Pet Wellness: What Is It and How Can You Get Some?

As an ER veterinarian by training, I don’t often get to promote or practice wellness for my patients, although I wish I could. The core concept of wellness is prevention — avoiding a health crisis so you stay healthy (I guess “healthiness” was just too much of a mouthful when they coined the term).

In the ER, it’s usually too late for prevention to help. Sure, you could have made sure the gate was closed, your dog was vaccinated against parvo, or you walked your dog on a leash, but by the time you’re crashed through the doors of the ER, it’s all about healing — and we’ve lost the opportunity for prevention.

Good wellness care for your pet has a few steps to consider:

  1. Diet: Don’t feed the cheap stuff and consider avoiding the super-premium stuff, too. The good, mid-range pet foods are great for keeping dogs and cats healthy and happy for a long time. People love to take stands about pet food and sling mud at one company or another, but as long as you stay away from the bargain basement products, you (and your pet) should be fine. Make sure to feed slightly less than the recommended amount — remember — the pet food companies want you to go through lots of bags of their product and don’t necessarily care how fat your dog or cat gets.
  2. Medical Care: The teeth in your head are tiny and yet they get to visit the dentist every six months to stay shiny, white and healthy. Pretend your dog or cat is made up of tiny teeth and have them see their veterinarian every six months, too. Actually, that’s kind of a creepy visual, so maybe just don’t pretend anything and have them checked up twice a year! As they age (I think of an older, large-breed dog as 8 years old and for cats and small dogs it’s about 12 years old) some lab tests are in order, too.
  3. Insurance: If your wellness plans fail you and medical disaster strikes, in the form of a broken leg, serious disease or cancer, are you ready? Modern medicine for pets can run into the thousands of dollars, and no matter how you feel about the ethics of the situation, if you get a big medical bill there’s often no one but you to pay it. You don’t want your pet’s health to get stuck in the middle. Medical insurance for pets can help take the sting out a big medical fiasco and let you think of what is right for your pet, not just the price tag.
  4. Spaying/Neutering: One of the easiest things you can do to help your pet stay healthy is the simple act of having your pet spayed (if female) or neutered (if male). Only pedigreed dogs and cats enrolled in a breeding program designed to improve a particular breed should not be spayed or neutered. The health benefits of spaying/neutering include:
  • Reduced risk of mammary (breast) cancer
  • Reduced risk of prostate infections
  • No risk of uterine infection (pyometra)
  • No risk of pregnancy and pregnancy complications or C-section
  • Reduced risk of roaming behavior, fights and trauma
  • No risk of testicular cancer

Aside from the health benefits to your pet, spaying or neutering your pet can also help alleviate the pet overpopulation problem. Tens of thousands of unwanted pets are needlessly put to sleep each year in shelters. Spaying and neutering are relatively simple surgeries with minimal complications. It is far easier to have these procedures performed on younger pets (usually around 4 to 6 months old) with smaller reproductive organs, than after your pet has reached maturity (usually around 9 to 12 months old), or is already pregnant.

  1. Flea and Tick Control: C’mon, you didn’t think we’d forget that, did you? Fleas and ticks are not only gross and itchy, they can transmit deadly diseases like Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. An easy, once-a-month topical application of a safe and effective product, and fleas and ticks are history. Dead and gone. That’s wellness and prevention if I ever heard of it!

A few simple steps can make sure that your pet stays healthy and by your side for years to come. Pet Health Central and your veterinarian make a great combination to provide the protection your pet needs to stay healthy and happy!

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