October is national pet wellness month

by Dr. Heather Jarrett

Though it’s important to pay attention to your pet’s health year-round, sometimes it’s good to have a little reminder. October of every year is designated National Pet Wellness Month, and it’s a perfect chance to provide a quick refresher on what your pets need to maintain optimal health.

Every day, the entire team at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital strive to help our patients reach and maintain healthy lives. Years of hard work and education allows our team to give the best care and health plans for each individual animal. It is important to start with great building blocks for your furry family members. We would like to give you a glimpse into why we recommend what we do for your dog or cat.

Annual and biannual examination

Animals age faster than humans. A lot can change in 6 to 12 months, and a thorough physical examination and history of your pet’s behaviors can help detect changes from year to year. The more information we know about your pet, the easier it is to recognize trends over time that could indicate a problem.

As your pets reach their senior and geriatric years, it is great to be able to see them every 6 months as the aging process speeds up at this point in their lives. For cats, they are considered to be a senior when they around 8 to 10 years of age. For dogs, their senior years start around 6 to 8 years depending on the breed. Large breed dogs age more quickly than small breeds.

Labwork for wellness

Labwork performed when your pet is young helps to establish a “normal” or baseline for them as an individual. Repeating labwork in later years can help to detect minor changes or slow continuous increases or decreases in specific testing and we can often get a jump start on treating some disease processes.

Ann Arbor Animal Hospital Facilities (laboratory 1)

Periodic labwork is an important part of your pet’s long-term health plan

One very important thing to test for is heartworm. We recommended heartworm/4DX testing annually for multiple reasons. While we trust in the quality of medications that are dispensed from our hospital to prevent heartworm disease, there can be times when a pet somehow has not received one or two doses or they have been given later than anticipated. We want to be able to detect heartworm disease as soon as possible to be able to get the proper treatment started.

The 4DX test also includes a screen for three separate tick-borne diseases that can cause chronic severe illness in our pets. Ticks in our area are becoming more prevalent, as are the diseases they carry. Being vigilant will benefit your pet if treatment can start early.

Dental disease

I was once told by my mentor that “healthy teeth and healthy weight equals a long life.” Believe us when we say we would MUCH rather clean and save the teeth than have to pull them. Teaching your pet oral health care from an early age plays a huge role in keeping their teeth healthy. Just think about what our teeth and gums would look like if we didn’t brush them daily!

Dental chews, daily brushing, and oral rinses are all helpful to avoid plaque, tartar, and gingivitis. Severe dental disease can increase inflammation throughout the body; we want to avoid chronic inflammation for optimal health. Scheduling dentals earlier, when the tartar formation and gingivitis is just starting, can help to save teeth and to have a shorter duration of anesthesia.

pet dentistry dental wellness month

Your pets benefit from professional cleaning of their teeth, just like you do

Body Condition score/diet choices

I come from a large Italian family and to us, food is love and love is food. Which is fine until your pet becomes obese. We want to spoil our loved ones, but we also want them to be healthy.

Obesity can lead to diabetes, osteoarthritis, chronic inflammation, and other disease processes. Ask your vet how many calories to feed per day and this can help keep your pet’s weight in a healthy range.

Currently it is not recommended to feed a grain free/boutique brand diet as there is an increase risk of heart disease in a population of pets fed these diets.

During National Pet Wellness Month remember that your veterinarian is there to help you and your pets stay healthy. Reach out to our team and ask questions. We are your partners and a resource to help your furry family members live long, healthy lives!

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.