by Dr. Erin West, DVM
For many pet owners, preventative care means vaccinations. However, while protection against diseases such as rabies, parvovirus, leptospirosis, and feline leukemia (among others) is certainly important, vaccinations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making sure our pets stay healthy and happy. One of the most important aspects of preventative care is a thorough physical exam, typically recommended yearly for most young healthy animals. While we expect our young and middle-aged pets to be healthy, a careful examination by your highly-trained veterinarian can pick up minor changes that may indicate big underlying problems. Obesity, nutrition concerns, joint disease, and dental disease are all highly prevalent in animals of all ages and can make a huge difference in the lifespan and comfort of our pets. Enlarged lymph nodes or lumps and bumps are often found during routine exams, and early detection is vital with many diseases that can affect even younger animals.
Along with regular physical examinations, protection against internal and external parasites is also important. Fleas enjoy our temperate climate, and are a year-round threat to our pets and homes. Intestinal parasites are also highly prevalent, even in dogs and cats that are primarily indoors, and can pose a health threat to humans too. Yearly fecal examinations and year-round broad-spectrum parasite control are the keys to a parasite-free pet.
During a preventative care exam, your veterinarian will also discuss any other preventative care recommendations based on your pet’s age and lifestyle. Baseline bloodwork is a great idea on a semi-regular basis in young animals, and becomes a yearly recommendation as pets reach senior status. Elderly pets may need more frequent check-ups, since their rate of aging is far faster than ours.
Happily we live in a time where the quality and scope of veterinary medicine rivals that of human medicine, and our pets are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. That being said, the old phrase that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true. Comprehensive preventative care is the best way of ensuring that whether you share your life with dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, reptiles, or any other, that your critters receive the best possible care for the best possible life.