Preventative medicine is a cornerstone of veterinary medicine and is essential to the life long health of our pets. From vaccinations to dental procedures to routine lab work and to the all-important physical exam, we as veterinarians use these tools to help you help your pet maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. Specifics on protocols may vary from veterinary hospital to veterinary hospital. Below is a general review of some of my protocols of wellness and preventative care.

The First Visit

Puppies and kittens are typically seen around 5-6 weeks of age. The initial examinations help screen for possible congenital or early developmental health concerns, including but not limited to heart murmurs, body wall hernias, and cleft palates. Kittens should be tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV. Both kittens and puppies should be checked for intestinal parasites and dewormed accordingly. Bringing a stool sample to all wellness appointments is recommended. Additional parasite prevention including heartworm, fleas, and ticks is also addressed. With our current vaccination booster recommendation, kittens and puppies come to see us every 3-4 weeks from 6 to 16 weeks. Conducting full physical exams at these visits allows me to monitor growth and progression of possible health issues and provides educational opportunities for discussing early life issues including behavior/training and spay/neuter surgeries.

Routine Annual Visits

Beyond the first year of life routine yearly check-ups are recommended. Again the pet will receive a full physical exam. Vaccines are often boostered at these visits. Intestinal parasite checks (more stool please) as well as heartworm tests are preformed. Routine wellness profiles that monitor the complete blood counts and serum kidney, liver values, and blood sugar may also be a part of your veterinarian plan for wellness of your adult pet. These tests help screen for early signs of disease and help complete a full examination of your loved one. Other topics commonly covered in these yearly wellness exams include current dietary intake and your pet’s body condition (weight and fur coat health). We often focus on behavioral issues as well as provide detailed discussion of dental health/tooth brushing.

It is important to know that all pets will develop some level of dental disease over the course of their lives. Routine DAILY tooth brushing can help prevent significant dental/periodontal disease. Routine exams by your vet and daily brushing can help recognize the need for dental procedures. This includes scaling, cleaning, and polishing of your pet’s teeth, not unlike what is done at your dentist’s office. We do fully anesthetized pets for this procedure to ensure their safety while cleaning, taking dental x-rays, and possibly extracting diseased teeth. If other health issues are discovered in these routine yearly visits treatment plans can be set in place. This may involve more frequent visits or lab testing during the year.

Senior Pet Visits

Senior pet wellness examinations tend to be more involved and/or complex. Certainly age is not a disease, but it seems health-related issues tend to accumulate as time passes. Along with a detailed history of the past events and pet health concerns, a full physical exam is performed. Along with vaccines and parasite checks, as discussed above, expanded lab work will likely be recommended. Thyroid level checks and urinalyses are important to monitor thyroid and kidney functions. Senior pets should be seen by their veterinarians at least twice a year. If health concerns are identified this frequency may again change.

From puppy to the geriatric cat, each of our pets is unique. Our goal as pet owners and veterinarians is to keep our pets happy and healthy. Astute observations at home, routine visits to the animal hospital and indeed great communication can help us strive to meet these goals. – Peter Olson, DVM

Peter Olson, DVM, is a 2007 graduate of The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife Beth share their home with two dogs, two cats, four turtles and a Russian Tortoise.