The Importance of Annual Preventative Care Exams

by: Jennifer Oldfield

September is a busy month.  Not only is it the month that students head back to school, it is also Senior Wellness Month, Happy Healthy Cat Month and Responsible Dog Ownership Month.  That is a lot going on!  These 3 events can be summed together under one simple heading – Preventative Care.  What exactly is preventative care and how can you prevent something you may not be aware of?

In general terms, a preventative is a preemptive agent or measure.  In medical terms, preventative refers to a drug, vaccine or additional agent used to prevent disease.  In animal medicine (and human too!) this refers to things such as: annual exams, vaccines appropriate to your area and lifestyle, blood workups, and if necessary, supplements (such as glucosamine) or other medications to prevent or reduce the advancement of disease or illness.

An annual exam or a Preventative Care Exam for your pet is a vital part of ensuring subtle changes in your pet’s health don’t get missed.  Minor things that you may just consider a part of aging (in senior pets) or maturing (in younger pets) may in fact be a sign of IMG_1623the beginning of something medically wrong.    For example were you aware that cats tend to hide or sleep more when they are in pain?  Have you noticed your cat isn’t coming around as much as he used to?  That she has found a new place to lay and sleep than the usual spot?  This may be an early warning sign that something isn’t right.  A preventative care exam, which may be paired with bloodwork, can help to determine the cause of those subtle changes.

The same can be said for dogs – although they don’t tend to hide when in pain, they are VERY good at masking it.  You may notice little things such as a “hitch” in his step when first rising that goes away or the usual laps around the yard aren’t as fast as they once were or don’t last as long.  Maybe she doesn’t want to retrieve her favourite toy anymore.  Little things that don’t seem to be a big deal but are just “odd” can in fact be a sign that something is wrong.

So why come in annually and not just when you notice these other things?  Annual exams give a medical record of what is normal for your pet, so that when something is amiss it can be caught.  An example of this is when a pet comes in for his annual exam and he has lost weight.  Maybe he was overweight to begin with, in which case this could be a good thing.  IMG_1080However, if the owner indicates that she hasn’t changed anything in the pet’s routine or in his eating habits then this weight loss may not be a good thing.  It may be happening because of something else occuring in the body.  Often owners won’t notice that weight change because a few pounds can be hard to notice on a pet, especially if it happens gradually.  What if that pet hadn’t been in for several years?  We wouldn’t notice that change either.

Catching something like kidney disease in its early stages could mean something as simple as changing food to help the kidneys function better.  Without this the kidney disease will continue to progress, ending with, in most cases a shorter and poorer quality life.

Another example of something the veterinarian may notice is joint health, noticing that although your pet is not necessarily old, the joints don’t feel as smooth or are stiffer when they move.  This could be the beginnings of arthritis.  Being able to recognize this and then getting them on a joint supplement appropriate for them can dramatically help slow the progression of arthritis; putting a cushion back into the joints thus reducing inflammation and pain.

Ultimately Preventative Care is Proactive Care – together with your veterinarian, annual check ups, recommended vaccines and recommended diagnostic testing* can extend the life of your pet by several years.  Who wouldn’t want that?  I think we can all agree that more time with our animal companions is one of the best gifts of all!

PeeWee

*Edited: We have done 3 blog posts since this one that focus on the 3 primary levels of diagnostic testing.

The Importance of Diagnostics Part 1 – Ultrasound

The Importance of Diagnostics Part 2 – X-rays

The Importance of Diagnostics Part 3 – Lab Tests

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