We all want our pets to live as long as possible, but we often overlook the simplest ways to add healthy years. Preventive care plays a major role in extending your pet’s lifespan by getting ahead of problems before they start, or slowing their progression. Emerald Animal Hospital believes a proactive approach to your pet’s health is key to helping them live longer, happier lives. Here are the top five ways you can take control of your pet’s health.

#1: Annual or biannual pet wellness visits

The general recommendation is yearly veterinary visits for adult pets, and twice yearly visits for senior or geriatric pets. These visits offer your veterinarian an opportunity to examine your pet and discover common problems you may not have noticed, such as dental disease, arthritis, or lumps and bumps. The earlier these problems are addressed, the better the outcome. In addition to a thorough physical examination, wellness visits include:

  • Early disease screenings — Your veterinarian may recommend blood work, urinalysis, blood pressure testing, X-rays, or ultrasounds to screen for common problems that pop up as pets age. When your pet is tested regularly, your veterinarian can monitor for trends that indicate a problem, and start treatment sooner.
  • Vaccinations — These are important for all pets to protect against life-threatening, preventable diseases. The vaccination series that your pet receives as a youngster must be boostered periodically throughout their lifetime to maintain optimal immunity. Vaccination protocols are individually tailored based on your pet’s lifestyle, and may include blood testing to determine if boosters are needed.
  • Behavior evaluation — Your veterinarian can help you address common problems like anxiety, house-soiling, or senility. New behavior problems may have underlying medical causes, and your veterinarian can help investigate. If they find no physical reason for the problem, they can provide medications, training tips, and referrals to other professionals, if needed.
  • Microchip check-up — Your wellness visit is a great time to ensure your pet’s microchip is working, or to get them chipped if they don’t have one. Collars and tags can fall off or wear down, but microchipping is permanent, and increases the chance of a safe return if your pet gets lost.

#2: Pet weight control and nutrition

Obesity in pets is a huge problem, with 50% of pets classified by their veterinarians as overweight. Extra weight increases the risk of diabetes, breathing conditions, and joint disease. For older pets with arthritis and mobility issues, extra weight places stress on their painful joints, and they may be unwilling to move around. Inactivity further contributes to joint and muscle tissue breakdown, causing a vicious joint degeneration cycle. 

If your pet needs to lose weight, follow your veterinarian’s diet and exercise recommendations. Remember that high quality nutrition is important for all pets, but is especially true for those on a reduced calorie diet, or for pets with medical conditions. If you aren’t sure what to feed your pet, consult with a veterinary nutritionist.

#3: Pet dental health

Humans brush twice a day and still go to the dentist for professional care twice per year. Pets also experience dental disease, with nearly 80% of them diagnosed by age 3. Dental disease starts with plaque and tartar buildup, progresses to infection of the tissue and bone below the gumline, and causes bad breath, significant pain, tooth loss, and diminished quality of life. Infection from dental disease can become severe, enter the bloodstream, and travel to major organs, such as the heart. 

Daily toothbrushing is recommended, to prevent dental problems from developing. For pets who won’t accept toothbrushing, try products such as chews, treats, water additives, and sprays that are Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved. Most pets also need professional dental care under anesthesia every six to 12 months, depending on breed, age, and home care regimen. Your veterinarian can determine the best schedule for your pet’s dental needs.

#4: Pet spaying and neutering 

Intact pets, or those who have not undergone a sterilization surgery (i.e., spay or neuter), are at risk for mammary, uterine, and testicular cancers, and may also exhibit more behavioral issues. Females are at risk for uterine infections, and males are at risk for prostate problems. If your pet is not used for breeding, surgery is recommended to avoid problems down the line. The best age to pursue surgery will vary, depending on species, breed, and expected adult size, so check with your veterinarian about your pet’s appropriate age prior to scheduling. 

#5: Pet parasite prevention and control

Parasites can spread severe or life-threatening illness to your pet, but are easily prevented in most cases. Pets may suffer from flea, tick, heartworm, or intestinal worm infestations. Fleas and ticks cause allergic reactions, blood loss anemia, and transmit serious diseases (e.g., Lyme disease, ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever). Intestinal parasites can cause blood loss, malnutrition, diarrhea, and vomiting. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and once they reside in the heart and lungs, they can grow to a foot long, and cause fatal damage. 

Routine parasite detection, prevention, and treatment can save your pet from a life-threatening disease. Dogs and cats should receive monthly parasite prevention medication to treat fleas, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and ticks. An annual stool sample and blood test will reveal whether any additional treatment is needed. 

We can’t predict every problem your pet will face throughout their lifetime, but we can take steps to prevent problems before they start, or detect problems early, and maintain overall health and wellbeing. Call us to schedule an appointment with your Emerald Animal Hospital team for your pet’s annual wellness visit, dental evaluation, or early disease screening.