Updated on March 26, 2012
Three Essential Steps for Maintaining Your Dog’s Health
As mentioned in my last blog post, the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association recently teamed up to create Guidelines for Canine and Feline Preventive Healthcare. These guidelines have been distributed to veterinarians throughout the United States with hopes of enhancing their efforts to counsel their clients about disease prevention.
Last week, I provided you with a tour of the preventive guidelines for feline health care. Rather than review the entirety of the guidelines for you dog lovers (I encourage you to do this on your own), from them I’ve selected three that I consider to be most important.
An Annual Physical Examination
In the past, veterinarians have done a remarkably good job using vaccine postcards and emails to remind their clients to schedule visits. The downside is, clients have been inadvertently programmed to believe that vaccinations are the most, if not the only, important part of their dog’s regular visits. Now that adult core vaccinations are required only once every three years (rather than once a year), it’s no surprise that veterinarians have observed a marked decline in annual office visits.
An annual physical examination is a key ingredient for maintaining your pet’s good health. It provides the opportunity for discussion about nutrition, behavioral issues, parasite control, and anything else that warrants veterinary advice. Additionally, an annual physical allows for early disease detection and treatment. It’s a no-brainer that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the outcome. The same holds true for heart disease, kidney disease, periodontal disease, and a myriad of other medical issues that might be detected during a routine physical exam. Here’s the bottom line, get your pet to the vet once a year, no matter what!
Heartworm disease has now been documented in all 50 of the United States. This parasitic infection is spread from one dog to another by way of mosquitoes. Heartworms set up housekeeping primarily within the heart and the blood vessels within the lungs where they are capable of wreaking havoc. Treatment for this disease isn’t always successful and carries significant potential for negative side effects. To make matters worse, there is a worldwide shortage of Immiticide®, currently the only approved drug to treat heartworm disease. And, while it’s tempting to believe that your dog’s thick haircoat or primarily indoor lifestyle will be protective againt heartworm disease, statistics prove otherwise. There, have I adequately made my case for use of heartworm prevention?
There are a number of safe and effective medications on the market that effectively prevent canine heartworm disease. Talk with your veterinarian about the incidence of heartworm disease in your community to determine if prevention is warranted. If recommended, please use the product exactly as prescribed. Lack of compliance is the number one reason dogs receiving heartworm prevention develop the disease. To learn more about heartworm disease, visit the website of The American Heartworm Society.
Counseling on Behavioral Issues
The number one reason dogs are euthanized or relinquished to shelters is problematic behavior. Separation anxiety, aggression, failed housetraining- these are just a few of the reasons people give up on their pets. I recently worked with a client for the first time whose adorable six-year-old Schnauzer Molly has kidney failure. In an, “Oh, by the way” comment, she told me that she and Molly never, ever spend time apart because of separation anxiety. Left alone, sweet little Molly assumes the role of demolition artist. When I asked Molly’s mom if she’d ever mentioned this problem to her family vet, she sheepishly shook her head. She was unaware that discussion with her veterinarian would result in referral to a “vetted” trainer and a prescription for medication designed specifically for the treatment of canine separation anxiety.
Be sure to talk with your vet about any of your pet’s behavioral issues just as soon as they become apparent. The sooner such problems can be nipped in the bud, the better the outcome will be.
Does your dog receive an annual physical examination? Are you administering heartworm preventive medication? Have you discussed your dog’s behavior issues with your veterinarian? Do tell!
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.