“How often do my dogs and cats need to be seen by my vet even while they are healthy?”
Dogs and cats really do age 7 years to each of our years. Furthermore, large breed pets age much more quickly than their smaller counterparts. Consider that a Great Dane or a Mastiff has a life expectancy of about 7 years whereas a toy poodle could be expected to live to 16-18 with good veterinary care.
Cats live longer when they are kept slim and trim and have healthy regular dental and veterinary care.
During the first couple years of a pet’s life, regular veterinary visits at LEAST twice yearly are important. Veterinary visits can make a huge difference in quality of life and length of life by addressing both physical and behavioral problems early on. Veterinarians are trained to watch for normal behavior and development during this formative time in addition to health issues. Euthanasia or relinquishment due to behavioral problems continues to be one of the biggest problems for dogs. Ask your veterinarian rather than Google when you are having a problem you don’t understand. For example, if your pup is urinating in the house, it might be behavioral as well as physical. Your vet can assess whether there is a urinary tract infection versus a behavioral issue that’s causing inappropriate urination.
Veterinarians are seeking to be your partner in care for your furry family member. When we see your pup twice yearly from birth (or whenever s/he joined your family) we are more likely to be able to see changes in behavior, weight, etc. Those changes are huge clues to overall health and well-being! The bottom line is that in the early years, twice yearly visits are best.
Middle age is a time when certain breeds will begin displaying specific issues. For example, giant breed dogs tend to become overweight from 1-5 years of age (even 5% over ideal weight can exacerbate orthopedic problems like bad knees or bad hips!). Toy breeds develop severe periodontal disease by age two. If your toy breed dog is not being seen twice yearly their teeth are at a great risk for disease, pain, infection and ultimately tooth loss. The bottom line for middle aged dogs is that it’s during this period, when your pet seems the healthiest, twice yearly visits are extremely valuable in maintaining that health and increasing the chances for a long (and hopefully pain-free) life!
During your pet’s senior years, metabolic diseases can pop up surreptitiously! You may not have a single clue that your sweet older (age 10) West Highland White Terrier is suffering from diabetes or that your elderly Saint Bernard (age 5) is developing debilitating arthritis, without a wellness visit to your veterinarian. Truly, so many diseases (including cancer) are slow to develop;
they have such subtle signs and symptoms that even the most vigilant owner will likely not notice. The fact of the matter is that every disease process can be improved dramatically with early intervention. So, as your pet ages, twice yearly exams will usually make a wonderful difference in your pet’s length and quality of life!
At the end of your pet’s life, consider more frequent visits. Hospice care is available to help you through the end. Hospice visits range from once monthly to once weekly to ease your pet’s pain. The best part is that hospice care will also help ease your stress as you make difficult decisions regarding your pet’s end of life.