Most of us know that pets age much faster than people. But did you know that on average, most dogs and cats are well into adulthood by age two, are entering middle age by four, and by age seven, most cats and dogs– particularly larger breeds–are entering their senior years? This is why regular preventative/wellness care plays such an important role in keeping pets healthy.
Wellness care is designed to keep pets healthier longer. Annual veterinary exams, vaccines, heartworm prevention, parasite prevention, dental care, and spaying or neutering pets contributes to health and longevity–the basic principles of any wellness program. A comprehensive wellness visit should include the following:
Listening to Your Pet’s Heart
Early signs of cardiac disease, such as heart murmurs and abnormal heart beat patterns known as arrhythmias, can be heard through a stethoscope. Discovering these initial indicators of trouble ahead can lead to identifying and treating a condition before it becomes a more serious health threat.
Listening to Your Pet’s Lungs
Health issues such as infections, obstructive diseases and other problems can be detected by listening to your pet’s lungs through a stethoscope and assessing your pet’s overall pulmonary health.
Checking Your Pet’s Teeth and Oral Cavity
Examining your pet’s teeth and mouth is an important part of preventing dental disease, which is one of the most common health concerns in pets, and a good time to discuss proper home dental care.
Evaluating your pet’s vision
If found early, most diseases can be more easily treated. Ocular conditions, which can also be prevented through regular care and screenings, are no exception.
Looking into your pet’s ears
As with dental disease, ear disease is relatively common in many types of pets. Issues such as low-grade allergies, problems related to swimming or bathing, reactions to certain foods, and mites and other parasites can all cause and contribute to ear problems. Ear diseases can be difficult to detect and may require medical treatment.
Palpating the lymph nodes, abdomen and skin
By feeling the skin, unusual lumps, skin discolorations, lesions or patterns of hair loss or thinning can be detected. These can indicate the presence of more systemic problems, especially metabolic diseases, which most commonly occur in middle- aged animals.
Palpating joints and muscles
By examining the joints, legs and other areas of the body, any swollen joints, decreased muscle tone and variations in muscle size between the limbs can be evaluated. In puppies, indications of hip or elbow problems can be detected. For older pets, signs of arthritis can be well treated if found early.
Lab tests screen for diseases (intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, Lyme disease, feline leukemia and FIV) but also disclose the overall health of the blood and urine. Diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks can pose a serious threat to our pets, so they should be screened yearly for several different diseases and parasites.
Heartworm preventative and flea/tick control
Year-round flea and tick control is the best method to keep your pet free of these nasty parasites, which may carry serious diseases that can also affect humans.
Vaccinations are the cornerstone of your pet’s preventive health care plan. Advances in veterinary immunology have made diseases that once were fatal to pets easily prevented. Your pet’s vaccination schedule can be tailored according to his or her needs. All decisions about vaccinations and preventive care are made jointly by you and your veterinarian in order to develop a vaccination protocol based on your pet’s lifestyle, environment, and other risk factors.
Microchipping: Safe, effective identification
Each year, millions of pets go missing, and many don’t make it back home. Microchipping your pet is a safe, simple and effective way to prevent this tragedy. About the size of a grain of rice, an identification microchip is encoded with your pet’s vital information and implanted beneath his skin, usually between the shoulder blades. Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters across the country are equipped with special scanners capable of reading these microchips. The information in the chip is used to reunite you with your pet.
Wellness is more than a visit to the veterinarian–it is an attitude of awareness that creates an environment conducive to the health and well-being of your animal companion. From a puppy or kitten to a senior pet, wellness means thinking about the risks to your pet during his or her current stage of life and providing quality supports for health and vigor in a positive lifestyle. It’s never too early or too late to start practicing good health habits!