During your regular veterinarian visit, are you sure you’re asking the right questions? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the care of your pet. Dr. Kara Wolf, Technical Services Staff Veterinarian for Virbac Corporation, answers some common questions that pet owners ask veterinarians.
1. Is it important to have my pet tested for heartworms and intestinal parasites every year?
Yes! Maintaining the annual heartworm test provides peace of mind, knowing your pet is being protected from a potentially devastating disease. Consistent protection year round is recommended by the American Heartworm Society for every pet regardless of where in the US the pet lives.
2. How often should I bathe my pet?
A pet’s skin and hair are quite different from human skin and hair. Generally, if you can smell an unpleasant odor on your pet, then it needs a bath. Bathing a pet more than once a week is not recommended, unless the pet has a skin condition or happens to become covered in dirt or other debris. Leave-on conditioners and conditioners that require light rinsing are great options to enhance a soft hair coat and provide an extra barrier between environmental debris and the skin after a good shampooing. Besides shampoos for general use, there are special medicated shampoos that veterinarians may recommend for use on pets. These can help control various skin conditions including infections with bacteria, fungi and yeast; scaly or greasy skin; allergies; and pets suffering from itchy or irritated skin. It is advisable to have your animal examined by a veterinarian in order to obtain the best recommendation for what topical therapy to use and how often to apply it.
3. How do I take care of my pet’s teeth?
Dental care in pets is as important as it is in people. Pets have deciduous (or baby) teeth similar to people that will loosen and fall out to make way for permanent teeth filling in. Keeping the teeth as healthy as possible will benefit the overall health of the pet. There are a number of products within reach for proper dental care. The key to dental care is finding an approach that works for you and your pet on a daily basis. There are specially formulated toothpastes and toothbrushes designed to navigate the pet’s oral cavity easily. Starting this habit while the pet is young will make it easier to continue throughout the rest of its life, and this has certainly been shown to be the gold standard of pet dental care. A variety of dental chews are found in the clinic setting as well as other retailers. Finding a product that is suitable for the needs of your pet, has proven efficacy, and can be given daily will aide in keeping the teeth clean. Good dental health is achievable with daily attention and a thorough annual oral examination by your veterinarian.
4. What can I do to make my pet less fearful of going to the veterinarian?
Making a pet more comfortable during a veterinary visit can be a struggle and requires both owner and veterinary staff preparation. Sometimes the clinic visit can be scheduled during a less busy time of the day so that you and clinic staff can help your pet adjust to this strange environment. This can help reinforce a pleasant experience associated with the veterinary appointment. There are oral supplements that may help relax the pet so anxiety doesn’t lead to panic. Pheromones are useful and may be applied to bandanas or collars of dogs or to a towel or inside of the kennel housing a nervous cat. If all else fails, certain drugs may be obtained from your veterinarian designed to provide a sedative effect. These different options are ideal to use the morning of or simply prior to jumping into the car and heading to the clinic. Helping reinforce the visit to the veterinarian as a positive experience is certainly worthwhile.
5. How often will my pet need vaccinations?
Vaccination protocols are based on the pet’s life stage, lifestyle, and risk factors. Rabies is the core vaccine that is regulated by each state. Canine and feline vaccinations are recommended as a series starting when the pet is 6 to 8 weeks of age and occurring every 3 weeks for 3-4 visits. Some annual vaccinations may require boostering after initial administration depending on the pet’s history. An annual physical examination is certainly recommended for all pets in order to help maintain their good health. The American Animal Hospital Association publishes vaccination guidelines every few years with the most recent 2017 document containing a Lifestyle-Based Vaccination Calculator for dog owners. The guidelines provide expert insight on important topics and review the latest information available.
Other important questions to ask your veterinarian:
- What are some common foods dangerous to my pet?
- How do I know which diet is best for my pet?
- How often should I groom my pet?
- Are pets susceptible to sunburn?