By Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M. B.Sc.
How to keep your veterinary bills down!
Had Benjamin Franklin, the famous American who “tamed lightning” been alive during the time of my writing of this article I like to think that he would have approved of my use of his wise and familiar saying in the veterinary context.
A very large proportion of the preventative measures I am about to list below apply to all companion pets, furry, feathered or otherwise. By adhering to these measures you can significantly improve the likelihood that you will have a pet that lives a long and healthy life that is much less burdened by experiences of injury or disease.
I will start each point defending against common myths that many people cling to about the authentic value of these measures.
Myth 1: “My new puppy or kitten has been dewormed and received his first shots and looks healthy and therefore don’t need a physical exam”.
The importance of a complete physical exam of newly adopted pets cannot be overemphasized. This enables vets to pick up on the presence of any pre-existing problems and also allows for exchange of valuable information regarding optimum nutrition, parasite prevention and other preventive measures to address the immediate and future needs of the newly adopted pet.
Myth 2: “Ruff looks healthy, seems happy, is eating well, and is not due any vaccines this year therefore why waste money and time taking him to the vet?”
It is important to have your pet of any age examined by a veterinarian on a yearly basis and even more often in the case of pets that are middle-aged and older. This is because pets age at a rate that is significantly faster than do humans. Physical examinations allow for identification of dental, ear or other lurking diseases that you may have missed. The great majority of health problems are better addressed at an early stage rather than later on, often when other complicating factors have developed.
Myth 3: “I have heard a lot on T.V. (or read online testimonials or my favorite pet store has been promoting…) “X” Brand of food being the BEST there is!”
It is well worth your time to research your pet’s nutritional needs to become as informed as possible. Don’t fall for the most expensive fad diet but at the same time; don’t reach for the cheapest on the shelf either. Like people, a pet’s overall health status is influenced significantly by what he or she eats daily. Your vet, a trained professional can offer you the best guidance. There is no “Best” pet food” on the market for any individual pet just as there is no single best food for humans.
Myth 4: “Fluffy is always with me on a leash on walks and is very healthy and is rarely in contact with other dogs so she doesn’t need any vaccines. Or “Rover has had his puppy series and now that he is an adult dog he doesn’t need them anymore”.
It is very important to have your pets vaccinated against infectious diseases on a regular basis (ferrets too!) Vaccines provide effective protection against common infectious diseases, which can be relatively easily acquired during daily activities such as when your pet contacts contaminated soil, grass or contaminated air droplets. Also, it is important to be aware that young animals, especially those a year or younger, cats and dogs older than 8 years old and animals with compromised immune systems are all at a higher risk of acquiring infectious diseases than the general pet population. .
Myth 5: “Frisky” is always in our fenced yard or with me on outings so he is safe from loss or harm.”
Money spent on microchip and tattoo and identifier collars and tags is money very well spent! One can never second-guess all emergency situations. For example, pets can escape through undetected holes in fences or improperly latched gates. Also, they can jump out of partially open car windows and also, on occasion be stolen.
Myth 6: “Ranger loves to ride in the back of our truck and is very smart about not trying to jump out”.
Truck bed harnesses and crates are measures that are essential to protect pets during transport. Unexpected sharp stops and turns can easily result in unsecured pets suffering from dragging incidents resulting in severe injuries, prolonged suffering and occasionally even death. This applies to pets transported inside vehicles as well. Seat belts and harnesses are designed to protect your pet and any passengers as well from the possibility of your animal passenger being catapulted forward or even out the window of your car in the event of a car accident or unexpected sharp stop.
Myth 7: “Rambo would never jump up on to the kitchen table or counter, even to steal a very tempting treat ”(or crack open a prescription pill bottle and sample the contents!)
For all kinds of pets of any age it is very important to be vigilant about pet- proofing your house to avoid serious and sometimes tragic outcomes. This includes protecting your inevitably enterprising furry or feathered friend from accessing electrical cords and toxic household chemicals, plants, and human medications. Included in a list of common hazards are household cleaners like laundry and dishwasher soap, toilet bowl cleaners, and carpet cleaners. Also included are recreational drugs such as marijuana, beverages with high caffeine content and e-cigarettes and their refills.
Myth 8: Never assume that little Hamish, who has been vomiting off and on for a few days or has blood in his stools, is o.k. because he still seems bright and alert and still wants to eat. Or, if Buster seems unusually quiet and withdrawn to assume that he is just “depressed” from loss of a family pet or favorite person or “getting old”.
The longer a problem exists it is generally more difficult and costly to address. Age alone is not a disease!
Myth 9: “Pets do not experience dental pain the same way humans do.”
This is definitely NOT SO! All animals are programmed with a survival instinct that ensures that they do not appear vulnerable to outside threats. Further, they need to eat to survive. Therefore, pets in general put up with dental pain, which may be considerable, and continue to eat and get on with their life because they have no other choice.
Unfortunately for pets, it is another common misconception that a non-anesthetic procedure involving hand-scaling of teeth is adequate to address a pet’s dental needs, In fact, within the veterinary community, hand-scaling alone is considered to be beneath the standard of care expected of a veterinarian. An apt analogy to explain this view is for an individual to attempt to improve a car with a rusted body by painting over the rust with new paint! Although after a hand-scaling your pet’s teeth may look shiny white and appear to be in great shape overall, what is lurking under the gum line where rotten ( and very painful!) roots may be found remains as potentially a much more serious problem to be addressed.
Myth 10: “Pets do not have emotional needs or feel emotions like humans do. They strictly act on instinct and as long as they have food and shelter they are happy.”
Definitely, this is not true!
Love and play with your pet routinely. This will help you to be in tune with his physical condition. A daily play routine will please your pet and keep his life more exciting and as a bonus, it will provide health benefits to you as well!