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How Often Should Your Pet Go to the Vet?


Thursday, November 22, 2007

The answer to this question posed in the above headline depends on your pet’s age, health and behavior.

Puppies and Kittens

Lisa Acho Remorenko

Puppies and kittens should visit a veterinarian for a basic health check and to receive their initial puppy or kitten shot. Puppies and kittens are usually wormed and vaccinated every three or four weeks until they are four months old. Most veterinarians will spay and neuter at this time as well. At four months, it is the best time for spaying and neutering as most animals haven’t reached sexual maturity and their chances of developing certain cancers later in life are greatly decreased. After these initial visits, a puppy or kitten will normally only need to see the vet once a year.

Adult Pets

Adult pets should be examined at least once a year. Older pets may need to be seen more often. This schedule allows the veterinarian to learn how your pet normally looks and behaves and makes it easier to spot abnormalities when they occur.

You may want your annual visit to coincide with your pet’s annual vaccines (if necessary) or their examination for parasites such as intestinal worms, fleas and ticks. You should talk to your vet and determine which vaccine is needed and the risk factors for disease pertaining to each individual pet. Some pets do not need to be vaccinated every year. And most indoor-only cats don’t need vaccines at all. One more reason to keep your cat inside!

To make the most out of your visit, make a list of questions to ask before you arrive at the veterinarian’s office.

The veterinarian can advise you not only about medical health, but also about behavior, nutrition, exercise physiology and many other topics.

Your veterinarian’s office is also a good place to learn how to brush your pet’s teeth, or trim its nails. Preventive dentistry is increasingly recognized as being important to your pet’s well being.

Pets age seven times faster than we do!

Because of our pet’s aging process, taking your pet to the vet just once a year is equivalent to us going to the doctor once every 7 years. If that were the case for us, it would be difficult for our physicians to make a diagnosis, since so much time has elapsed between visits. It’s the same for pets. So, the bottom line is, if you can afford to, take your pet into the vet every 6 months for a physical exam or wellness check-up, but at the very least, once a year.

In addition to an annual wellness check, once your pet reaches his or her 7th birthday, veterinary experts recommend certain annual health-screening tests designed to monitor your pet’s health status and serve as baselines to detect any changes as your pet ages.

Necessary Senior Pet Tests:

- Comprehensive Medical Exam (This head-to-tail physical exam thoroughly assesses your pet’s overall condition.)

- Complete Blood Count (This test evaluates the status of your pet’s red and white blood cells, which transport oxygen and fight infections.)

- Serum Biochemical Profile (This group of tests examines the health of your pet’s kidneys and liver and screens for some cancers)

- Urinalysis (This test shows how well the kidneys are functioning. As pets age, it is important to keep a careful watch on the kidneys and whether there are any early signs of diabetes, early renal failure or other diseases.)

- EKG (Optional; this test checks the condition of your pet’s heart muscle.)

As always, if your pet shows signs of appetite loss, decreased or increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea or is acting lethargic, don’t wait for an annual exam; call your vet right away!

With these tips in mind, you can continue to maintain a happy, healthy, loving bond with your pet long into their senior years!

Lisa Acho Remorenko is the executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions.