Rod’s Top 3 Things Vets Wish Pet Owners Knew

Dr. Tony gave some great advice last week on what veterinarians wish that pet owners knew! I have three more to add to that list:

  1. Are follow-up examinations/recheck visits important? As veterinarians, we realize it may seem like an inconvenience to bring your pet back into our hospitals/offices for their follow-up exam. Besides he/she seems much better, so why bother? However, the recheck can be almost as vitally important in maintaining long-term health for your pet as the initial exam. Why? Trust me — it is not because we are just after your hard-earned dollars. Most, if not all veterinary facilities, discount the recheck exam to encourage you to follow up on your pet’s care.

Here are some reasons for your veterinarian to hope that you comply with their recommendation for a recheck on your pet:

  • Monitoring improvements or declines. Obviously both you, as pet parents, and we, as your pet’s health care provider, want your pet’s health to improve with treatment. “Has the rash completely resolved?” or “Has the limp improved completely or only partially?” “Well, Doc, he seemed to initially get better, but now he seems to be a little worse.” We may want to monitor trends in blood values as another example to understand if he is truly better.
  • Double checking your concerns. It is not that we doubt your abilities or wanting to comply with recommendations, but we realize that sometimes directions aren’t completely understood or maybe Fluffy is just a pain to give medication. It is vitally important to administer complete prescription amount — and we typically don’t dispense extra. Based on this follow-up, we may prescribe other options such as a medication that won’t cause diarrhea as a side effect, or a different method of administering the medications. Plus, this helps us establish a history for future treatments.
  • Long-term care. Now that we have the initial problem resolved, how do we keep it from reoccurring? In the case of vomiting or diarrhea, perhaps dietary changes are warranted. Itchy skin conditions many times are not completely cured but kept under control. Following up allows us to make those longer term treatment suggestions.
  • Addressing other health concerns. Now that the initial problem has been addressed, what about that “bad breath” you mentioned when you were in last visit for the limping. This follow-up time allows us to address those not-so-pressing health care issues, but important issues for future care.

If your veterinarian has recommended a recheck visit, please comply. It is best for your pet’s health, especially long term.

  1. Monitoring health status of your pet when on long-term medications. Maybe your pet has some arthritis and is on chronic pain medications. If so, you will want to have both kidney and liver values monitored periodically. While it might seem obvious to continually monitor your pet’s status if they are diabetic, it may not be as obvious with other conditions or medications. Examples that require health monitoring include heart, seizure, thyroid, allergy, and urinary incontinence medications. Monitoring both organ function in your pet and blood concentration levels of the medications themselves helps to ensure accurate dosages and helps to identify potential interactions or complications early. This allows us to evaluate the treatment plan and make adjustments as necessary ensuring your pet’s well-being. If your pet is placed on long-term medications, make sure to have a discussion with your vet about when they should have their re-evaluation and how your beloved pet should be monitored in the future.
  2. How Obesity affects your pet. One only has to listen to their radio or turn on their TV and we are constantly bombarded with information about cost cutting, health reform and changes associated with health care. One thing that no one can debate is that being overweight has a negative impact on our health. As pet parents who must take responsibility for contributing to our pet’s health, one of the most simple things (although it may not always seem so) you can do to help avoid many illnesses in your furry family members is to make sure they are eating a healthy diet in the correct amounts and exercising daily. Does this sound familiar?

Despite all the information being shared about the negative effects of obesity in our pets, research by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reveals that the percentage or pets that are overweight is in excess of 53 percent. That’s right — more than half of pets in households are overweight. In our veterinary practices we see this problem daily. That is millions of dogs and cats in the U.S. that need a stricter diet and exercise regime.

Obesity in our pets can lead to many health issues including:

  • Decreased life expectancy
  • Added health costs with your veterinarian
  • Increased cardiovascular disease
  • Musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Increased risk of hypertension
  • “Fatty liver syndrome” in cats
  • Less stamina and heat intolerance
  • Respiratory issues
  • Possible reproductive problems
  • Higher incidence in some types of cancer

Quite an extensive list, I must say. Dr. Joe Bartges, a veterinary nutritionist and internist who serves on the APOP board and head of the Small Animal Clinical Services department at the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine states, “Without the obesity risk factor in place, the likelihood of pets getting many serious diseases is inarguably reduced.”

The first step is to recognize that your pet is overweight. Your vet will be able to give you an approximate healthy weight for your pet and calculate a starting point for daily caloric intake per day.  Together with proper diet, and an exercise program you can be that private trainer, coach and dietician that so many of us personally wish we could have to keep us trim and healthy. Practice “tough love.” Your pet’s health will benefit from a longer healthier life.

As Dr. Tony discussed, don’t be afraid to ask questions and have an open conversation with your veterinarian about your pet’s health. Two-way communication is imperative. We are here for you and your pets. Our goal is to enhance the lives of your pets, and thereby also enhancing your lives as well.

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