Pet Wellness: Why it matters

Why should you care about pet wellness?

Last week we talked about what pet wellness–or, more appropriately, preventive care–is: using your veterinarian to screen for serious illness and provide education on how to help your pet live a healthier lifestyle.

But why should you care?

We all know vets can’t prevent every problem. But even when we can’t, there’s still real value in pet wellness. Here’s the “what’s in it for me?”:

pet wellness | veterinarian | Gilbert, AZ | Deutsch Drahthaar puppy

Edgar, Deutsch Drahthaar (German wirehair pointer).  © 2013 Arlene Gil

Preventive care improves comfort and quality of life

Good preventive care helps us detect and treat chronic health problems early. Arthritis, obesity, and periodontal disease are all common in pets. They impact pets’ quality of life, but the signs aren’t always obvious. Sometimes, they’re almost impossible to see until they are treated. You’d be amazed by how often we hear “he’s just like a puppy again” once we identify and correct tooth disease or arthritis in patient.

Preventive care increases quantity of life.

One canine nutrition study demonstrated that maintaining a healthy weight can give you 15% more time with your pet. That’s about two years for your average labradoodle–longer for small breeds and cats! Early detection and intervention can also extend the life of pets with problems like heart murmurs, kidney insufficiency, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism.

Preventive care protects your family’s health.

Pets can carry parasites and bacteria that can be transmitted to people. Kids, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are at the highest risk. Regular deworming prevents the transmission of hookworms and roundworms. Good nutrition and proper handling of pet foods and home-prepared diets can reduce the risk of spreading bacterial infections like Salmonella to your family.

Preventive care practically eliminates the risk of common infectious diseases.

The appropriate use of vaccines makes it nearly impossible for your pets to get infected with diseases like rabies, parvo, distemper, feline herpes, and feline leukemia. These are diseases that have high infection rates, are easily transmitted, and–at least in some cases–can be deadly. Heartworm disease—a deadly parasite spread by mosquitoes—can easily be prevented, as well.

Behavioral wellness saves pets from surrender to shelters.

Behavioral problems are a silent killer. More pets are given up to shelters for behavioral problems than any other reason. Keeping pets with their families is the goal of behavioral wellness programs. Regular preventive care visits should always include a discussion about behavior problems, no matter how minor they may seem at the time.

Preventive care reduces veterinary costs.

Ever hear that old saw about an ounce of prevention? Well, it’s true. Early detection and treatment of illness reduces costs in the long run.

Diabetes is a great example: when high blood sugar is detected on routine screening tests, it might cost a few hundred dollars to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes and start treatment with insulin. The patient can usually be treated at home. When the diabetes isn’t detected until the pet is so sick it can’t keep down food, is dehydrated, and in shock (a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis), it usually takes 3-5 days in the hospital and several thousand dollars to manage.

Preventive care fosters a cooperative relationship with your other family doctor.

When pets visit the veterinarian only because there’s a problem, we’re all missing a valuable opportunity. Instead of being focused on an illness, preventive care visits allow pet owners and vets to work together to optimize health and quality of life. Regular health risk assessments, physical examinations, and diagnostic screening turn us into problem preventers instead of problem solvers.

Good preventive care improves our pets’ comfort and quality of life. It increases quantity of life, giving us more time to love them. It saves money. Seems like a no-brainer to me.