By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a U.S. dog and cat insurance agency founded in 2005.
Pet wellness and routine care plans are an optional add on to accident and illness pet insurance plans offered by Pets Best, and an easy way to keep your pet as healthy as possible. Annual checkups with your veterinarian allow health changes to be addressed and underlying diseases to be caught early. Here are five aspects of routine veterinary care that are crucial for the overall well-being of your pet.
Everyone is familiar with vaccines and why our pets need them. Deadly contagious diseases such as Parvo and Distemper are fully preventable in puppies with a simple vaccine. The same is true of the deadly Feline Leukemia Virus and Panleukopenia virus in cats. All puppies and kittens need to have their full series of vaccines and appropriate boosters as they age. Vaccines such as Leptospira, Lyme and Bordetella should be boostered at least yearly, as the immunity does not last as long in bacterial vaccines as it does with viral vaccines. Even older pets need to have their boosters updated to prevent deadly Lepto infections, crippling Lyme disease infections and pesky Bordetella (Kennel Cough) infections.
2. Dental Care
Just like humans, pets need their teeth cleaned too! Even if you are able to brush your pet’s teeth at home twice a day, they still need prophylactic cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler and polisher. This is the same tool your dentist uses on you at your dental cleanings and checkups every 6 months. Dogs and cats have plaque and tartar buildup that leads to dental calculus, gingivitis and tooth decay. Starting at about 1 year of age, they need their teeth cleaned at least annually. Smaller dogs and those with particularly fast tartar buildup will need dental cleanings every 4-6 months. Without these needed scaling and polishing procedures, pet develop bad breath, painful tooth decay and tooth root abscesses. In addition, severe gum disease is a source of chronic infection which can allow bacteria into the bloodstream. These bacteria can latch onto heart valves causing dangerous heart murmurs; bacteria in the blood can also cause abscesses in the liver and elsewhere in the body. It is important to start routine dental cleanings early in life to prevent the teeth from ever decaying and becoming damaged in the first place.
3. Flea and Tick Prevention
Besides being just plain gross, fleas and tick can really harm your pet. These tiny parasites harbor diseases that can wreak havoc on your pet’s health. For example, ticks carry Lyme disease, Babesia and Ehrlichia as well as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fleas can carry tapeworms which can be transmitted to your pets! Fleas can also cause severe anemia from their blood-sucking diet, severe rash and skin allergies as well as harbor Bartonella, the bacteria that causes Cat Scratch Fever. It is important that all pets be on appropriate flea and tick control for their geographical area. Many parts of the United States require year round flea and tick control, even in indoor pets.
4. Heartworm Prevention
The number one most common preventable disease in dogs is Heartworms, but did you know that cats can get heartworms too? All pets in the United States should be on heartworm prevention year round for life. This deadly worm infection is transmitted from infected animals to your pet by mosquitos, which means that even indoor pets are at risk! Areas with warm, wet weather such as the southeastern United States, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Delta region have particularly high levels of infected dogs and wildlife. However, heartworms have been reported and diagnosed in all 50 states. Prevention comes in oral, topical or injectable forms and should be started before 6 months of age in all puppies and kittens. If your dog contracts heartworms, It can be expensive to treat. Unfortunately, treatment for cats does not exist which makes it very important to protect cats too!
Did you know that spaying or neutering your pet is considered preventative care? Neutering male dogs and cats has several health benefits including eliminating the risk of testicular cancer and eliminating enlarged prostates in older males which can make it difficult for pets to urinate. Neutering also helps improve behavior by decreasing aggression, urine marking, fighting and roaming behaviors. Spaying your female dog or cat is even more important! Unspayed females can develop a deadly infection of the uterus called a Pyometra. This is a true emergency and requires immediate surgery. If left untreated, these dogs and cats die from sepsis (infection). Female dogs and cats who are not spayed before their first heat cycle (usually around 6 months old) have a much higher chance of developing mammary cancer (breast cancer) as they age. This is why it is very important to spay your pet before she is 6 months old! Pets who are spayed or neutered, on average, live longer than those pets who are not. These procedures carry very little risk, especially when patients are young and healthy.
Pets Best offers Routine Care Wellness Plans, as an optional add on to all their accident and illness plans.