Let's Talk About Vets (Care that is)
by Rebecca Richardson
Every pet owner knows that visits to the vet are inevitable. Whether it's a routine check up or for an emergency; having a good rapport with your vet is vital. Today we will take a look at the basic things ALL owners should know about keeping their dogs as healthy as possible.
Let's start with the monthly maintenance that all dogs should be on. It is estimated that 1 million or more dogs every year in the U.S. is diagnosed with Heartworms, a completely preventable disease. Heartworm larvae is transmitted through mosquito bites, the larvae make their way through the skin into the bloodstream, eventually infecting the heart and lungs and liver of the dog. Treatment for heart worms is expensive and can be traumatic on your dog's system. A monthly, year round preventative can save your dog a lot of pain and you a lot of money.
Fleas are most abundant from May through September. These nasty little creatures attach to your pet and suck blood for nourishment eventually causing anemia if left untreated, not to mention secondary skin infections. They are not selective and will bite humans as well. A female flea is capable of laying up to 50 eggs a day on your dog. A flea infestation in your home is difficult to contain and is miserable for your dog.1
- Droppings or “flea dirt” in a dog’s coat - Flea eggs on dog or in dog’s environment
- Allergic dermatitis
- Excessive scratching, licking or biting at skin
- Hair loss
- Scabs and hot spots
- Pale gums
Ticks can cause Lyme Disease in your dog, the same as humans.
"Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. Its primary carrier is the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), which often feeds on rodents in its early stages. Later, the tick can attach to a dog or human and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Clinical signs include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite and fever, as well as lameness and swollen, painful joints. Renal failure can also be a consequence of Lyme disease."2
After age 7 your dog is considered a senior. Senior dogs should be taken in twice yearly for preventative checkups. Your vet may recommend blood work called a Senior Panel that will check things such as:
White Blood Cell Count
Thyroid, Kidney, Liver function panels
ALL dogs should receive a yearly exam from their vet. Just like humans, it is important that we take our pups in for these "maintenance" visits. Your vet will check things like:
- Appearance of skin / coat
- Thorough examination of ears, throat, belly, limbs
- Listen to heart and lungs
- Administration of annual vaccines (some vets now offer 2 / 3 year vaccines - you should still be taking your dog in for an annual check up to be safe!)
- Review of your dogs current foods, medications
- Any necessary blood tests
What specific vaccines your dog should get can vary a little based on your area. Vaccines are broken down into Core Vaccines and Non Core Vaccines. These guidelines where established in 2006 by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and are the standard for vaccine distribution throughout the U.S. Like children, it is important to vaccinate your dog against certain disease. Rabies for instance is a fatal disease that can have dire consequences for your pet and anyone he / she might injure as a result.
(These are required for all dogs. Typical administration is 1 year to 3 year depending on your dog and it's current state of health. Puppies require an initial round of vaccinations that are then given as boosters after he/she is of a certain age -- Every vet sets a slightly different schedule for puppy vaccinations in particular so make sure you discuss this process with them.)
NON CORE VACCINES
(These are based on the area you live in and the dogs potential risk -- For example, dogs who live in an area with a dense deer population are at greater risk of developing Lyme disease than those living in a state without. Your vet most likely would recommend your dog receive the Lyme disease vaccination to be preventative.)
ARE THERE OTHER REASONS THEY SHOULD GO IN?
Spay / Neuter of your pet. – Did you know that you increase your pet's risk of developing cancer simply by leaving them intact? Not only that every litter of puppies or kittens can only add to the already overloaded stray pet population. Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized each year because they were the product of un-spayed / un-neutered pets. Here is a handy link that can help you find low-cost spay / neuter program in your area.
Dogs cannot speak but they do communicate with their body language. If your pet is showing any of the following signs, a call to your vet is prudent. Not everything on this list may be considered an emergency but it is far better to consult with your vet and get advice than to let it go. If any of these symptoms are lasting for 24 hours or more, you will want to get your pet seen.
ANY condition that you have been treating that seems to be getting worse or if it just seems like you aren’t getting it under control as expected.
Sudden onset of behavior changes
Poor Appetite (not eating that lasts more than a day)
Lethargy or loss of energy
Lameness or abnormal movement
Excessive thirst (increased water intake)
Frequent and/or inappropriate urination
Excessive scratching or dull, dry, or flaky hair coat
Wheezing or frequent panting
Nasal discharge or congestion
Eye discharge or redness
Displays of mild to moderate pain (such as crying when a specific area is touched or action is taken)
1,2 GENERAL DETAILS TAKEN FROM ASPCA WEBSITE HEALTH ARTICLES