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Taking care of our pets is a year round commitment. However,
caring for our animals is more than simply making sure they have
food, water, and shelter each day. Making sure they visit their
veterinarian for regular check-ups is vital to their well being as
October is National Pet Wellness Month. Sponsored by The
American Veterinary Medical Association and Fort Dodge Animal
Health, National Pet Wellness month is intended to promote
awareness about the pet aging process, disease prevention, and the
importance of pet wellness exams.
Many people adopt the misguided belief that unless you pet is
clearly ill or injured there is no reason to take them to the
veterinarian. Just because your pet is not displaying discomfort,
does not mean it is healthy. Visiting your veterinarian for
wellness exams can potentially prevent health problems, lead to
early detection of health issues that could become problematic, and
find existing problems that may be corrected.
"Make sure your pets see their veterinarian at least once a
year. Once your animals reach their "senior" years they should be
getting wellness exams every six months," explains Dr. Mark
Stickney, the Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas
A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine's Teaching
Of course what is considered "senior" for pets is drastically
different from that of humans. Stickney explains that "senior" is
defined differently for different animals. Average sized dogs and
cats usually are considered to be senior pets once they turn seven.
Large breeds of dogs are classified as senior after their fifth
"Our pets age faster than we do. Therefore, diseases develop
faster in them. For example, an illness that could take years to
affect a human can develop in dogs in a few months," states
Stickney. "Our pets cannot tell us when something is wrong with
them; scheduling regular wellness exams can help detect and treat
According to Stickney, during a wellness exam the veterinarian
is checking: the animal's body condition(not too fat or skinny),
the muscular skeletal system to make sure there is no muscle
wasting that could mean they are not using certain muscles because
it is painful, if the heart and lung functions sound normal, the
abdomen and organs to make sure they are normal in size and not
causing the animal pain, the lymph nodes are normal sized and
symmetrical, the condition of the eyes, ears, and teeth, no
unexpected lumps or bumps, and no skin or internal parasites.
It is important to tell your veterinarian if your pet has been
displaying any abnormal behavior. Changes in sleeping patterns,
eating habits, obedience, and displays of aggression can be signs
of a bigger problem.
"Though some illnesses are unavoidable, there are some diseases
that we can prevent our pets from contracting by simply getting
them immunized. Though rabies is the only vaccination required by
law, veterinarians recommend a few other vaccinations for our cats
and dogs," notes Stickney.
Common vaccinations for dogs include Parvovirus, Distemper,
Parainfluenza, and Adenovirus. Cats should be vaccinated for Feline
Herpes, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia.
According to Stickney, series of vaccinations generally begin
when a puppy or kitten is between eight and twelve weeks old. These
series are scheduled about three weeks apart until they are around
twenty weeks old. At one year old, pets should go in for booster
Because there are no set rules for when and what to immunize
your pet for, it is best to talk with your veterinarian about
creating and maintaining a vaccination plan that works best for
"We are able to treat more illness in animals than ever before,"
states Stickney. "Taking your animal in for their wellness exams
can give them longer, better, and happier lives. Yearly visits to
the veterinarian are a small price to pay for our pets'
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu/.
Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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