We have the best job in the world. We get to see wonderful dogs and cats all day accompanied by their caring guardians. Some ties we have to help pets get better and sometimes we see healthy pets for their yearly examination and any vaccines. It is at these appointments, the “Healthy Pet” appointments that I feel we as the Veterinarian-Guardian team can impact the health of our pets the most.
We veterinarians need all the help we can get. Since pets cannot tell us what goes on at home on a daily basis, we need their guardians help in that regard. During your pet’s examination, you can help us focus on five important areas to ensure the best health for your pet with these questions:
What should I feed my pet and how much?
Should I feed wet food, dry food? Should it be home made? Raw diet? Does my pet need a prescription food. What do I look for when buying food? What food is safe to feed for both my pet and my family? How much food should I feed and what kind of snacks can I give? These questions and more are important to ask and to find the answers to. We are what we eat and since we are the only source of food for our pets we need to be very careful in how and what we feed them.
How much exercise does my pet need?
Can I run with my dog? My cats stay indoors all the time, how can I exercise them? I have a big yard can’t I just let them run outside? I have an older pet who is arthritic, what exercise is appropriate? All these are taken into account when activity is discussed. An active lifestyle, within reason, is important to our health as well as our pets. Second only to food, exercise is the main determinant of a pet’s weight. An appropriate amount of food with too little exercise causes weight gain which can lead to arthritis, diabetes, organ disease and general poor health. Too much exercise can lead to injuries, weight loss and fatigue. Gaging the right amount of exercise for your pet can be tough and discussing this with your veterinarian can keep you both on the right track.
What vaccines, if any, does my pet need?
Vaccinations are an important method of keeping pets healthy. Vaccines introduce a small amount of a particular disease into a pet’s body and this allows their immune system to make protective antibodies against those diseases. When a pet is exposed to those diseases, the antibodies and other parts of the immune system help to rid the body of the invading organism before illness occurs. New research has shown pets respond well to vaccination and may not need as many inoculations as we have given in the past. Discussing with your veterinarian, your pet’s lifestyle, age, potential for boarding or travel all determine what vaccines are needed. This discussion is important to ensure adequate vaccination and to ensure your pet is not ‘over-vaccinated’.
How are his teeth?
Is that brown color important? Why does his breath smell? Can I feed bones to clean her teeth? Can kibble keep my cat’s teeth clean? Do people really brush their pet’s teeth? Very seldom do we open and examine our pets mouths unless we are brushing their teeth. Dogs and cats develop plaque and tartar just like we do. We deal with this on a daily basis by brushing rinsing and flossing. Our pets cannot do this on their own so they need our help. Discuss with your veterinarian what method of oral care is appropriate for your pet and your lifestyle. Just like with us prevention is better, kinder, cheaper than treatment at the dentist so learning what state your pet’s mouth is in and forming a preventive care plan is important.
What is this lump and do I need to be concerned?
This lump has been here a long time, when should I be worried? This lump just appeared, is it a problem? Do we need to remove the lump? When you find a lump on your pet’s body it needs to be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. Some lumps can be left alone to go away on their own, some lumps need to be removed right away to prevent future health problems and some lumps can be watched to see if they grow. Measuring lumps with your veterinarian and recording their size allows you both to assess whether a lump is growing or not. Some lumps can be managed with benign neglect where as others need immediate attention.
Visiting the veterinarian needs to be an active process. We need all the help we can get when it comes to your family member. Asking these and other questions at the vet visit, helps to ensure the important things are not missed.