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Why do you take your pet to the vet when they call you in for a checkup? I hope it’s not for a vaccination.

I think dogs and cats should go to the veterinarian for regular examinations. An examination that leads to an early diagnosis or good preventive care is priceless. I was taught in veterinary school that most diagnoses are missed not due to lack of knowledge, but rather, lack of looking. Pet patients deserve at least a once per year thorough physical examination. This should be accompanied by an individualized consultation.

Vaccination

I believe that minimal core vaccines for a healthy puppy or kitten can be good prevention. An automatic booster of these vaccines is irresponsible and a waste of money. At least one blood titer test in the lifetime of every individual pet patient should be standard of care. This is not only a great aid to the decision making process for the pet parent regarding revaccination, but this practice will save on the expense of unnecessary boosters. A protective titer means the pet is spared a vaccine, which may cause a reaction or unnecessary burden to the immune system.

Dental Health

Having your vet look into your pet’s mouth is never a waste of money. Most pet parents have a difficult time looking into their pet’s mouth. Dental health is incredibly important to overall health. A healthy pet mouth means no anesthetic episodes for dental care and this will save you money and save your pet from unnecessary risk.

Ear Health

One of the most common pet disorders brought to the attention of unaware guardians during a routine exam is otitis or inflamed ears. Dogs and cats frequently suffer with low grade or even severe ear infections until a doctor looks inside. Many a pet parent has expressed guilt upon learning that this condition exists. Money is well spent to obtain treatment for this, as well as to learn how to prevent a recurrence.

Palpation

Perhaps one of the most dramatic and life saving discoveries a veterinarian makes is the diagnosis of an enlarged spleen containing a tumor that may be leaking or perhaps has just ruptured. The pet patient may have presented for a wellness exam or for simple lethargy. This skillful palpation is generally followed by an ultrasound or abdominal tap to confirm the diagnosis. The earlier this is diagnosed, the more likely a patient will survive the surgery and save the expense of a blood transfusion and extensive post-op critical care.

Talk It Out

Finances spent on discussion time with your vet should be money well spent. You should expect your pet’s doctor to ask pertinent questions about your pet’s behavior, appetite, thirst, urine volume and stool. Your answers should evoke conversation about training, diagnostic testing, treatment options or even specialist referrals.

Diagnostics

Blood work can be costly, but is almost never a waste of money. There are many important health conditions that can be ruled in or out with good diagnostic testing, but would be missed if decisions were based solely on a physical examination.

Another relatively inexpensive test is a first morning urine. A urinalysis will catch early kidney disease in your dog or cat before blood work can detect it. Urine can also aid in the diagnosis of liver disease, cystitis, crystalluria, urinary tract infection and diabetes. Great value for one test!

Prevention

Think twice about stocking up on annual heartworm preventative and toxic spot-on flea and tick preventatives. Your individual pet situation may mean these items are not needed or are even detrimental. Good advice from a conscientious, holistic veterinarian can guide you toward a safe and effective parasite prevention program for your pet so that you don’t waste money or take risks with drugs or pesticides.

Diet

Lastly, do spend some money on advice from a well informed vet regarding natural nutrition! Start your puppies and kittens out right. Maintain all carnivores, including adults and seniors, with species-appropriate, fresh, balanced raw diets. Spending money on a veterinarian who is well educated on this topic is the best investment of all in the holistic health management of your pet!