We’ve talked pretty extensively about vaccinations and other preventive healthcare recommendations. For both dogs and cats, the list of things available to help care for them on a daily basis is huge. Not every pet needs everything we have to offer, however, so many of these recommendations are based on an evaluation of a pet’s lifestyle. We try to determine exactly what risks each pet faces based on how they live their lives with their owners. From there, we’re able to select the essential parts of that pet’s care plan. This way, we’re addressing the actual risks for that pet without giving things that aren’t needed. Medications and vaccines are two very specific things that we don’t want to overdo. I’d like to take some time today to talk about the risk factors that we evaluate for each pet.
Indoor or Outdoor Living
Almost all dogs go outside. The cats we see are generally indoor-only, though we do see indoor-outdoor or outdoor-only cats once in a while. The outdoors is a high-risk place for many reasons. Parasites (hookworm, roundworm, fleas, ticks, toxins, heartworm), physical dangers (cars, sharp objects, bodies of water, predators, wild animals), and environmental risks (heat, cold) are all found outside the house. Infectious diseases like distemper, parvo, rabies, leukemia, feline respiratory disease, and FIV are all out there lurking in the environment. Depending on a pet’s time spent outside, we will determine which vaccines and parasite prevention products are needed. Sometimes, outdoor living indicates a need for additional blood testing. This is primarily for cats as we test for Feline Leukemia and FIV.
As a reminder: ALL pets, dogs and cats, indoor or outdoor, are at risk for heartworm disease and should be on monthly prevention.
Pets that have social contact with other pets are at risk for sharing infectious diseases and parasites. There is also the risk of fights. Wild animals are another risk for pets that are out and about, especially at night. Going to the groomer, boarding, obedience or recreational classes, dog parks, or nose to nose contact at a fence or window screen are all ‘social’ activities that bring along the risk of disease transmission. Additional vaccines such as Bordetella and Feline Leukemia are indicated for pets that have social activity.
Owners that take pets along with them on vacations have a unique set of challenges to overcome. Pets may get carsick. Traveling to other countries requires very, very specific procedures for having the Rabies vaccine up to date. Certain areas of the country put pets at risk for contacting diseases or dangers not found here in Michigan. Rattlesnakes, poisonous toads, plants, tick-carried diseases, toxic plants, and exposure to extremes of heat/cold all come into play when pets travel. Even going “Up North” here in Michigan presents additional risks (ticks and wildlife, primarily). Pets traveling to the ocean can become very sick if they drink too much saltwater.
It’s important for us to know what a pet is eating. This means that owners need to be honest and fully disclose all of the things a pet is eating. Often, owners are embarrassed to tell us that a pet eats people food or gets a lot of treats. They don’t want to be “in trouble” with the vet. It’s far more important to speak up so that we can come to a plan together that will fit that pet’s life. Treats aren’t all bad, and not all people food is bad. We do have to be very careful about things like onions, garlic, grapes, and raisins. Cats have special dietary requirements, too. Both dogs and cats can benefit from an individualized nutritional plan, so it’s in their best interest to have open and honest owners!
This is another topic with a heavy guilt attachment. Most of us should be more active for our own health. The same goes for our pets. We’ve got a little sign in our break room that says, “If your dog is too fat you’re not getting enough exercise!” As we learned with the recent news post on exercise regimens, it’s important to ease pets into more activity.
Other Illnesses & Age
Not every pet is in perfect health. Just as in people with chronic problems, pets that have diabetes, abnormal thyroid function, cancer, digestive problems, allergies, and so on all need to have those problems taken into account as we choose a preventive health care plan for them. Pets with cancer should be vaccinated less or not at all. Pets with diabetes have to have a very specific diet. Environmental allergies are aggravated by being outside more. Arthritis can be a bigger problem for pets that are active. Aging pets need to have more testing of their organ health.
As you can see, there are many factors that are evaluated to help us choose a preventive care plan. The questions may seem tedious and overly long for owners when they come in, but the truth is that without that information, we can’t offer our best possible care. The more we know, the better we can serve the unique needs of your pet.