Five Common Reasons Pets Visit Veterinarians
It’s the new year! 2015 has arrived and it’s time for New Year’s resolutions…not just for you but for your pets! Thinking about the most common reasons I see pets, it’s a good idea to share these points so that your pet can have a happy & healthy year. There are some things you can do yourself to help your pet reach these goals.
Reason #1: Bad Breath/Teeth Issues
Everyone knows what doggy breath is…but what can you do about it? I’m definitely an advocate for tooth brushing and you should start your pet when they are young to at least get them used to the idea and the feeling. You’ll want to use an enzymatic pet toothpaste as human toothpastes can damage the enamel of your pets’ teeth. You can find this at most pet stores but also your veterinarian where they often have a free sample to try the flavor and can show you some proper techniques or tips. It’s also best to use a real child’s size soft bristled toothbrush. When it comes to dental cleanings, yes it can be expensive because your pet needs an anesthetic. It’s better to have a prophylactic cleaning done before the teeth get so bad that extractions are required.
Reason #2: Limping
Typically limited to dogs, this can also be a problem for cats. Very commonly, the problem can be traced back to a sprain/strain and may recover with time. As pets live longer, we are seeing more cases of arthritis which can be addressed from an early age by starting your pet on a glucosamine supplement. Other medications, along with keeping them at a good body weight, can also help alleviate discomfort. Under no circumstances should you give ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) as they can be fatal. Another common cause of limping can be a torn ACL (cruciate) ligament in the knee. If your pet starts to limping, you should certainly have them checked out if the signs last more than a day but until your appointment, be sure to keep them on a leash so they don’t over-do it and make things worse. But be kind and if they are still limping after 24 hours or crying out, get them in to be seen as soon as possible because they are likely in pain.
Reason #3: Urinary Issues
So you’ve got an adult dog or cat who is past the housebreaking or litter training phase…and then they decide to start urinating on the laundry, the kitchen floor, or in the sink. Or maybe it’s that you’ve been seeing blood in the urine with your dog or your cat is making frequent trips to the litterbox. In almost every case, this is a sign of a problem and is going to mean a trip to your veterinarian. For infections, females are predisposed and for bladder crystals or stones, issues are more problematic for males. To try and help stave these things off, it helps to do a couple of things. First off, it’s always a great idea to keep your pet at an ideal body weight as obesity has been shown to make these problems worse. Secondly, with females, if they have an inverted vulva (again worsened by obesity), it can be beneficial to keep the skin folds clean using baby wipes or just a soft cloth and making sure the folds are dried out. Third, particularly with male cats, I recommend feeding some canned food (in addition to dry) to help urine production and to also keep it more dilute so that they can do their best to prevent accumulation of crystals.
Reason #4: Gastro-intestinal Problems
This is a broad category I’ll touch on briefly that includes vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating. I see many pets being rushed in if they miss one meal or have 1 episode of vomiting or diarrhea. It’s good that you as an owner are concerned about your pets health. What I don’t want to see is pets that have been waiting 4-5 days before being seen. If you ever see blood in the stool or vomit, they should be seen right away. If your pets doesn’t want to eat dinner one night, you could tempt them with a small amount of boiled chicken and rice or maybe a small amount of tuna for cats. You can lower the risk of vomiting and diarrhea by sticking to a regular diet and avoiding table food. Pepto Bismol should never be given to cats due to toxicity issues and it won’t solve every problem with your dog’s intestinal system. Pancreatitis, parvovirus, and foreign bodies are both life threatening and delaying treatment can only make things worse for your pet. Bottom line, if they still won’t eat, are lethargic, vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 24 hours, then it’s time for a check up.
Reason #5: Vaccines
Sometimes the only reason I see a pet are when they need “shots” which in some cases might only be every 3 years. That being said, we still do more examinations and vaccinations than anything else. What I want to stress here is that vaccines are important but not the most important part of these visits. The actual examination is the most critical part of the visit as it allows us to assess your pet’s total body health and possibly find problems before they become more serious. It also gives us a chance to discuss the things you should be watching for especially as your pet gets older. To understand more about the annual exam, visit my previous blog post about it here.
The one thing missing from this list is skin problems but given the number of facets to that area of the body, it will be addressed as a separate post at a later time. So start the new year off right and do your part to keep your pet healthy. Whether it’s brushing their teeth, stopping giving them table food, keeping them clean and at a healthy weight, or just getting a check up even if they aren’t due for a vaccination this year, these are all simple things you can do for them. And though you think they might resent it, I’m sure they’ll be thankful for not getting sick and having to visit the veterinary clinic later.
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