Your dog or cat relies on you for all its needs, and especially for its health, so it is essential to establish a health-care program for your pet.
Regular veterinary care for you pet is not an option. It is a critical part of responsible pet ownership. Regular health care helps assure that your pet will be a part of your family for a long time to come. Dogs and cats can live actively for ten, 15, even 20 years, depending on the breed. But your pet’s life and health can be threatened by a number of common contagious diseases. Fortunately, most of these diseases can be prevented with simple vaccinations – part of your pet’s annual checkup. It doesn’t cost a fortune to maintain your pet’s health, but veterinary care is an annual expense you must include as a priority in your household budget.
At bare minimum, the law requires your pet to be vaccinated against rabies each year. Rabies is a deadly disease that can be transmitted to any mammal (including human beings) and it is always fatal if untreated. It is easily prevented by an annual vaccination.
Although not required by law, it is also critical, at minimum, for your pet to receive annual vaccinations against common contagious diseases like distemper and parvo, life-threatening illnesses which can easily be prevented by an annual vaccine. While these diseases cannot be transmitted to humans, they are highly contagious among pets. The additional vaccine against these diseases costs only a little more than the rabies vaccine required by law, and it’s essential to your pet’s basic health care.
Heartworms are life-threatening and easily preventable. Other parasites, like ear mites and intestinal worms, can seriously affect your pet’s health as well. For both dogs and cats, de-worming and parasite prevention are an important part of your pet’s health care program. A fecal exam (checking the animal’s droppings) can identify any worms or other intestinal parasites your pet may have. Your veterinarian can help you choose the proper medications for parasite prevention.
Spaying and neutering is an essential consideration if you want your pet to live a longer and healthier life. Because they are freed from the risks of reproductive diseases and certain cancers, spayed and neutered pets tend to live years longer than dogs and cats who are able to reproduce.
Dogs and cats can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks of age. It’s best to have the surgery done before they reach sexual maturity, to eliminate any chance of unexpected pregnancy for a female, or unexpected insemination of a female by your male.
- If you have a cat, you should have her tested for feline leukemia and FIV (feline AIDS). These diseases cannot be transmitted to humans, but they can be transmitted to other cats. These tests are especially important if you have more than one cat, or if you allow your cat to roam outdoors.
- If your cat does not have either of these diseases, it is important to have her vaccinated against them, especially if she is allowed out of doors, of if you have other cats.
- If you have a dog, he should be tested for heartworms. If he tests negative (no heartworms) you should begin regular heartworm prevention and have him re-tested again six months after the first test (a newly infected animal may take up to six months for the heartworms to grow and reproduce enough to show up on a test). If he tests positive, meaning that he does have heartworms, consult with your veterinarian about treatment options.
- For good health, both dogs and cats need a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, a clean living environment, and regular cleaning and care of their coat and skin.
- Good dental care is also important for your pet’s health. Consult with your veterinarian about dental care options for your dog or cat.