What is "preventive healthcare?"
Preventive healthcare incorporates the things that we should do for ourselves and our pets to keep us and our pets healthy.
What things are necessary to prevent health problems in my pet?
A few things necessary for a preventive health care program are "species specific." This means some pets require special vaccines or special testing to assess their health. However, in general, preventive health care incorporates:
- Annual physical examinations
- Appropriate vaccinations for the species of pet in question
- Fecal Examination for presence of intestinal parasites*
- Annual heartworm testing and year round preventive heartworm medication for dogs and year round heartworm preventive for cats**
- Year round preventive medication for flea and/or tick control***
*Recommendations are in keeping with The American College of Veterinary Parasitologists, The Companion Animal Parasite Council and the Centers for Disease Control.
** Recommendations are in keeping with those of The American Heartworm Society.
*** Recommendations are in keeping with those of The American College of Veterinary Parasitologists.
A physical examination for your pet incorporates many of the same things that are included in your own physical examination:
- Weight is checked and recorded to determine optimum weight for the patient. Changes in weight can be an early indicator of some disease processes.
- Eyes, ears, and skin are checked for inflammation, discharge, or other abnormalities.
- Palpation (feeling) of the abdomen to check for abnormal masses or discomfort. The doctor also checks for any enlarged lymph nodes.
- The doctor checks heart and lung sounds for any abnormalities.
- Palpation and manipulation (moving) the limbs and joints to determine pain or abnormalities.
- Teeth and gums are examined for signs of dental disease.
- The patient's temperature is also checked and recorded.
During the examination, we may draw blood to check for heartworms or check blood chemistries and/or blood count. We also monitor chronic health conditions at this time, evaluate the effectiveness of current treatment, and check blood levels of medications to ensure they are in a therapeutic range.
Generally, your pet should have a wellness examination annually. Your veterinarian can detect early signs of illness and a treatment plan implemented before a life-threatening event occurs. As a pet ages or acquires certain health conditions, the recommendation may change to having more frequent examinations. Follow the advice of your pet's veterinarian.
We also administer your pet's necessary vaccinations at this time, in compliance with legal or current disease prevention recommendation.
Annual health examinations and vaccinations are important routes to a healthy lifestyle. Vaccinations protect our pets from nasty and potentially fatal diseases. In past years, annual vaccinations were the standard. However, recent research has shown that some immunizations are lasting longer than one year, specifically, the DHPP (Distempter/Hepatitis/Parainfluenza/Parvo Virus) vaccine in dogs and the FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotrachitis/Calici Virus/Panleukopenia) vaccine in cats.
Rabies is the one vaccination that is required by law. The vaccine is first given when the puppy/kitten receives their final distemper combo booster, and is then given routinely throughout the pet's life.
The DHLPP/DHPP (a.k.a. Distemper combo vaccine) is started when puppies are between the ages of 6-8 weeks. They require a booster every 3-4 weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. It is important to finish this series of vaccinations on time otherwise the series will have to begin again. This vaccination is good for one year. After receiving their one-year booster, the Distemper combo immunization is good for 3 years. The Leptospirosis portion of the vaccine (the L in the DHLPP) still needs to be given every year, due to the potential spread of the disease to humans.
The Bordetella vaccination (a.k.a. Kennel Cough) is available in two forms. The subcutaneous (under the skin) can be used in puppies as young as 8 weeks with a booster in 3-4 weeks. The intra-nasal (in the nose) can be used in puppies as young as 3 weeks, with a booster after 6 weeks of age. At most facilities, this vaccine is given yearly. For kennels that do a lot of boarding, they may require the vaccine to be given every 6 months. This vaccine is strongly recommended for dogs going to boarding kennels, grooming parlors, day care, dog parks, training classes or any place where dogs gather.
The FVRCP (a.k.a. Distemper combo vaccine) is started when kittens are 8 weeks old. They will need one to two boosters 3-4 weeks apart. After receiving their one- year booster, the Distemper combo immunization is good for 3 years.
Kittens should be tested for FeLV/FIV (Feline Leukemia Virus/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). This is a simple blood test performed during their first exam. It is important to know the kitten's status, especially if you have other cats in the household or plan to get another cat in the future. If they test negative, there is a vaccination for Feline Leukemia. Kittens will receive the initial vaccination with a booster in 3-4 weeks, then yearly.
Kits start their Distemper vaccination series at 8 weeks of age, with two more boosters 3-4 weeks apart. Three weeks after the last booster, they can get the Rabies vaccination.
Adult ferrets receive Distemper and Rabies vaccines yearly in conjunction with their health examination. The Rabies vaccine is generally given 1-2 weeks after the exam and Distemper vaccine.
Heartworms are parasites spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. The worms are not transmitted directly from dog to dog. The mosquito is needed for transmission from an infected pet to a non-infected one. The adult heartworms live in the large vessels that go from the heart to the lungs. Here they can cause blockages in blood flow but, more importantly, they stimulate inflammatory reactions within the lining of the blood vessels that can progress throughout the pet's body. This inflammation can have far-reaching, even life threatening, consequences. Medication is available that is designed to prevent the worms from maturing. Before the preventive medication is administered, it is necessary for the dog to be tested and found to be free of the parasite. This test is done by checking a small specimen of blood.
Dogs are the preferred "final" hosts of the heartworm but cats can be infected as well. Although there is a treatment for heartworm disease in dogs, there is no treatment for infected cats. Therefore, heartworm preventive is recommended for cats as well as dogs. The life cycle of heartworms varies between dogs and cats. Therefore, cats do not have to be tested before starting on preventive medication.
Flea and Tick Control
Here at Care-Pets Animal Hospital, we recommend year round flea and/or tick control for both indoor and outdoor pets. Fleas and ticks can be found on indoor pets that never even go outside. They can hitch a ride on your pant legs and drop off in your house only to be picked up by your pet. These pesky critters cause our pets to be itchy and miserable. Fleas can cause anemia, flea allergy dermatitis and tapeworm infections, to name a few. Ticks, besides attaching themselves to our pets, sucking their blood, swelling up and possibly bursting, can carry diseases transmittable to humans, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis.
In Southern Indiana, we are having milder winters than in the past. This mild weather prevents the 28 consecutive days of below freezing temperatures necessary to kill insects. If the humidity and temperatures are just right, you can have active fleas year round. There are several monthly products available, both topical and oral, to help control these pests. It is always easier to prevent an infestation than it is to try and clear one up.
Please feel free to call us with any questions you may have or speak with one of our staff members at your pet's next appointment.
Proper nutrition is as important for our pet as it is for us. The nutritional requirements for each life stage are different. Young animals, like human babies, require a more "high powered" diet. Higher concentrations of protein, calcium and fat are need for these youngsters. Adult pets require a less concentrated diet although the quality of ingredients still needs to be high. Senior pets often require diets that have even less concentration of protein and fats. The general health of the pet as well as life-style will dictate nutritional requirements as well. Follow the advice of your pet's veterinarian regarding the proper diet.
There are many, many brands of pet food on the market. How do we know which is the "best?" Why are some foods so much more expensive than others?
The quality and consistency of formulation are just two of the factors involved in pet food pricing. Pet food manufacturers design a diet formulation in two basic manners. Either they calculate the type and amount of ingredients that they use or they perform feeding trials and monitor body condition, energy, and laboratory values obtained when a particular formulation is fed to a group of animals. A paper was presented at The World Small Animal Veterinary Association in 2001 that discusses the finer points of What Reading a Label Will and Won't Tell You about the Food.
Things to Consider When Evaluating a Pet Food
- Is the nutritional adequacy statement based on feeding trials?
- Is there a phone number on the label for consumer inquiries? If the answer is no to either of the above questions, I would be disinclined to use the food. If the answer were yes to both questions, then I would call the phone number and make the following inquiries:
- Does the company run AFFCO feeding trials on each of their products or product families?
- Does the company have their own manufacturing plants or do they contract with an outside feed mill or manufacturing plant?
- Does the company have a Research and Development department?
- Where does the company get their raw ingredients? Are they from established sources or do the sources vary? What kind of standards does the company have for raw ingredients? Do they do any testing in-house before using an ingredient for manufacturing?
- What kind of testing does the company do at the end of each run? Do they hold the product for shipment until this testing is completed?
- Does the company do stability testing of their products? Do they know the shelf life of their product? Do they put "Best Used By" dates on their product?
Finally, look at any promotional material that is available for the product (including the packaging) and evaluate how the product is marketed. Are they basing their marketing claims on a sound scientific rationale? Is the marketing based on a gimmick? Does the company market their product by bad-mouthing other companies?
Exercise is another key ingredient in the physical and mental health of your pet. Some benefits of exercise include healthy weight management, reduction in obesity-related diseases, and greater joint mobility/flexibility. Remember to always consult your veterinarian before beginning any exercise routine with your pet.
- An exercise routine combined with proper nutrition will help ensure that your pet maintains a healthy weight.
- Exercise will also help an overweight pet shed unneeded pounds.
- Start slow when beginning an exercise routine. It will take time for your pet's system to adjust to the new regimen and to be able to sustain long periods of activity.
- Before beginning an exercise routine with an overweight or senior pet, we recommend having your pet examined to make sure they are healthy enough to perform exercise related activities.
Ways to exercise your dog:
- Play fetch in the back yard.
- Take your dog on walks in the neighborhood or park.
- For small housedogs, place feeding and resting areas at opposite ends of the house.
- Train active dogs on agility courses.
Ways to exercise your cat:
- Place feeding and litter box areas as far apart as possible. Having these areas on different levels works well.
- Some cats can be trained to walk on leashes. If your cat is amenable to this, short walks outside are excellent ways to exercise.
- Interest your cat with interactive toys. Chasing balls or laser pointers will give your cat a full workout.