“Despite the ever-increasing emotional bond we have with our pets, research shows pets are getting less preventive healthcare,” says Dr. Rene A. Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “Consequently, illnesses that are totally preventable, such as dental infections, intestinal worms and heartworms, ear infections and diabetes, are on the increase. … we encourage pet owners to bring their pets into their veterinarian for regular checkups.”

Pets are going to the veterinarian 25% less often than before.  Why?

The economy has a lot to do with it.  Less discretionary income puts pet care lower on the list of things we need to spend money on.  Sometimes we just don’t have the extra cash or credit for pet emergencies, let alone wellness visitis.  And, payment arrangements are hard to find at Veterinary offices.  So, here are some other options:

  • Pet Health Insurance.  The same way it helps us get health care, it can help you afford pet care. Check out this site for comparison shopping the most reliable Pet Insurance Companies:  Trupanion.com
  • Apply for Care Credit– a line of credit for medical expenses.
  • Seek out Veterinarians who accept Care Credit
  • Seek out Veterinarians who offer monthly payments on Annual Wellness Packages–  dividing the expected expenses over the course of the year can sure make optimal pet care more affordable!
  • Look for Vets who offer in-house Medical Savings Plans– let your vet help you save by putting money in your pet’s account for wellness or urgent care.
  • Ask your Vet if they offerFrequent Flyer Discounts” for pets that come in more than once a year

Internet sources encourage owners to self-diagnose and even try treating at home.  While the internet has lots of good information, there is a lot of misinformation out there, too.  Make sure you  are getting medical information from a veterinary source, not just anyone. Here are some reliable sources for veterinary information:  Veterinary Partner  and   AAHA Healthy Pet.   Avoid putting off a vet visit based on “wait and see” advice from the internet.  Illnesses are almost always less expensive to treat and have better outcomes when treated earlier than later.  And, always remember, there is no substitute for your veterinarian’s hands-on examination and their advice based on personal knowledge of your pet!

3 Year Vaccination rotations are becoming more popular, so owners are choosing to forego the annual health exams.  Many people don’t realize that the Veterinary Exam is the Most Important Part of their pet’s “vaccination visit”.  Of course, every pet needs appropriate vaccinations based on life risk assessments (which your vet can help you figure out), but it’s the up-to-date exchange of knowledge and the physical exam that let you and your pet’s doctor keep him in top form– not just the vaccines.

As more cats are staying indoors, owners are abandoning annual health check ups for their cats, being under the mistaken impression that their indoor cat is “safe” from disease.  It is true that indoor cats are unlikely to get contagious diseases and suffer less traumatic injury than outdoor cats.  But, indoor cats are more prone to metabolic disease, obesity, and diabetes than their more active outdoor counterparts.  The fabulous thing is that medical advances in the last several years are helping cats with metabolic diseases and diabetes, even renal failure, live up 2 or more years longer than before!  It’s worth checking it out!

Tips for getting your cat to the vet with a minimum of stress (to both you and your cat)

  • Train your cat to enjoy his carrier.  Click here
  • Spray Feliway in the carrier 15 minutes before putting your kitty inside.  Tabby finds Happiness with Feliway– from youtube
  • Put a towel or sweatshirt with your scent on it in the carrier for kitty to hide in.
  • Ask your veterinarian for anti-anxiety medication to give before the trip
  • Choose a Veterinarian with some of these cat friendly features

Time constraints make it difficult to get in to the vet during regular “Doctor Office Hours”.

  • Look for a Vet that allows Drop Off Appointments.  Drop your pet off while you go to work or run other errands.  Your Vet or Vet Tech can call you with physical exam findings and  recommendations.  You can make treatment decisions and pick your pet up on the way home!
  • Look for Veterinary clinics with extended hours.

Just as for humans, an ounce of prevention (and a few dollars intermittently) is worth a pound (and big bucks) of cure for pets.

Pets should have regular checkups throughout their lives just like people.  Human physicians recommend annual exams for children and adults starting at middle age, annual blood testing starting at middle age, and some specialized tests as we advance in age (prostate cancer testing, breast cancer screening, colonoscopy).    Likewise, Puppies and Kittens should have monthly exams until 4 months of age (equate that to children at age 11).  Pets age 4-8 (equate to human ages 40-65) should have at least 1 exam every year.  Twice yearly exams for middle aged pets would be entirely reasonable.  That would be like a middle aged human getting an exam and wellness testing every 3 years.  Senior pets over the age of 8 should be examined every 6 months with an annual wellness blood and urine screen.

Sure, you will pay for 1 or 2 vet visits a year, but you will get your money’s worth!  Your vet will be able to detect problems that you can’t at home.  You can implement lifestyle, diet, or exercise changes to turn around some illnesses or slow down the progression of chronic disease, giving your family more great quality time with your pet.

Our rapidly changing ,constantly moving society will always present challenges to the things we want to do.  When you are feeling challenged about bringing your pet into your Veterinarian, call them.  Your family Vet probably has some ways to make the experience easier and better.   As our pets give us unconditional love, we need to give it back in comfort and quality of life.   Don’t let preventable disease steal precious years from your bond with your Pet Friend Forever.