Pet health care: Treating and preventing pet illness – Part 4

The most important part of treating and preventing illness in pets is having a plan in place. You don’t want to be surprised by tha amount of care needed. You don’t want to be surprised by its cost. Before you bring home a pet find the answers to these questions: 1) What wellness care will be needed, and when? 2) How much will wellness care cost every year? 3) Where will I bring my pet in an emergency? If it’s an exotic pet, are there knowledgeable people in my area who can help me care for my pet if he falls ill? 4) What illnesses are common in the breed or species I plan to bring home?

Let’s address the first question first. Wellness care for dogs includes yearly examinations, identification and control of internal parasites, heartworm testing and prevention, flea and tick prevention, dental care, spaying/neutering and lastly, vaccinations against rabies, distemper, parvovirus and several other viral and bacterial antigens. Cats also need yearly examinations, screening for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, flea/tick and heartworm prevention as well as a plan for control of internal parasites (yearly fecals and strategic deworming). Like dogs, they also need routine dental care, spaying or neutering and vaccination against rabies and distemper. Outdoor cats should also receive vaccination against feline leukemia virus.

When your pet grows older, his preventive health care needs will change, but they will still be vital. There may be fewer or less frequent vaccinations, and more blood testing to screen for metabolic diseases.

It’s evident, then, that there are a lot of things that need to be addressed on a regular basis. When you bring home a dog or a cat, it’s wise to either purchase health insurance or open a savings account just for health care! At home, preventive health care continues when your brush your pet’s teeth, clean his ears and provide safe boundaries for him.

Many illnesses can be prevented or minimized through proper nutrition. One of the best things you can do to prevent disease in your pet is to help him maintain a normal body weight. If he ever has an injured limb, he will be back on his feet faster. If he develops arthritis or any joint problem, his joints will be less stressed than those of an overweight animal. If he needs abdominal surgery, he will have fewer anesthetic risks. A slender animal is less likely to develop diabetes, too. There are many different philosophies of feeding pets, and I don’t favor any one in particular, but I do believe that raw food diets should be avoided because of public health issues, and cats should be fed canned foods instead of kibble in order to feed more protein and fewer carbohydrates.

Most of the problems of exotic pets can be avoided attention to detail in issues of feeding, space and housing. If you bring home a bird, reptile or small caged pet, read, read, read, read all you can about the species, connect with a vet or other knowledgeable person who cares for the specie, and read about the more common illnesses seen. Soon you will know more about your pet than the average dog and cat veterinarian if you are careful about finding good sources.

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