ANNUAL VISITS - Making (and keeping) annual checkups will give you and your veterinarian the chance to notice slow-developing problems and take care of them as soon as possible. Always monitor your pet's behavior, eating and exercising habits, gums and teeth for anything out of the ordinary. It is better to be too cautious than to be caught off guard.
SPAY/NEUTER - These procedures are much more than birth control. Having your female pet spayed helps prevent breast cancer and pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus, and stops the animal from going into heat. Many undesirable behavior problems found in male pets can be curbed or all together avoided by neutering by the age of six months while preventing testicular cancer, prostate disease and hernias.
VACCINES - Although newborn pets receive protection from many diseases from antibodies passed in milk during nursing, these antibodies dissipate by the age of three months, leaving the immune system highly vulnerable. Most important for dogs and cats is the rabies vaccine. Additionally, there is a combination vaccine available for cats that protects against feline calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia. For dogs, a combination vaccine is available to prevent several infectious diseases, including distemper and parvovirus. Ask your veterinarian if there are other vaccines recommended for your pet given its lifestyle and environment.
FLEAS - Capable of causing skin disease, anemia, scratching, allergies and tapeworms, fleas are tiny parasites that can create big problems for your pet. But, be careful - only use products that are designed for your pet. Don't use dog products on cats or vice versa; many pets become seriously ill and even die from improper use of flea control products.
HEARTWORMS - Heartworm infection is incredibly difficult to treat and often fatal, however, it is easily preventable. Heartworm prevention should be given year-round and your pet should be tested for heartworms every year. The risk of heartworms increases in the early spring because the population of mosquitoes, the carriers of the disease, grows rapidly during this typically rainy season.
DENTAL HEALTH - As important as it is for owners, dental care is just as critical for pets. Food particles, bacteria and saliva, or plaque, can build up on teeth and gums over time and cause infections. Regular brushing of your pet's teeth is an important health care procedure. Ask you veterinarian for guidance. If left untreated, gum disease can result in periodontal infections which can get into the bloodstream, causing potentially serious heart, lung, liver, kidney, bone and joint problems.
Updated Monday, 30th December, 2013