Pet ownership is not always predictable, but owners can do a lot to avoid unexpected veterinary expenses and late night visits to the emergency clinic. Staying on top of preventative care is one of the easiest and most cost effective strategies for keeping pets healthy.
Preventative care includes many aspects of the veterinary visit, the most important of which is the physical exam. Most adult pets only require a check-up once a year. The very young, the very old, and those with chronic health problems benefit from more frequent exams. During a “wellness” visit, a veterinarian will collect a complete health history, which can highlight mild symptoms of disease that are often overlooked by owners. Preventative care also includes weight management, dental care, vaccinations, parasite control measures, and diagnostic tests all tailored to a pet’s individual needs.
Heartworm disease in dogs is the perfect example of the benefits of preventative care. Avoiding heartworm disease is not costly or difficult. Initially, dogs should be screened with an inexpensive test that requires just a few drops of blood. If the results are negative, a veterinarian can prescribe an appropriate heartworm prevention medication to be given on a schedule based on the dog’s potential exposure to the disease-causing microorganisms.
Because no medication, including heartworm prevention, is 100% effective, pets should continue to be tested intermittently for the disease even while on prevention. Again, the recommended schedule will be based on the dog’s overall risk. In the unlikely event that a dog tests positive for heartworm disease while on prevention, treatment can be started before much damage to the heart and lungs has occurred. These are the dogs that tend to sail through treatment with the lowest risk of adverse effects. The cost of treatment may even be picked up by the company that makes the prevention the dog was receiving.
Contrast this scenario to that involving a dog diagnosed late in the course of heartworm disease. These pets are usually not seen by a veterinarian until they are coughing, losing weight, and having difficulty breathing. The worms have had the chance to severely damage the dog’s heart and lungs. Treatment for dogs with advanced heartworm disease is expensive and entails hospitalization several times over the course of multiple months. Even with appropriate treatment, severe heartworm disease can be fatal.
Preventative veterinary care is cost-effective, low-risk, and can be scheduled at an owner’s convenience.