All too often, pets leave us before we are ready. While time stops for no man—and no pet—you can take steps to try and slow down time, effectively adding years to your pet’s life. A proactive approach is required to detect and treat diseases in early stages, or prevent them altogether. 

As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At Little Animal Hospital, we believe preventive care is the cornerstone of pet health. All pets should follow these guidelines to extend their healthful years.

#1: Detect problems early: Regular wellness exams and disease screenings

Adult pets should be seen for wellness exams at least yearly. The recommendation increases to twice yearly for senior and geriatric pets, because the aging rate accelerates the older that pets get. Wellness visits allow your veterinarian to detect new problems before you notice them yourself. Lumps and bumps, dental disease, heart murmurs, and arthritis are common findings, and early detection often means more successful treatment.

In addition to physical examinations, your veterinarian may recommend routine blood work, urinalysis, blood pressure monitoring, or other screening tests. Completing these tests on a regular basis allows your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s internal organ function, and watch for trends over time so changes are quickly addressed.

#2: Protect the pearly whites: At-home and professional dental care

Around 70% to 80% of pets have dental disease by age 3, making dental health one of the most important contributors to lifespan and quality. Dental disease leads to pain, bad breath, and infection that can spread from the bloodstream to the vital organs. To keep your pet feeling fresh and spry, combine at-home and professional dental care. Daily toothbrushing, plus chews, sprays, or other products recommended by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), round out home care, while your veterinarian can recommend the best schedule for professional cleanings.

#3: Squash the bugs: Annual parasite screening and year-round preventives

Parasites cause discomfort and a multitude of diseases in pets. Intestinal worms leech your pet’s blood and nutrients, fleas and ticks carry serious diseases (e.g., Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichia, and Lyme disease), and mosquitoes transmit heartworms that live in your pet’s heart and lungs, where they can be fatal. 

The good news is that parasites are preventable. Products in all price ranges and different applications are available for dogs and cats to prevent flea, tick, heartworm, and intestinal parasite infestations. Ask your veterinarian to recommend the best products for your individual pet. You should bring in your dog’s stool sample at least yearly, and have them blood-tested for heartworms and tick-borne infections, as well. 

#4: Feed the good: High-quality nutrition and weight control

Obesity puts your pet at risk for joint disease, respiratory conditions, skin issues, and an overall poor quality of life. Many aging pets experience difficulty with mobility because of arthritis, and excess weight puts stress on inflamed joints. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for diet and exercise, to maintain your pet’s ideal weight. Many pet rehab centers also offer exercise programs that may be helpful for some pets. 

Nutrition is key to overall health. Good nutrition will maintain healthy energy levels, keep pets slim, help produce good bowel movements, and keep hair coats in top condition. The “right” food is different for every pet, but should be appropriate for their life stage, and meet or exceed Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. Some health conditions require diet manipulation for optimal control, so consult your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to find the best food for your pet.

#5: Prevent disease: Customized vaccination protocols

Vaccinations keep your pet from contracting deadly diseases, but protection is not lifelong. All pets should be vaccinated well into their senior years. Our veterinary team can tailor a protocol specific to your pet, based on their lifestyle.. 

#6: Cut cancer risks: Spaying and neutering

Spaying or neutering greatly decreases the risk of several aggressive reproductive cancers in pets. Other problems that intact pets may face include behavioral challenges, and prostate enlargement or infection in males, and life-threatening uterine infections in females.

Recent studies have indicated that large-breed dogs may benefit from waiting to perform these surgeries until they are older than 1 year, while other breeds may benefit any time after 6 months of age. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best time to spay or neuter your pet. 

Your Little Animal Hospital team is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), placing us in the top 15% of animal hospitals nationwide. We base our care recommendations on AAHA’s preventive care guidelines, and we’re confident that this proactive approach will add many healthy years to your pet’s life. Call us to schedule an appointment for your pet’s next wellness visit, early disease screening, dental cleaning, or nutrition consultation.