Firstly, let’s define preventive veterinary medicine.
According to the Medical Dictionary, preventive medicine is the branch of medical study and practice aimed at preventing disease and promoting health.
I am a fan of preventive medicine in regards to both my health and the health of my dog. I believe that a combination of proactive and preventive efforts can add years to our lives. However, there are times where I draw the line for both of us, and I support other pet parents doing the same.
It is important to understand that you can be proactive as a pet parent without actual using medicine. For example, taking the time to brush your pet’s teeth will prevent dental disease in the future, but does not include the use of medicine. However, having an early dental procedure to keep your pet’s teeth healthy and prevent extractions is the use of preventive medicine.
There are many ways that you as a pet parent can be proactive without the use of medicine. Examples include:
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity can make your pet susceptible to so many other diseases and health complications. Maintaining a healthy weight and Body Condition Score can make the world of difference for your pet’s health long term.
- Brush Your Pet’s Teeth: As mentioned above, regular brushing of your pet’s teeth can prevent the progression of dental disease. Preventing the severity of dental disease can be integral to your pet’s overall health. Additionally, dental disease can be very expensive to treat, so regular brushing can also provide benefits to you financially.
- Feed High-Quality Food: Purchasing the right food for your pet can be challenging with so many options on the market. I highly recommend working with your veterinarian to determine the best high-quality food for your pet. Providing the right mix of nutrients for your pet can add quality years to their life.
- Keep Your Dog Groomed: Grooming isn’t always considered a part of your pet’s health, but it is important. Specifically, long unattended nails can cause dogs and cats to sustain injuries due to irregular gaits and posture.
- Don’t Skip Out on Annual Exams: My experience in veterinary medicine made it clear that annual exams were crucial to the health of pets. During these exams, we were able to answer pet parent questions and concerns in addition to thoroughly evaluating their pet’s health. I have said this before and will say it again, I have seen annual exams save lives, and they are important.
- Add Supplements: There are some excellent supplements available for pets these days. The most common in my experience include joint and digestive support, both of which are very important to your pet’s longevity. Work closely with your veterinarian, or ask about supplements at your next annual exam (see what I did there?).
I would define the above list as proactive medicine (if I was allowed to make up my own definitions). Pet parents can be very proactive by making sure their pet receives the care and guardianship provided above. However, preventive medicine includes some additional treatments in my opinion, and they are as follows:
- Flea & Tick Prevention: Not only are fleas annoying and gross, but your pet can also suffer from flea bite anemia and flea allergy due to a severe infestation. I once rescued a kitten who weighed only 2 pounds at 5 months of age and suffered greatly from flea bite anemia. To give you an idea; after 2 days of feeding and treatment, he was so weak from anemia that even a bath was exhausting for him. Ticks put your pets at risk for lyme disease, which can be lethal, so it is important to know if your pet’s activity exposes them to ticks. Working with your veterinarian to select the correct flea & tick prevention is important. I have seen animals have reactions to certain flea & tick products, so research and carefully watch your pet after application.
- Vaccination: It is so important that you keep your pets up to date on their vaccines. However, vaccine protocols can vary significantly from region to region, so I encourage you to research the norm for your area. You can even call local hospitals to research the different protocols. I strongly believe that vaccines are important, but I also believe that there are instances of over vaccination happening around the United States. Therefore, I suggest doing your research and making the right decision for you and your pet.
- Heartworm Prevention: Heartworm disease can be a huge threat to your pet’s health and longevity. Of course, the southeast region of the U.S. has a higher density of cases than many other areas, so prevention is more important there. The good news is that there are products on the market that combine flea and heartworm medication. One of these products is called Revolution, and it is my prevention of choice for Rooney.
- Bloodwork: At a certain age, bloodwork should be a standard part of your pet’s annual exam. Bloodwork gives your veterinarian a very detailed look at the quality and functionality of your pet’s internal health. Bloodwork is especially important if your pet is on long-term medications. I have Rooney’s bloodwork drawn every other year since he is still young. If we don’t see anything to be concerned about, at least his veterinarian has a baseline for all of his values.
- Urinalysis: This is especially important for cats. So many cats are prone to renal disease, and it’s important to catch the signs early. Additionally, certain long-term medications can affect kidney function. A preventive urinalysis can avoid long-term damage and add time and quality to your pet’s life.
In my opinion, preventive and proactive medicine is always appropriate for pets. However, certain aspects may be better suited. or more important, for your individual pet. The point in preventive medicine is to provide your pet with the best health outcome possible.
To read Carol’s Mom perspective, please visit her at Fidose of Reality.