You and your children probably visit your family doctor at least once per year for a checkup to ensure you haven’t developed any new medical issues that could impact your long-term health, and to discuss lifestyle factors that could improve your health. Wellness checkups are also important for pets, but many do not see the veterinarian until they are sick.

Many pet health issues are preventable with proper care, and innumerable diseases are more easily treated when detected early. The Neighborhood Vet team knows that regular wellness and preventive services help keep your pet healthier longer, and we recommend the following essential services for all pets.

#1: Pet wellness examinations

Wellness checkups are the best way for us to detect subtle changes in your pet’s health before they become bigger, more serious issues. During a wellness visit, we will examine your pet from head to tail, discuss changes or abnormalities, and consult with you on your pet’s other lifestyle, behavioral, and physical health needs. We recommend yearly wellness visits for healthy young adults, and twice yearly for pets with chronic conditions or those older than 10 years of age.

Most diseases or conditions that develop with age are far easier to treat when we detect changes on a wellness exam, before your pet shows illness signs. If you wait until your pet is significantly ill or disabled, treatment will be less effective, and your pet’s quality of life or longevity will likely be reduced. We may recommend additional testing if we note any of these common changes on your pet’s wellness exam:

  • Heart murmur
  • Joint pain or decreased range of motion
  • Dental disease
  • Cataracts
  • Weight loss or gain

#2: Pet vaccinations 

Vaccinations can protect your pet from deadly, viral and bacterial diseases by teaching their immune system to respond efficiently should your pet become infected. Puppy and kitten vaccinations provide an immunity foundation, which is maintained in your adult pet with boosters given annually, or every three years, depending on the specific vaccine.

Our team will work with you to determine which vaccinations your pet actually needs, according to their lifestyle. We do not want to over-stimulate your pet’s immune system with unnecessary vaccinations, and will customize your pet’s protocol to ensure that does not happen.

#3: Pet parasite testing and prevention

Parasites can live inside or outside your pet’s body. These pesky critters are at best an annoyance, and at worst can result in deadly illness. Common parasites and their associated problems include:

  • Fleas and ticks — These external parasites can cause itchy allergic reactions or local skin infections, and can also transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease or cat scratch fever (i.e., bartonella).
  • Heartworms Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and once inside your pet’s body they live in the heart and lungs and can grow up to a foot long. Heartworm disease can damage your pet’s heart, which could eventually lead to death.
  • Intestinal parasites — Worms and protozoans can live inside your pet’s intestines, causing diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss. 

Parasites are ubiquitous in the environment, and can easily be passed from other pets or wildlife. We recommend that all pets that are exposed to the outdoors (aka indoor only cats do not need to be tested yearly) be given an annual fecal test to look for intestinal parasites, and all dogs be blood-tested annually to every other year for heartworm. We also strongly recommend monthly preventive medications for all pets to protect them from new parasite infestations and their potential consequences.

#4: Routine pet blood and urine tests

Routine blood and urine tests help us establish your healthy, young pet’s baseline normal values, so we can monitor whether their values are trending up or down when we repeat these tests in future. Performed routinely, blood and urine tests help us detect or suspect many possible diseases before you notice changes at home, and to order additional tests to find the cause.At our hospital, you are welcome to perform these annually starting young, but we at minimum recommend these annual blood tests for your loved one as they enter their golden years.  Common findings on routine testing include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Liver or pancreatic conditions
  • Anemia or low platelets
  • Inflammation or reaction to infection

**Many believe blood work can diagnose cancer, but that is not likely.  Unless certain cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma are present, bloodwork is not to be depended on to assess the presence of cancer.**

#5: Pet dental care

Your pet’s teeth can develop disease similar to humans, including periodontal disease (i.e., gum disease), tooth root infections, tooth fractures, tooth resorption, and more. Dental issues are painful, but most pets do not notify us that their teeth are bothering them. A conscious dental examination during your pet’s wellness visit can alert us to plaque, tartar, or gingivitis that require attention. Plus, your pet will require periodic anesthetized dental cleanings to remove plaque and bacteria, X-rays to check for root problems, and extractions of broken, diseased, or painful teeth.

The Neighborhood Vet can provide wellness services for your pet at our clinic, or in some cases, in your own home. If your pet has not seen us during the past year, or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health, contact us to schedule an appointment and consultation, to determine which services your pet requires to stay healthy.