If you’re feeling confused about your pet’s health care needs, don’t worry -- you’re not alone. Plenty of pet parents -- especially first timers -- have questions about how to care for their pet, and with so much information out there, it can be difficult to know what advice to take.
We’re here to clear the clutter and provide you with straight answers to the most frequently asked questions about your pet’s health care.
1. How Often Should I Take My Pet To the Vet?
The answer to this question will vary depending on your pet’s age and health. However, here are some useful numbers:
- Puppies and kittens should see the veterinarian at around 6 weeks of age to begin receiving vaccinations. They will continue to see the vet every few weeks until their vaccinations are complete, at around 4 months of age. After that, many vets recommend a check-up at 6 months of age.
- Adult dogs and cats should see the veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up. These routine visits are incredibly important for the maintenance of your pet’s overall health, and they are also when your veterinarian can detect any medical problems.
- Older cats and dogs (7 years of age and up) should see the veterinarian every 6 months. Some veterinarians recommend that geriatric pets (over 10 years of age) should have a check-up every 3 months. This is because older pets are at higher risk for disease and injury.
- Always contact your veterinarian if your pet is exhibiting any unusual symptoms, regardless of their age.
2. What Vaccinations Does My Pet Need?
All puppies and kittens should begin receiving their core vaccinations (those recommend for all pets) at around 6 weeks old. The core vaccines for puppies protect against distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis, and rabies. The core vaccines for kittens protect against feline distemper, feline calci virus, feline herpes type 1, and rabies.
In addition to these core vaccines, there are a number of non-core vaccines available to pets living in certain geographic locations or in conditions that put them at risk. Ask your veterinarian which vaccinations are right for your pet. Most pets will also receive vaccination boosters either every year or three years, depending on the vaccine.
3. Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet, And When?
There are a great number of health and behavioral benefits that can come from spaying or neutering your pet, and it also helps to control the pet population. Most veterinarians recommend spaying or neutering your pet at around 6 months of age.
4. Should I Protect My Pet From Fleas and Ticks?
Yes! Fleas and ticks not only cause your pet irritation, they can also carry life-threatening diseases. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a medication, topical treatment, or collar for your pet.
5. Should My Pet Be on Heartworm Prevention?
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that are transmitted via a mosquito bite. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) recommends that any dog over 6 months who has been tested and found to be free of heartworms should be given a heartworm preventative.
While heartworms are more common in dogs, they can also show up in cats. Ask your veterinarian if heartworm prevention is appropriate for your cat.
6. Do I Need To Worry About My Pet’s Teeth?
Yes! Did you know that dental disease is actually very common in pets? Most veterinarians agree that 75% or more of the health problems they see in pets are related to gum disease or periodontal disease, and studies show that most animals have signs of dental disease by 3 or 4 years old. Yikes! Brush your pet’s teeth, ask your veterinarian what else you can do to help your pet’s dental health, and keep up with your pet’s routine vet visits, during which they will undergo a dental exam.
7. How Much Exercise Does My Pet Need?
Obesity is a very real problem in dogs and cats. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight not only gives them a better quality of life, it also helps to reduce the chances of your pet developing conditions that can be brought on by obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and arthritis. All pets need exercise, but the amount will depend on your specific pet. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an appropriate exercise routine.
8. What Should My Pet Eat?
What your pet eats matters. You should choose a food that is appropriate for their size, age, and activity level. Some working or competition dogs, for example, do well on a high-calorie diet that gives them lots of energy. However, that diet might not be appropriate for a dog who spends most of their time lounging around. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a food for your pet -- finding the right one can have a big effect on their overall health as well as their behavior.
Are you feeling more informed about your pet’s health care? We hope so. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian -- most vet techs and vets are more than happy to answer your questions over the phone, or invite you in for a visit to the office.
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