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Preventive and Routine Care Leads to Happy, Healthy Pets
April 7, 2022
There is no doubt that routine preventative care leads to healthier pets and happier owners. When your pet is healthy, they feel good, has more energy and you both will be less stressed and more content! Preventive care for your pet starts when they are puppies and kittens, continuing throughout their life. Generally, that includes check-ups and diagnostics as your pet ages or health needs change. Vaccinations, maintaining a healthy body weight, routine baseline blood work and urinalysis, as well as at home dental care and grooming all contribute to your pet’s wellbeing and you sharing a happy lifestyle with your pets! I am going to highlight some of the areas to think about and consider making part of you and your pets’ routines.
Vaccine recommendations can vary widely depending on where you and your pet live, your pet’s age, if your pet goes outside or to boarding/grooming facilities or is traveling to other states for things like shows, as well as if you are living in an urban or a rural environment. Have an honest open discussion with your veterinarian about your future plans like boarding or doggy day care, what the home environment is like and if there are other pets in the home.
You may often hear your veterinarian discuss “core vaccines” and “non-core vaccines.” Some core vaccines are required by state laws, like rabies vaccines, but other core vaccines are recommended to help keep your pet healthy, like distemper combination vaccines for dogs and cats.
Other vaccines are sometimes referred to as non-core and these can become core vaccines depending on where you live or the individual situation.
Vaccines are important to help keep your pet healthy and your veterinarian’s recommendations for core vaccines may change during their lifetime depending on your pet’s individual situation and lifestyle.
Nutrition and food are so important to help your puppy and kitten grow, as well as keep them healthy. Kittens and puppies usually require higher levels of protein to build muscle and also slightly higher minerals, like calcium, to build healthy bones and teeth.
Choose a food that is for the life stage of your pet or even a breed specific diet to help them thrive. Pets are prone to gastric upset and diarrhea when changes are made too quickly, especially puppies and kittens. Instead, slowly increase the new food amount and decrease the old food so the transition is made over a 14-to-21-day period. Making a slow transition will help prevent any diarrhea or other problems. If at any point during that transition you note a change in your pet’s feces, stop and consult your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may direct you to slow down the transition or there may be something else causing the diarrhea like a virus or parasites that they can test for.
There is a pet food for that! It is very confusing deciding between different diets for your pet. Most food manufactures have included things on their label to help when choosing a diet like, “for large breed puppies” or “sensitive skin” or “low calorie” etc. Discuss with a veterinarian your pet’s individual needs and try to ignore the hype about different food types. Checking in with a virtual veterinarian, like AskVet, who can assist and support you in discussing food trends and even a source for food recalls that may affect you and your pets. (Sign up for AskVet using code BIVVY2022 for two months of free access!)
Nutrition is also important during disease to help with recovery or helping to prevent progression of the disease. Work with your veterinarian on transitioning to a prescription diet if your pet has an acute or chronic problems like bladder stones, kidney disease or liver problems. Diets can help a lot with recovery from surgery as well. Ask your veterinarian about supplements that may help with quick recovery and prevention of progression. For example, your veterinarian may recommend a joint supplement after orthopedic surgery, but may also recommend laser therapy as well as physical therapy to help with range of motion and joint function recovery.
Exercise and Healthy Weight
Keeping your pet trim will help prevent other diseases that go along with obesity. Pets that lead active lifestyles are less prone to having arthritis, joint pain, heart problems, high blood pressure, some types of cancers and even diabetes. We all love to love on our pets and we do like to give treats! Consider lower fat treats or treats or chews that also help with dental care also. You may want to also ask your veterinarian about a diet made for weight loss or low-fat treats. Some dogs also enjoy peas, green beans, small pieces of carrot or apple as occasional treats. There are also portion control smart dishes that help keep your kitty or pup from overindulging.
As with any weight loss program it can be hard work. Think of each pound your pet needs to lose ad the equivalent of you losing 10 pounds. Don’t let that discourage you but work with your veterinarian or one of the AskVet veterinarians or Care Coaches to help you develop a weight loss plan for you and your pet.
Some easy tips include small reductions in the amount you are feeding as well as interactive toys that your pet can play, like KONG® toys, even if you are not home. For dogs consider doggy day care that offers additional training or games for your pup. For cats can also consider a pet sitter coming in to play with kitty while you are at work or a remote toy you can control from your cell phone while you are at another location. There are many options to help keep your pet active and at their optimum weight.
Routine Blood Work and Urinalysis
Sometimes it is tough to see why a veterinarian is recommending expensive blood work and urinalysis unless you know what the tests will tell you about your pet’s health. Some breeds are more prone to health issues that if detected early can slow the progression of the disease. Endocrine issues like thyroid, adrenal problems, diabetes, kidney and liver problems can cause our pets not to feel well or require chronic medication. Base line blood work is usually done once to twice a year depending on medical conditions and general health.
Along with blood work, which includes a Complete Blood Count to look for infections and other blood cell abnormalities as well as the chemistry panel which highlights different organ functions, your veterinarian will likely recommend a urinalysis. Your veterinarian will collect your pet’s urine to run a urine test strip with multi-indices to check for example, protein, blood glucose, pH, etc. Your vet will also test the urine specific gravity to determine how well the kidneys are concentrated the urine. Finally, a urine sediment will be run to see if there are any crystals or abnormal cells in the urine.
Urinalysis along with the blood work give the veterinarian a full picture into your pet’s health. Remember if you have subscribed to AskVet, you will receive an at-home urine test that will save you time and money. The AskVet doctors can virtually review the results with you and recommend next steps.
Dental care is important at all stages of your pet’s life. If an at-home preventative care routine is established early it will go a long way to prevent tooth loss, infection of the gums and sinuses as well as prevent cardiac issues like endocarditis. Pets can often be trained when teething and very young to start chewing dental chews. Brushing teeth can be very difficult in kittens and cats unless they are desensitized to the activity when a young kitten. Sometimes chew toys can be used for play as well as chewing enjoyment, for both dogs and cats. Kong® toys are a great choice to apply a thin coat of pet safe enzyme tooth paste applied to the edges of the opening to help the pet “brush their own” teeth. Ask your veterinarian about gels that can be applied weekly to your dog’s teeth and gum line, like Oravet® gel for dogs or a daily gel like Maxigard® gel for cats. Gels provide a barrier for bacteria and tartar build up at the gum and tooth line to aid in less trips to the veterinarian for dental cleanings under anesthesia.
Always start slow when trying to brush your pet’s teeth or when getting them used to you examining their mouth. Use treats and praise as well as keep the sessions short at first. In some pets this may look like a quick 1-3 second swipe of the finger on the lips or even just letting you lift the lip for a second. For example, if you can get your kitty to lick the tooth paste off the brush is a big step toward getting the tooth paste on their teeth. Some cats will enjoy chewing on a chew like CET® dental chews for cats and may also let their pet parent stick a finger in their mouth between their gums and lips. Try different types of “tooth brushes”, finger brushes, dental wipes, or even a bear finger with tooth paste on it to help your pet tolerate an oral exam. Sometimes it can be very frustrating but being able to look in your pet’s mouth offers big rewards to monitoring their dental health and helping your pet keep their pearly whites, white!
Grooming and Skin Care
Let’s face it we all have bad hair days! But your pet may not be able to put on a hat to meet their public. Some dogs and some cats just seem to need more grooming time than others. More grooming is not necessarily an exclusive need of pets with long hair, since hairless cat and dog breeds also need a lot of skin care. To keep your pets coat and skin in top condition either schedule an appointment at your favorite pet groomer or plan on a spa day at home. Most dogs should be bathed at least every 3 months but that can be more often if your pet swims, or has skin issues. Cats can also be bathed but make sure to brush out mats and tangles before bathing a long-haired pup or kitty since the water may “set” or firm up the mats even more.
Hairless pets also need frequent cleaning of their skin. Hairless pets also need a pet safe lotion and sometimes a pet safe sunscreen to keep their skin healthy. Light weight cotton shirts or t-shirts can help block some of the sun’s rays in the summertime. Limit outside time for hairless pets as well as very hot ambient temperatures or very cold ambient temperatures. In the wintertime you may even have to provide a sweater or jacket for your pet to help keep them warm and toasty.
Fleas and ticks can contribute a lot to itching skin and skin infections. Flea and tick preventatives like vaccines can vary by where you live, so discuss with your veterinarian a recommended flea and tick control for your pet’s specific needs. Some pets can be particularly sensitive and allergic to the saliva in flea bites. If your pet starts itching the moment, they get one flea bite it is a good idea to have the home and yard professionally sprayed to mitigate flea and ticks in the environment. Your veterinarian in addition to a prescription oral flea control may also recommend a top spot type product to help repel the fleas.
Some of these areas of preventative care may be more difficult than others to master. But I want to encourage you to persevere and look at each of these areas as a starting place. You may already be accomplished in some of these preventative care areas. But if not, start simple with one area and expand your repertoire to include preventative care pet plan in your everyday routine. With a little attention to prevention along with some simple recommendations from your veterinarian you can concentrate on more important things like pleasant walks on a trail, playing ball or even snuggling during movie night. Now get out there and enjoy or pups’ company or go snuggle with your kitty!
That's another pawsitive tip from AskVet's Dr. Tammie! To learn more about pet care, you can chat with an AskVet veterinarian 24/7 on the AskVet app any time, day or night.
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