When it comes to you and your pet's health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sadly, a regular pet check up is something fewer and fewer owners are doing. The percent of households making no vet visits in the course of a year increased by eight percent for dogs and an astounding 24 percent for cats compared to five years ago, according to the 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. Consequently, many animal health problems that can be easily prevented are on the rise, including flea infestation and heartworm. Heartworm can be deadly, and treatment is expensive and painful for the animal. For cats there is no cure.
When you go in for your pet check up, it may not be immediately clear why the appointment is so important. The vet weighs your animal, does flexibility tests and listens to its heartbeat--all obvious markers of health that you could do yourself. It can also be tempting to assume that the internet holds all the answers to your pet's health needs (up to %15 of us believe this according to one survey!) Yet a veterinarian is trained to notice subtle things about your animal that are key markers of its condition. From the moment you bring your pet into the office, the veterinarians are making note of its gait, mobility, and behavior. They check its coat and feel for lumps and inflammation. These tests are essential for catching the early stages of diseases--indications that we as owners are likely to miss or ignore.
As with humans, once a condition progresses enough so that we are forced to go to the emergency room (or to the doctor for the problem), it means that the condition has already caused us significant discomfort for a while. At that point the costs of and difficulty of treatment goes up. Our pets can't tell us when they aren't feeling normal and they can't advocate for themselves. We can only guess when their behavior exhibits signs of injury or illness--and cats, especially, are masters at masking their injuries. Because of this, having a regular pet check up is in many ways more important than for their human counterparts. This year, make it a resolution to bring your pets to the vet and also to ask him or her to explain to you what is being tested during the check up.
Learn more about how regular professional grooming can help catch early-stage health problems too.
Have a happy and healthy new year!
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