinarian does a quality physical exam at least once a year. Pets with chronic problems or senior pets will need this more often. This is our chance to find small or hidden problems before they turn into big and expensive ones.
Vaccines have helped prevent millions of needless illnesses and deaths in both animals and people. Although you may read about problems with vaccines, they are still the best technology we have to prevent known killer diseases. Recent science has shown we can vaccinate less often and still get good protection for many diseases, but skipping these important vaccines could be disastrous. We now look at a variety of specific risk factors, lifestyle and even previous vaccine history BEFORE we vaccinate your pet. It is not a one size fits all formula any more.
Besides preventing known serious disease, keeping your pet free from parasites is important. Some of these pests that may seem like a simple nuisance can carry serious disease, even some that can affect our family! Intestinal parasites, or worms, are especially hard on younger pets and have been known to infect children as well. Even though Colorado is not a major center for heartworms, we are seeing increasing numbers in both dogs and cats every year, and it is a very difficult and dangerous disease to treat. Thankfully, we can test for many of these parasites with fecal and blood tests, and we have safe and effective medications to both treat and prevent these parasites.
Finally, it’s my firm belief that some of the best medicine is not medicine at all – it’s nutrition! But this is a confusing topic. With mega companies providing slick marketing, colorful bags and everyone’s opinion on what’s the best food, it’s no wonder that most pet owners simply buy the food based on price and the cute picture on the bag. Remember, “You are what you eat,” and our pets only eat what we give them. Knowing what nutrients are going inside your pet’s body every day is one of the most crucial factors for future health and must be discussed with your veterinarian.
Of course, there are individual situations where a pet will need more than this. Microchip identification is a good example. Also blood pressure checks, liver or kidney blood tests, even tests for diabetes, etc. For most of our pets, regular exams, good food and the right vaccines and parasite prevention will help them live longer, healthier lives. And, that’s really the ultimate goal!
Dr. Jim Humphries is the veterinarian at Mobile PetDocs, a house call veterinary practice in the Falcon area. Find him at http://MobilePetDocs.com.