The pets behind DOGthusiast.com have had their share of ailments and visits to the vet. In just the past several years, we had a dog fall ill to AIHA/IMHA (auto-immune hemolytic anemia), hit a car, suffer an esophageal obstruction, suffer from chronic IBD, have a mast cell tumor diagnosis, and have a bone puncture the small intestine causing a life-threatening case of peritonitis. Not to mention various allergies to the environment and food and the resulting licking, scratching, and granulomas. And diagnose a few behavior quirks that we weren’t sure were health-related. While some of these were emergency situations, others were from discussions raised from routine veterinarian check-ups, and all required the care and attention of a professional.
Yes, a lot goes on in a household with a few pets!
Although this blog post does sound like it may be headed in the direction of “hey you should consider pet insurance” (and, yes, the above does make that point!), what we want to observe is how important heading to the vet for a regular check-up is.
Don’t wait until your pet is sick
Our pets age a lot quicker than we do, and with age comes health-related issues. In our household, we have had a number of emergency situations to remind us to head to the vets to get things checked over. But for our healthy animals, we often need to set a reminder to head in for a check-up because health isn’t always on the forefront of our minds. If you wait until there is a problem to head to the vets, it can often be a lot more difficult and/or costly to resolve by that point. Catching issues early is better for everyone involved – just as it is true for our own human ailments.
Set a reminder to head to the vet for a check-up
If you set a reminder, you take the guess work out of things. When life is busy, I can barely remember to feed myself properly, let alone remember when the last routine vet visit was. Let technology do the work for you, and set up a calendar reminder on your computer or phone for one year in the future, while you’re waiting for your vet appointment to start. Then you know it’s in there, and that you’ll receive a reminder when you’re due.
Another resource to set a reminder is at Healthy Pet Checkup site. Scroll to the bottom of the web page to register your pet and set up an email or phone reminder. You can also speak with your vet to see if they send reminders in the mail or call you when it’s time for a check up.
What to do in a routine health checkup
A useful set resources to help you examine your own pet, and learn what to ask in a check-up at the veterinarian, are at the Healthy Pet Checkup site. At the website, you can learn what a vet will examine (for example, what they check your dog’s skin and coat for), and also what questions to ask while you’re there. The website lets you select what type of pet you have, and an age range, and suggests some questions to ask.
I always like to sit down and brainstorm leading up to an annual exam. Think about a day in the life of your pet, and what kinds of things you do. Observe your pet for the week leading to the visit, and jot any other questions you can think about on your list. Even give your cat or dog your own quick exam, and see if you notice anything out of the ordinary or something that you’ve noticed that has changed. Maybe your dog’s coat looks a bit different, or your cat’s tongue is a slightly different shade. Is your dog walking at a different pace on a walk, or perhaps not jumping on the bed as frequently. These kinds of changes may be subtle, but useful information for your vet to be aware of. Remember to note any behavioral changes! These are often not apparent in a vet visit because of the unusual or stressful environment, but describing any changes at home can help your vet provide a more thorough exam.
What about vaccines? Should my dog get them every year?
Vaccines do not have to be part of the plan. Many families choose to run titer tests in lieu of automatically vaccinating their pets, which is especially beneficial in older age. Do your homework, and if necessary, seek a second opinion from a holistic vet if you are told that vaccines are mandatory every year during that visit. There are often safer protocols you can follow, such as the titer tests or spreading out a smaller number of only the essential and effective vaccines given individually over the course of several weeks or months.
What if it’s simply too expensive?
Sometimes unexpected costs arise in life, change happens, jobs are lost, and so on. The fact you are still caring for your pet is the main thing, and thankfully there are a number of resources and options available to help you if preventative care is too expensive for your budget at the time. Check out this list of ways to make these visits possible, or resources to help you out.