What information does my veterinarian need to know about my dog's lifestyle before providing preventative care recommendations?
Certain vaccinations might be more prevalent with dogs that are, let's say a hunting dog that's going to be outside and in those rough and rugged conditions. They're also going to be swimming in water, perhaps exposed to other parasites that, for example, an indoor dog will never be exposed to. So sometimes different vaccines would be warranted for different lifestyles. There's also different diets along those same exact lines. Dogs that are much more active and athletic might require higher protein, higher fat, and maybe a higher energy diet, if you will, than say a dog that is on the couch 24 hours a day. So, it's different things like that. It's lifestyles and it's where or what they're exposed to.
The dogs that are outdoors more or more at risk, for lack of a better word, and might require a more comprehensive vaccination schedule or other medications. Maybe ear cleaners for dogs that swim a lot. They're more likely to have ear infections, so we would more than likely send them with an ear cleaner to try to get ahead of that and prevent those types of conditions.
Wellness plans cover wellness visits, just as the name implies. What does that mean? That's going to cover things like your routine vaccinations and your routine annual physical exam. Some wellness plans actually cover dental procedures once a year, whereas pet insurance is going to cover all aspects of medical care. So, if you have a traumatic injury with your dog, or a serious illness, insurance will cover those where a wellness plan will not.
So the first thing - the most important thing - is to have them confined. You do still see a lot of dogs riding in the back of trucks. That is obviously not the safest way to go about it. And regardless of how well trained your dog may or may not be, your best bet if the dog's going to be in the back of a truck is to have them in a kennel. And I would go one step further and even strap that kennel down. For dogs that are riding indoors, a kennel is still the best option. If that is not something you like or are comfortable with, they make various harnesses that can actually attach to the seat belts in your car that prevent the dog from flying around the cab of the car in the case of an accident or when you have to stop with short notice.
Because very few dogs listen well enough off leash. And there's always the unforeseen situation that you need to have control of your dog. If they see another animal, a squirrel or anything, and they want to bolt off without a leash, you have no way to effectively stop them. Obviously, with a leash, you do. And then there's a safety reason for the human side of it, too. There are certain people that are fearful of dogs. A dog can be too much for small children, too, for all of those reasons. It's just that literally the only way to really have your dog adequately and properly confined or restrained is with a leash.
It depends on the dog. I have a couple of dachshunds. What do I try to do? I try to prevent them from jumping on and off of things to prevent injury. So first off, think of the size of the dog and wherever they stay. So if you need to put ramps or ladders up to your bed or to your couch or things like that, consider those things. Number two, make sure that they cannot access places where either chemicals or trash or things like that would be accessible.
So, make sure if you have a dog that's a digger or likes to be inquisitive, that they cannot access all the cleaning supplies under your kitchen sink or your trash can under your kitchen sink, because that leads only to trouble as you can imagine. And then, lastly, would be outside dogs - those dogs that are kenneled or housed outdoors, you need to make sure that they have adequate shade, water, and ventilation. And if they're loose in a yard, for example, you need to make sure the integrity of the fence—make sure there are no holes, there's no place they can break through, for obvious reasons there.
The most common things would be your pesticides, like rat poison, are very, very toxic to dogs. They make two or three different types of rat poison that can affect a bunch of different systems. We can only go into that here. That's the most common type, and the best way to prevent it is avoidance. If you don't need it, don't use it. If you do have to use it, put it somewhere where the rat or mouse can get up there, but not your dog. That's the scariest one that I can think of, but there are countless pesticides that are used by exterminators.
I would tell you to check with your exterminator in order to find out exactly what they're using and what precautions are necessary. And even if you can't do that, I will tell you that most exterminators understand that we live in a world that has domestic pets everywhere. So, most products are pet safe, but I would still take every precaution. Inquire with your exterminator and, number two, when they do spray, give it adequate time to completely dry before you let a dog go back there. It's going to be more concentrated and more potentially toxic if it's wet, so you don't want a dog back there finding a puddle or licking the grass and things like that.
Truth be told, I think it's hard to prevent conditions. I think the real benefit of a wellness plan is catching them immediately when they are evident or begin to emerge, because you're going to be a lot more effective in treating a condition if you catch it at step one versus step ten. So, you and your vet should check for lumps and bumps or maybe arthritis in a dog often. Again, it would be hard to cover all potential problems that we could find. But I think it's just that early detection and routine wellness visits are key.
Dog Preventive Care - FAQ
Dog preventative care is anything that we do medically speaking that prevents disease. So the most common things would be vaccinations, heartworm preventatives, and perhaps flea control. It involves products that we can give or administer that will prevent disease down the road.
Well, for obvious reasons, if we're preventing things like infectious diseases, for example, we give a rabies vaccination to prevent that dog from getting rabies. That's pretty helpful. But also things like parvo, distemper, hepatitis—all the different ingredients in these combination vaccines. Heartworm disease, that's huge. In South Louisiana where we practice, it's rampant, really. So how do we prevent it? We prevent it by doing monthly heartworm prevention. And there's only one way to do that.
Bare minimum once a year but, more realistically, I think twice a year is probably a better schedule to fall into because it allows the dog ... they grow so rapidly and change so rapidly, much more so than us. Seeing an animal on a twice-yearly basis will definitely give you a better chance to pick up on conditions as they emerge, and not once they've been there for six or nine months or even a year.
During your average preventative care appointment, it's going to be a lot of the routines, so we're going to test the dog for heartworms. We're going to do a stool sample to look for intestinal worms. We do a great head-to-toe physical exam. We're going to administer vaccinations to prevent all the diseases.
Also, it gives us an opportunity to do what we call wellness blood work. That is typically where we run a CBC and maybe a chemistry panel. On some of our older patients, we might also include a thyroid panel. But it's before there's a problem, so we're looking to see if we can see the beginnings of perhaps inadequate kidney function, or the beginnings of something that's affecting the liver, or electrolytes or blood sugar...those kinds of things. That's why we call it wellness blood work. There's no problem there at that time, but it's allowing us to look behind the curtain and see if there's anything more brewing under the surface.
Preventative medication used monthly, heartworm prevention in South Louisiana is my first, second, third, fourth, and fifth answer to that question. Heartworms, are rampant. They are spread by mosquitoes. Heartworm preventative is absolutely imperative if you have a dog, and this is true anywhere, but particularly anywhere in the southern half to two-thirds of the United States. It's just everywhere. And it would be downright silly to not have them on heartworm preventatives.
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