Ensuring your pet lives a long, healthy, and happy life with you and your family is a key goal for vets. While we are always there to help when your pet is sick, prevention of disease is better than trying to find a cure. Being aware of the risks to your pet and ensuring to seek veterinary assistance when needed helps to reduce stress and harm to you and your animal and help to lower costs. As every pet is different and unique, an individual preventative health plan can be tailored for you based on your location, your pet and what risks they may be exposed to. There are various aspects of your pets’ health that you should consider in routine preventative treatment, which are covered below.
Regularly visiting your vet for a health check is essential for ensuring that your pet is at their best. Pets can start feeling unwell with only small changes to their behaviour – it can be very easy to miss! Regular check-ups allow for your vet to undertake a thorough examination. They can help to detect early signs of diseases, such as kidney disease or arthritis. Early intervention allows for vets to manage and treat these diseases before they become life-threatening. For most pets, at least once a year is enough. However for pets over 8 years old, it is recommended to be every 6 months.
Vaccines, just like in humans, are an important preventative measure. They ensure your pet is protected against harmful and potentially deadly diseases. They act to stimulate the immune system to build up a defence against invading bacteria or viruses. Like the common cold or coronavirus, these diseases can be easily transmitted through contact with infected animals, dirt, water, and other items. Sometimes without you being aware that your pet has been exposed. Vaccinating your pet is the best way to prevent or decrease their chance of getting infected.
Commonly, there are a set of ‘core’ vaccinations that should be given for life-threatening diseases that are present worldwide such as parvovirus, distemper, and hepatitis in dogs. Additionally, there are ‘non-core’ vaccinations that may be required based on the location and lifestyle of your pet. Your vet can evaluate the risks of exposure and determine an appropriate vaccine schedule for your pet. Younger animals often require multiple vaccines closer together to help boost their immunity while adults require boosters every 1-3 years, depending on your situation.
Internal and external parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and worms, are commonly seen in pets and are a source of damage and disease.
There are four common types of intestinal worms that can be contracted by pets: tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms. Once they have infected an animal, they can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract. They can also shed eggs that can infect humans, typically children and the immunosuppressed. Worms can be easily prevented and controlled with routine treatment. There are various options available, such as tablets or spot-ons, and you should discuss them with your vet.
Fleas and ticks are also common external parasites seen in pets that cause skin irritation, paralysis and further problems. Fleas will infect both your pet and the environment. Requiring thorough cleaning to ensure they cannot re-infect your pet once they are flea-free. Like worm control, routine treatment is key and should be discussed with your vet for the best option.
Heartworm control is another key part of your pets’ health plan as while it is easy to prevent, it is difficult and costly to treat. Heartworms, or its official name Dirofilaria immitis, live around the heart and lungs at their adult stage. Causing serious damage which can result in severe respiratory problems and even death. This parasite is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that injects the heartworm larvae into your pets’ blood. These larvae, known as microfilariae, migrate to the heart to grow into adults and produce more microfilariae. As it is difficult to avoid mosquitoes, the use of either a yearly heartworm injection or monthly tablet is recommended as it significantly reduces the risk of infection. Your vet can recommend the best option for your pet based on their needs.
Similar to humans, it is important to make sure your pets’ teeth and gums are well looked after. Just like us, plaque will build up on your pets’ teeth that needs to be removed but they can’t brush their teeth! If not removed, the plaque may develop into a hardened form, known as calculus. It attracts bacteria, leading to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). This can be painful for your dog and if left untreated, may lead to further periodontal disease such as loss of the gum and even the tooth itself. Bacteria from the plaque can also be absorbed into the bloodstream. It can infect other parts of the body, such as the kidneys and heart.
Dental disease is an area where early intervention and prevention is critical as this damage is normally irreversible and is expensive to treat. Luckily, there are various ways to help your pet maintain good oral health throughout their life. You should start by discussing any concerns with your ve. Ensure you regularly for ‘dental check-ups’ to detect the early stages of disease. To prevent plaque build-up, you can teach your dog to have their teeth brushed or wiped by you daily with special pet toothpaste. Specially formulated dental diets, chews and toys are available that have special additives to remove or break down plaque. If your pet already has a build up of plaque, vets can perform a scale and polish of their teeth to clean them. They can also take dental x-rays to monitor any potential problems.
Nutrition and Weight Management
The nutritional needs of your pet vary depending on their health, age, breed, sex, and various other factors. As it is always changing, it can be difficult to tell what your pet really needs. If you’re not quite meeting their proper nutrient requirements, this can lead to an increased risk of health issues. Obesity is a common and major issue in Australian pets. Studies show that over 35% of cats and dogs are overweight. Understanding how much your dog should weigh and how to tell if they are in good condition is essential for pet owners to learn. You can discuss this with your vet and learn about body condition scoring. A scale from 1 to 5 that uses different markers on your pet to determine if they are at a healthy weight.
Preventative medicine does what it says on the tin – prevents disease from starting in the first place! So make sure your pet is safe – check with your vet today.