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Preventive Care for Your Furry Companion

by Dr. Jill Jackson, DVM, Aspen Ridge Animal Hospital

Ever hear the phrase “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? This is true for our canine and feline companions along with ourselves. In this article, I will highlight different preventative measures you can take with your pets to help ensure a long, healthy and happy life.

1. Vaccinations are crucial to ensure your pet won’t be affected by one of the severe, life threatening, and highly contagious illnesses that circulate throughout the animal community. Your veterinarian can customize a schedule for your pet including the core vaccines that all pets should receive along with any optional vaccines depending on the activities and lifestyle of your pet. If your pet doesn’t handle vaccines well or you have concerns about vaccinating, blood serum titers can be measured to determine whether your pet has the appropriate level of antibodies present to protect them from the various illnesses.

2. Numerous studies have shown that spaying (females) or neutering (males) your pet will lengthen their lifespan. Diseases and cancers of the reproductive organs and mammary glands are lessened or prevented entirely. Aggression is reduced resulting in less fighting between house-mates and neighborhood dogs. The urge to roam and seek a mate will be greatly decreased, thereby reducing escapes from the home which often result in dog fights, being hit by a car, becoming lost or stolen, etc.

3. Year-round heartworm prevention is recommended for all dogs, and for cats that live in heartworm endemic areas. Heartworm disease causes heart failure, lung disease and death in affected animals. It is spread through the bite of a mosquito which becomes infected after biting a dog, wolf, or coyote which is carrying heartworms. Preventing heartworm is ideal, as the treatment for a heartworm-infected dog is lengthy and painful, not to mention quite expensive. Sometimes, even with treatment, an infected individual won’t survive if the heart and lungs are too severely damaged.

4. Fleas and ticks are not only a nuisance, but they are just plain gross and can carry various diseases which can infect your pet and cause significant illness. Some of these illnesses include the plague and other bacteria from fleas; Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, among others, from ticks. It’s best to avoid these problems altogether by using a veterinarian-approved flea and tick prevention product.

5. Dental care for our pets is often neglected but incredibly important. The mouth and teeth of dogs and cats are populated with a variety of bacteria. When the numbers of these bacteria are overwhelming, periodontal disease results causing infected gums and teeth with pain and difficult eating. The bacteria can spread to other areas of the body including the heart and kidneys, causing further damage and a shortened lifespan. Brushing teeth several times per week with toothpaste made specifically for cats and dogs, providing dental chews regularly, and having thorough dental cleanings performed as needed, determined by your veterinarian, can prevent the pain (not to mention the odor) of dental disease.

6. Back to the basics: Daily exercise and healthy nutrition are obvious but sometimes overlooked aspects of keeping your pet in tip-top shape. All pets require daily exercise to some degree to maintain a healthy body and mind. More exercise than we often realize is needed (for example, a 1 hour walk instead of 10 minutes). Along with daily walking or running for cats and dogs, other ideas for exercise include playing games in the house such as hide and seek, offering a variety of toys, and exposing pets to new and stimulating activities such as rides in the car, trips to a lake, hikes, etc. Choosing a high quality, balanced diet with the help of your veterinarian will really pay off in the long-run. Higher quality foods are easier to digest and produce less waste, which means less workload on your pet’s organs. In the long-run, organs don’t wear out as quickly and your pet has the nutrients required to build and maintain all of the cells required for ideal function.

Preventive care provides the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Following these tips will go a long way towards establishing and maintaining the well-being of your furry companion, allowing for years of fun and companionship.

Dr. Jill Jackson, DVM appears courtesy of Aspen Ridge Animal Hospital in Lakeside. For more information about this health topic or others, please call (928) 537-4000.