By Jay Jay Giong-an

 

For new pet owners, it is advisable that upon acquiring a new pet, it should be brought to the veterinarian for a preliminary examination in order to assess the animal and get advice on raising the young dog or cat, get tips about housebreaking, and to fix the deworming/vaccination schedule.

The first trip to the clinic often includes deworming, and there should be vaccinations during the next visits—plural, not just one. The schedule and type of vaccinations depends on the veterinary clinic’s protocol/program. Usually, vaccines are given at intervals of every 2-3 weeks.

Aside from deworming and vaccinations, the vet also assesses and monitors your pet’s overall health and progress. At this stage, your vet is your partner in keeping your pet healthy so it is necessary that you and your vet establish a good rapport. Do not be afraid to ask questions; I assure you, vets have heard a lot of interesting questions.

As a general consensus, when your pet reaches a year old, it’s considered an adult, though it should be noted that large breed dogs are considered mature at a later age—at 18 months old.

 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU VISIT YOUR VETERINARIAN?

Most fur-parents bring in their pets annually for booster shots for rabies, 5-in-1, and kennel cough vaccines; some bring them in more frequently for regular deworming, which can be given as often as every three months.

Many clinics nowadays remind their clients regarding their pet’s schedules, but as the primary caregivers and carers for your pets, clients should also be aware of this. It makes a veterinarian happy if more fur-parents are keen regarding their pet’s clinic visits.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ANNUAL WELLNESS EXAMS

What is an annual veterinary wellness exam? Just think about it; we humans visit our doctors for yearly checkups with the sole purpose being to monitor our general health, and for early detection—and subsequently, prompt treatment of illnesses. The same goes for your pets.

During an annual exam, the vet takes a closer look at your pet and compares the findings from those of your previous visits.

The vet also reviews your pet’s vaccination status, parasite control regimen (not only for intestinal worms but also for ticks, fleas, mites, and heartworm), dental health, nutrition, exercise and activity, and many more. This gives pet owners an opportunity to inform the vet about observations that are out of the ordinary, and even small changes in their pet’s routine or behavior.

An annual wellness exam allows the vet to detect small problems before these become full-blown sicknesses. It gives the vet the chance to catch a problem early on, which will spare your pet from debilitating pain, suffering, and possibly even death.

GERIATRIC OR ‘SENIOR’ SCREENING

Once your pet hits the “senior” age—which is roughly 7 to 10 years and older—vets also recommend screening tests for older pets. Diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, and some hormonal diseases occur much more frequently in older animals. Blood tests, radiographs, and other specific tests are helpful for identifying these diseases before severe and/or irreversible damage is done.

Abnormal results can indicate a problem, thus prompting early diagnosis and treatment. Normal results, on the other hand, can be used as a baseline against which future results can be compared.

Many senior animals are also on maintenance medications and require regular tests to evaluate the medication level and the potential harmful effects on various organs. Dental health is also very important for senior pets; they require more frequent dental checkups to prevent complications that could arise from periodontal disease.

 

POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS TRENDS

One recent and noticeable trend is that even if there is a marked increase in the number of dog and cat owners, the number of clinic visits has declined drastically. Fewer and fewer clients are bringing their pets to clinics, even for annual vaccines.

The reasons behind this trend are probably due to misconceptions about pet health. Some clients think that annual wellness exams are unnecessary and do not help in the overall health of the animal. But, as the saying goes, prevention is always better than the cure. The idea that you visit the vet only if your pet is sick no longer applies.

Another misconception is that owners trust Google more than their vets. The worst case is that sometimes, the owner has already made his or her own diagnosis based on Internet searches and have tried to medicate the pet themselves before bringing it in for consultation. As a result, pets are sicker than they would have been if the owner had taken the pet in at the first sign of sickness. This delay often leads to more expensive and time-consuming treatment.

To sum things up, annual exams along with recommended blood screenings for older animals, vaccinations, heartworm testing, and parasite control will help your pets live happier and longer lives with you.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s January 2017 issue.