Everyone knows that pets age faster than us: that "rule" of 7 pet years to every one human year is an average and especially useful for those of us who are mathematically challenged. Have you ever actually thought what that means for our pet's health and well-being? Does that rule even accurately reflect the aging of our pets? We know that we, as people, are living longer, hopefully healthier, lives with new and great medical discoveries, diet recommendations and choices as well as exercise programs avaialble to us so are our pets!
If it's true that pets age on average seven times faster than their people so visitng your veterinary health care team once yearly with your pet is the same as seeing your doc once every seven years. OK, yes, I'm hearing the groans about that and the comments about insurance pays for me to do that... more about that later, as I promise to talk about having insurance for your pets. And, the faster aging process that cats and dogs experience means that serious health changes can occur in a short period of time.
Many health conditions in dogs and cats can be more effectively treated if they're discovered early. By conducting a routine comprehensive physical examination and by talking with the pet parents about changes that have occurred in pet's behavior, it is often possible for the veterinary team to identify health care problems in early stages before obvious signs that accompany advanced disease are noticed. and, wellness exams for older pets are particularly important!
Most dogs and cats have reached their adult weights and are considered full grown by age 2 and are behaviorally mature at age 3. Some larger breeds are entering middle age by 4 years of age and can be considered a senior by 6-7 years. Just like their people, older animnals are at a higher risk for a number of problems, including sugar diabetes, arthritis, dental disease, heart problems and cancer. Many of these medical conditions are treatable if diagnosed early which is why we are so careful to recommend pet well care visits twice yearly and oleder animals perhaps even more frequently. Medication monitoring is also extremely important: chronic medication administration for one problem can ofter adversely affect other sytems in the body.
A typical wellness visit will include a physical examination, immunizations or vaccinations appropriate for your pet's life style and risk factors, a blood sample for heartworm status in both dogs and cats, a parasite check, a dental examination, a nutritional and weight assessment, and behavior questions. Your pet's veterinariian may also recommend baseline blood and chemistry profiling and a urine sample analysis. For animals over 6 years , screening for osteoarthritis (both dogs AND cats), hypothyroidism in dogs and hyperthyroidism in cats may be recommended. If your cat goes outdoors, annual blood testing for some viral and bacterial infections as well as some addtional vaccination protection will be recommended and discussed based on thier risk factors. Blood pressure testing to determine hypertension in dogs and cats which can lead to kidney and blindness problems is also important. Fortunately, unless you have a Schnauzer breed, cholesterol and triglyceride testing, although part of normal blood screening, may not be as important as for us: but then again our diets are much more variable than our commercially formulated complete pet diets based on life stage. Read those labels!
And, now, a little advice about pet insurance. If you are able to budget for your pet's well care, surgical spaying and neutering, grooming, food, play dates, toys, dental procedures, medications, flea and tick prevention, vacations/boarding needs, accidents and illnesses, emergency room visits in the middle of the night throughout their lives, well, you're ahead of the game. Most of us do not have the spare resources for many of life's unpredictable situations so here's where pet insurance can help. There are different companies and plans out there but you can ask your pet's veterinarian for advice. Pet insurance allows decisions to be made based on your pet's needs not your checkbook or ATM balance. So next time your pet's veterinary team member asks: if you have your insurance card or form with you they really are talking about your pet's best health.