Preventive care revolves around the idea that routine physical exams, immunizations, and health screenings help to prevent disease, or at least, to catch it early. As our pets age, their needs, risks, and challenges change. Therefore, your pet’s preventive visits with your veterinarian will differ, depending on whether you have a young pup or a senior cat.
Dogs and cats should visit the veterinarian at around 8 weeks old and return every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. These pets are generally considered juvenile until age 2. Pay attention during these first visits, because they are packed with information, tips, and recommendations. Our team will likely discuss the following:
- Vaccinations — All puppies and kittens should receive their core vaccines. For dogs, this includes vaccines against distemper virus, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and rabies virus. For cats, this includes vaccines against herpesvirus, panleukopenia virus, calicivirus, feline leukemia virus, and rabies virus. We may recommend other, noncore vaccines, such as bordetella, leptospirosis, and canine influenza, depending on your pet’s lifestyle.
- Deworming — Many puppies and kittens are born with intestinal parasites that they contracted from the mother in utero. These young pets are also exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of internal parasites that may result in vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration. Therefore, routine, broad-spectrum deworming is often performed at all initial juvenile appointments.
- Parasite prevention — Unfortunately, puppies and kittens can contract more than just intestinal parasites. Fleas, heartworm, ticks, and other bugs may see your pet as a warm, inviting host. For this reason, year-round parasite prevention in the form of topical liquids, oral tablets, or collars is recommended for all pets 8 weeks and older.
- Infectious disease testing — Your puppy will need heartworm and tick-borne disease testing at around age 1, whereas your kitten will need testing for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) at his initial kitten visit, or shortly thereafter.
- Reproductive health — Whether you would like to breed your pet or you plan to spay or neuter, our team will guide you. If your veterinarian discovers any birth defects or congenital disease, breeding will be discouraged. Your veterinarian will also help you decide on the best time to spay or neuter your pet.
- Basic care — Whether you are a new pet owner or a seasoned caretaker, you may benefit from some tips on grooming, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, bathing, and nail trimming. Your veterinarian can review these procedures with you.
Adult dogs and cats range from 2 to 7 years old. They should receive much of the same preventive care as when they were younger, including vaccine boosters, deworming, infectious disease screening, and routine parasite prevention. As your pet ages, a few more hot topics will be discussed, including:
- Dental care — According to the American Veterinary Dental College, “Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats, and is entirely preventable.” In fact, by age 3, most dogs and cats have some evidence of dental disease. Make your dog or cat one less statistic by instituting an at-home oral care regimen. Talk with our team about how to brush your pet’s teeth and the dental products that would be best for your furry friend.
- Weight — Another shocking statistic indicates that “in 2018, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese.” Along with dental disease, excess weight is preventable. Your veterinarian will assess your pet’s body condition and recommend a proper diet and exercise routine.
Senior dogs and cats—those age 8 and older—generally require more veterinary attention. In addition to the preventive care that juvenile and adult pets receive, senior pets require the following:
- Biannual physical exams — Dogs and cats age significantly faster than people, and they are experts at hiding pain and discomfort. In one year, certain diseases can go from being silent to debilitating. For this reason, we recommend that senior pets have a full physical exam at least twice a year.
- Routine lab work — Full blood work, urine testing, and thyroid testing at least once a year is recommended for senior pets, regardless of health status. If your pet has a concurrent disease, other monitoring tests may be recommended.
- At-home monitoring — Pay close attention to your senior dog or cat at home. Subtle changes in appetite, behavior, or elimination habits may be significant. Some signs to look out for include increased drinking or urination, increased or decreased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty with stairs or rising, lameness, coughing, increased respiration rate, vision loss, or confusion.
When was the last time your pet visited us for a preventive care exam? Contact us to set up an appointment.