Why Wellness Visits for Your Pet?
By: Dr. Leslie Carr
A friend of mine was visiting me yesterday. She was deeply concerned about the love of her life, her 14-year-old Border Collie. Jaime’s brain is still very active, but the body is breaking down. This turned into a discussion of how long our pets live in this age. Even 20 years ago, large breed dogs rarely lived into their teens. Why do our pet’s live longer now? Because veterinary medicine has advanced providing better diagnostic tools, medicines and treatments. In addition, many owners have an increased willingness to do everything possible for their pet. The problem is, dogs and cats are inclined to hide the tiniest sign of illness. Through routine wellness exams, preventable diseases like obesity, and dental disease can be addressed, and early screenings for arthritis, diabetes, cardiac and kidney disease can be performed. The net result of routine wellness exams is early detection and prevention of disease.
If you can detect a problem in its early stages, it’s more likely to be treated and resolved with less expense, less difficulty and higher probability of success. Early detection of health issues gives an owner more treatment options. What many pet owners fail to realize is that modern veterinary science provides tools enabling veterinarians to diagnose and treat a whole range of conditions that were previously considered to be simply declining health due to old age, with euthanasia being the only humane solution.
Humans are well schooled for preventative health visits; annual physicals, blood work, twice yearly dental cleanings and mammograms are just a few things we readily accept. Recent studies done by both the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) discovered some startling statistics indicating visits to veterinarians are declining while instances of preventable diseases in pets are increasing. This is very alarming because it is estimated that 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 44% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 35% have a cat. (Source: American Pet Products Association 2015-2016 (APPA)).
How Often Does my Pet Need an Exam?
Depending on the breed and size of the pet, the average pet will age about five to seven years for every human year. That means that the age of a 7-year-old dog or cat is equivalent to that of a 35-49-year-old human. Because of your pet’s short life span (averaging about 14 years), it is extremely important your pet receive preventive care at least once per year and twice per year for pets over seven years of age.
What Happens During a Wellness Exam?
There are many steps in a pet’s wellness exam. A history is taken about the pet’s lifestyle. Next, temperature, pulse and respiration rates are recorded as well as the pet’s weight. Then, the veterinarian will perform a head-to-tail exam. The pet’s eyes, ears, mouth, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, abdomen and musculoskeletal system are evaluated and findings are recorded. Any needed vaccinations are performed based on your pet’s lifestyle. Annual heartworm testing, preventive health screens (blood work), and intestinal parasite screens are performed to prevent illness and disease some of which are zoonotic (transmissible to people). Finally, based on the physical exam and lab work (if performed), recommendations are given to achieve and maintain optimal health for your pet. These recommendations could include dental care, nutritional counseling, behavioral advice and pain management.
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As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
But if you don’t look, you won’t find it.
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