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Preventative Wellness Care More Than Just “Shots”

Posted 08.12.15 by Emily Lindsey

By Drew McWatters, DVM

Preventative wellness care, or routine “check-ups”, is an undervalued and misunderstood part of both human and animal health care. Even though everyone knows “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, we are reluctant to take ourselves or our pets to the doctor in the absence of an illness.  As a veterinarian, here are the 4 most important things  I think every pet owner should know about preventative wellness care:


1)   It’s NOT about the “shots”.

Vaccination is a valuable part of a preventative healthcare program and is responsible for the eradication of many deadly diseases from developed countries. However, vaccinations are not the reason your pet should go in for preventative wellness care and they are not the most important thing that will be done during that visit. It is well proven that, after a series of boosters as a puppy or kitten, all animals achieve strong enough immunity to last at least 3 years and many animals will achieve even longer protection.  If vaccination is the only reason your animal goes in for preventative care there could be a 3 year lapse between visits. Depending on the age of your animal, this could be the equivalent of you going 20 or more years in between doctor visits! A lot can, and will, happen in that amount of time.

2)   The exam is the most important part.

If I could pick one test and one test only to perform on a patient of mine, it will always be a comprehensive physical exam.  Symptoms may give a misleading picture or may be absent all together. Observations of owners or caregivers may be misinterpreted. And it is simply impractical and cost prohibitive to run an exhaustive battery of tests on every patient. The physical exam often gives clues to the patient’s condition or to what the appropriate diagnostics would be.  More importantly, the exam can find abnormalities that an owner or caregiver may not even know are there.  I caution you to be wary of preventative wellness care programs that offer vaccinations and testing but NOT a physical exam at every visit.

3)   What you don’t see can hurt youand them.

Monthly parasite prevention should be a part of every wellness program. Dogs and cats are commonly affected by internal and external parasites. External parasites such as fleas, ticks, and lice are often easy to see and will send us running to the store to find appropriate prevention. But internal parasites are mostly unseen, _MG_5182yet much more dangerous to our pets and to us. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and heartworms are parasites that cause vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, heart failure, and even death in dogs and cats. Hookworms and roundworms are also transmissible to humans, especially children.  Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes and have an alarmingly high prevalence in our area. This problem is compounded by the fact that we also have a resistant strain of heartworms in our area that are not prevented by all heartworm preventatives. Make sure your pet is on monthly parasite prevention every month of the year and talk to your doctor about specific heartworm recommendations for our area.

4)   Go for the lab work.

Most preventative wellness care programs offer lab work to screen for diseases of the internal organs, blood cells, thyroid, and urinary system. While these tests are usually an additional cost, they are a fraction of the cost it would be to run comparable tests outside of the wellness setting.  Take advantage of this affordable way to not only build a baseline to compare to if your pet is sick, but also screen for illness that may not be readily apparent from your pet’s exam or by the way he or she is acting at home. The majority of screening tests performed on your healthy pet will be normal. But when an abnormality is found, early intervention may be the difference between successful and unsuccessful treatment.

The doctors and staff at The Pet Hospitals are eager to talk to you about preventative wellness care programs if you would like more information. Go to or call 853-7330 for further information.

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