Recently I was asked to speak at the local chapter of The Philanthropic Educational Organization on ‘The Art of Excellent Pet Ownership’. This is a non-profit women’s group that raises money to provide scholarships for women to go to college. This column contains the highlights from that discussion.
Over the past decade, pets have become an integral part of the family. Many canines and felines now live primarily indoors, sleep in their caretaker’s beds, and often have their own wardrobes. A significant number of pet owners have pictures of their pets displayed in the home, at their work areas, and on their phone. Dogs and cats have their own birthday parties, travel with their family, and are a significant consideration with holiday event planning. Doggy day care is now offered at many boarding facilities; and several hotels now allow canines. Check out bringfido.com for availability.
As a result, people are spending more on their pets, and providing as well as demanding a higher level of heath care for their companions. During the past 10 years there have been tremendous advances in veterinary medicine to both identify disease as well as treat illness. The one doctor practice is mostly a thing of the past. At our clinic we have now transitioned to computerized records and digital X-rays. It is now common to refer to specialists such as Orthopedic surgeons, Cardiologists, Internal Medicine specialists, Dermatologists, Behaviorists, and more. There is Genetic testing, Allergy testing, and compounding of medications for ease of administration. As the level of care has advanced, the cost has also climbed. This column is filled with suggestions to help extend the quality and quantity of healthy years for your buddies in a cost savvy manner.
Preventative care is the cornerstone to protecting your companions. Please provide routine veterinary visits at least annually for all pets, and make sure recommended vaccinations are current. In senior patients, twice a year examinations and routine blood panels are suggested. Keep your companions on monthly Heartworm preventatives as well as flea preventatives. Have a fecal/internal parasite screen for each pet at least annually. Routine grooming helps to keep your pet’s coat healthy and ears clean; it also lets you see lumps and bumps more easily. Use preventative oral care techniques such as brushing and specialized treats to slow down the progression of dental disease. Provide routine dental cleanings as needed. Feed a high quality diet that is specific to the age and body condition of your buddy. Make sure your pet exercises routinely, and maintains a healthy weight. Monitor for signs of health issues to identify problems early on such as decreased appetite, decreased energy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption, increased or decreased urination, etc.; and bring your pet in for veterinary care at the earliest sign of a problem. This is more likely to allow for a positive outcome.
There are also several strategies to avoid mishaps for your buddies. Keep poisons out of reach. Don’t feed people food, especially items that are spicy and high in fat. In dogs, consuming such items can lead to Pancreatitis, which can require hospitalization, intravenous therapy, and can be life threatening. Keep cats indoors as much as possible. This reduces the chance that your feline will get into poison, be attacked by dogs or cats, or be hit by a car. Keep your dog on a leash when outside to prevent him/her from running into traffic, fighting with other dogs, etc. Spay and neuter all of your animals. This not only helps to protect from several different cancers, and infections; but it also makes your buddies less likely to roam. Microchips are required for licensing of dogs and cats in the City of Stockton, and make it more likely that your pets will be returned to you if they are lost.
Having a pet and providing good care is expensive. Preventative measures keep costs down in the long run. Programs such as Pet insurance also help to provide high quality care and can protect your budget. We recommend Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) petinsurance.com, ASPCA Pet Insurance aspcapetinsurance.com, or Trupanion pet insurance trupanion.com. Care Credit is another great option to assist clients financially CareCredit.com. This company lets you pay for care over time and without interest for a specific time period with participating veterinarians.
There are some final suggestions that can help to give you peace of mind. I recommend a sticker on your door that says how many animals that you have and what type. The pet stores sell these, and the ASPCA has them for sale on their website as well. Have an emergency contact list on your refrigerator that has the phone number for your veterinarian, the emergency clinic, poison control, and any contacts that can care for your pet if you become ill. I also recommend planning ahead for your pets if you are unable to care for them. I have a previous column that discussed wills, etc.
I hope these recommendations are helpful. Your veterinarian pays a pivotal role in extending the longevity and quality of life for your cherished companions.