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Article 12: Why Annual Exams Q&A
DOES MY DOG REALLY NEED AN ANNUAL EXAM?
I am often asked by our clients, and by potential clients calling into the clinic, “does my dog really need to be seen annually by a veterinarian?” My answer is always a resounding yes. This is not out of my desire to keep the clinic doors open, but rather a deep-seeded desire to maintain optimal pet wellness throughout the year. I would much rather see my patients during an annual wellness exam instead of an emergent illness visit. Here are some basic things to consider when determining whether or not the annual wellness exam is worthwhile for your pet.
Vaccinations: Puppies begin to lose their immunities that they inherited from their mother via milk feeding sometime between six and sixteen weeks. From this point they need to be vaccinated every three to four weeks until they reach four months of age. This usually involves a series of three puppy wellness visits each with vaccinations.
These vaccinations normally include protection from such diseases as Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parvovirus, Canine Tracheobronchitis (Bordetella), and Rabies. I will go into detail what each of these diseases is in an upcoming newsletter. They may also include Leptospirosis and Lyme disease for those dogs who spend time in the wilderness or on hunting trips and are exposed to bodies of water. If this series of vaccinations is not administered on time it may result in the loss of immunity for the puppy and the need to repeat the entire series of vaccinations and boosters.
From that point forward your dog really only needs annual prevention vaccinations. Whenever
possible I recommend using 3-year vaccines for both Rabies and Canine Distemper/Parvo
on a rotating basis. This eliminates two years worth of injections on two-out-of-three of the basic annual vaccinations which is better for pet’s immune system. Failure to keep your pet vaccinated for these most common canine disease processes will greatly reduce your pet’s ability to fight them off with limited antibodies should an exposure occur. The cost to treat your pet in terms of money, time, and distress when an exposure does occur is also considerably more expensive than the vaccinations and annual wellness exam alone.
Heartworm Prevention: The only way to accurately determine if your dog has been exposed to heartworms is with a blood antigen test. This test can be administered in your veterinarian’s office or a blood sample can be sent out to a veterinary testing lab. I will expand on this terrible
disease in an upcoming newsletter, but for now let’s leave it at you don’t ever want your pet to suffer from it. If this test is administered annually and you keep your pet on a year-round heartworm prevention program the chances of your pet contracting the disease is extremely
rare. The annual heartworm blood antigen test is one of the many windows we can look through to determine pet wellness. The blood draw is a simple, quick, and relatively painless process for your pet involving minimal owner expense when you compare it to having to treat your pet for this potentially devastating disease.
Blood Profiles: As part of my recommended annual wellness exam I always want to get a complete “blood chemistry screen & CBC” on our client’s pets. This is another window that allows us to determine pet wellness on an annual basis and catch disease processes or other
factors that can adversely impact pet health early. This test gives us a variety of information from red and white blood cell counts, liver and kidney values, to blood glucose levels. This simple test can reveal important underlying conditions that would otherwise go unnoticed during a routine visual exam.
Intestinal Parasites: There are a variety of internal parasites that can adversely impact the wellness of your dog. They include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia. I will devote an entire newsletter to these little creatures at a later date, but for now we will focus on the need for annual testing. A recent Bayer HealthCare survey determined that up to one-third of dogs who were not on an annual parasite prevention routine were infected with one or more of these parasites. A simple annual fecal flotation test can reveal whether or not your dog is infected. If your dog receives a clean bill of heath it is important to immediately keep them on an annual prevention routine. Unprotected dogs can become infected at any time, during any month of the calendar year in our climate so we want to achieve a zero calendar days without protection protocol and it starts with a good annual baseline test. Once again, the cost of the test is minimal compared to even one treatment for any of the parasites listed. So come to your pet’s annual exam armed with a really good, fresh fecal sample for testing.
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