The Importance of Taking Your Pet to the Veterinarian

93-taking-your-pet-to-the-vet2-200x300Preventive medicine and wellness testing has proven to be of great benefit to people and pets.  Avoiding disease in the first place is obviously superior to trying to reverse the course of illness when it occurs.  Proper nutrition, vaccination strategies, disease screening, and prophylactic care such as dental cleanings are all vital to ensuring good health and longevity.  Routine preventive care is key to a better quality of life overall.

Disease prevention starts at a very young age.  Puppies and kittens are very susceptible to contagious parasites and viruses.  They should be tested and treated for worms and protozoa that invade the intestinal tract.  Parasites can cause anemia and death in large numbers.  Many take weeks to incubate and begin shedding eggs in the stool, so several fecal analyses should be performed during the first 16 weeks of age.  Most of the intestinal parasites are not visible in the stool with the naked eye.

Vaccines protect your pet from contagious disease.  Around six weeks old, puppies and kittens lose their maternal antibodies that had kept them safe since birth.  Vaccinations are started at this age and boostered every three weeks until 12 to 16 weeks old.  The immune system is not fully developed until then, so complete protection may not be achieved with the initial vaccines.  During adulthood, vaccinations are boostered every one to three years depending on the specific disease risk in your area and the efficacy of the vaccine.

Proper nutrition is very important in all stages of life.  A balanced diet that is AAFCO approved (Association of American Feed Control Officials) will provide all the daily requirements of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your pet needs to stay fit and healthy.  Table scraps are not balanced and tend to be high in fat and salt.  They only contribute to an overweight, picky eater.  Your veterinarian will make recommendations as to the type of food that is best for your dog and cat.

Early detection of illness starts with regular wellness examinations performed by the veterinarian.  Your vet may recommend tests that can discover early organ dysfunction or metabolic disorders like Diabetes, Thyroid disease, or Cushing’s disease.  Older pets will have their blood pressure checked and may have an ECG performed or an x-ray taken if a heart murmur is detected.  Catching a problem before there are any obvious symptoms greatly improves the prognosis and may even be reversible.  Symptoms mean there is damage already being done to the body.  Be sure to discuss any changes in water consumption, appetite, eliminations, and activity levels with the doctor.

Prophylactic dental care is proven to greatly reduce referred infection from the oral cavity into the heart and major organ systems.  As well as teeth brushing, your dog and cat should have a professional dental cleaning before periodontal disease becomes established.  Ultrasonic scaling and high-speed polishing of the teeth removes bacteria harboring tartar that leads to infection, pain, and tooth loss.

Continued parasite prevention is important to avoid diseases that are transmitted by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.  Adult pets can carry intestinal parasites without showing any outward symptoms.  Mosquitoes transmit heartworms, ticks carry infectious organisms that cause Lyme disease and Ehrlichia, and fleas are thought to be vectors of hemobartonella, a blood parasite that causes anemia in cats.  Some of these illnesses are zoonotic or contagious to people.  Your veterinarian will prescribe safe, easy to use, monthly preventive medications to keep your pet free of these harmful parasites and protect your family from serious zoonoses.

Keep in mind that a pet ages at a must faster rate than a person.  A trip to the vet once a year is the equivalent of a person seeing a doctor about once a decade.  Many changes can occur in between wellness exams.  Veterinarians are recommending twice a year check ups for dogs and cats.  Early detection of disease will greatly reduce the progression of damage being done and improve the outcome of treatment.