AAHA-AVMA Canine Preventive Healthcare Guidelines

heart murmur in dogs

The American Veterinary Medical Association, along with the American Animal Hospital Association released new preventive care guidelines for dogs and cats this month.  The new guidelines were developed in response to recent data that suggests a decline in veterinary visits at the same time preventable diseases in pets are increasing. AVMA says the new guidelines will provide veterinary practice teams with a new foundation for promoting preventive care.

“These new guidelines, which were created by veterinary experts brought together by the AVMA and AAHA, are the first of their kind and will be the foundation of the newly formed Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare,” says Dr. René Carlson, AVMA president. “The guidelines are extremely important because we know that fewer and fewer pet owners are bringing their cats and dogs in for regular preventive care. Experts agree that regular visits are essential in preventing health problems such as ear infections, dental disease and obesity.”

According to DVM 360, the new guidelines are designed to help the veterinary team emphasize the importance of disease prevention for pet owners.  What is alarming to us is just what the Partnership considers preventive care.

Below are the new guidelines:

Frequency of Visits

All dogs should have a veterinary examination at least annually. For many dogs, more frequent visits may be appropriate. Decisions regarding specific frequency of visits should be based on individual needs of the dog.

Health Evaluation


History, including evaluation of life style and life stage, behavior and diet


Comprehensive physical examination, including dental assessment, pain assessment, and body and muscle condition scoring


On the basis of history and physical examination findings, assessments are made for:

  • Medical conditions
  • Infectious and zoonotic diseases
  • Parasite prevention and control
  • Dental care
  • Genetic, breed and age considerations
  • Behavior
  • Nutrition


Client communication and education plan to include:

Diagnostic Plan

Every dog should have:

  • Annual heartworm testing
  • At least annual internal parasite testing

Customized plan based on assessment:

  • Other diagnostic tests (including dental radiography)
  • Early disease screening tests
  • Genetic screening tests

Therapeutic plan

Every dog should receive:

  • Year-round broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas

Customized plan based on assessment:

  • Tick control as indicated by risk assessment
  • Therapeutic recommendations
  • Dental recommendations
  • Behavioral recommendations
  • Dietary recommendations

Prevention Plan

Every dog should have or receive:

  • Immunizations with core vaccines in accordance to existing guidelines
  • Appropriate identification including microchipping
  • Reproductive and genetic counseling and spaying or neutering unless specifically intended for breeding purposes

Customized plan based on assessment:

  • Immunization with non-core vaccines in accordance with existing guidelines
  • Other preventive recommendations and counseling regarding zoonotic diseases

Follow-up plan

  • Establish a plan for follow-up based on assessment and future care recommendations
  • Set expectations for next visit


  • Thorough documentation for the patient visit

What Does This Mean For Our Dogs?

From a holistic point of view, these guidelines are completely backwards and, instead of preventing disease, they will continue to cause chronic disease in our already over-vetted dogs.  Moreover, nowhere do these new guidelines indicate the need for informed consent which is unfortunate because the new guidelines indicate that every single dog should receive the following:

  • Immunizations – once again, the veterinary community is sticking to vaccinating ‘in accordance to existing guidelines’.  This means every three years.  Despite the fact that vets and the people involved in the partnership have known that core vaccines likely last for the life of the animal, they are still advocating vaccinating every three years.  Why would they advocate this?  Because most veterinary practices are shot-based, meaning that they rely on the money from repeated, yet unnecessary vaccinations to stay in business.  Perhaps financial considerations are the real driving force behind these guidelines as well.  Surely, if they were truly concerned about our pets, they wouldn’t continue to push vaccinations that are potentially harmful when they offer no benefit to our dogs?  Most pet owners even understand that vaccines cause cancer, allergies, auto-immune disorders, hypothyroidism and other chronic diseases – why would vets repeatedly give vaccinations to our already vaccinated dogs in the face of this?  How is this an effective part of a disease prevention plan?
  • Spaying and neutering for any dogs not intended for breeding – once again, there is no informed consent with this.  Vets assume it is a given that all pets should be spayed or neutered.  Yet, this seemingly routine surgery often spells disaster for our pets.  It increases the risk of many cancers including hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, prostate and urinary cancers, it increases the risk of hypothyroidism, cognitive impairment, orthopedic conditions and vaccine reaction.  How many vets inform pet owners of these harmful side-effects of spay/neuter?  If you are not aware of the risks of spaying and neutering, please read this article – because you will not learn this from most vets.
  • Year-round broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas – well, it would stand to reason then that dogs who live in Alaska should receive year-round heartworm control even though the risk of heartworm in many northern and pacific states is virtually nil.  Once again, these guidelines set many dogs up for risks and no possible benefit.  Holistic veterinarian Dr. Jeffery Levy states: “The objective of treating a dog with heartworm should NOT be to get rid of the heartworm. You’re not treating the heartworm, you’re treating the dog… It makes a lot more sense to measure the treatment by looking at the dog’s quality of life. So, he is positive for heartworm. The fact is, heartworms have been around forever and dogs and heartworms have been coexisting for all eternity. It’s actually a relatively recent phenomenon that dogs are dying from heartworm. Heartworm is not, by any means, the death penalty it’s made out to be. The dogs that die from heartwom are the dogs that are being vaccinated, fed processed pet food and are being treated with suppressive drugs for every little thing that comes along.” The same logic applies to intestinal worms and fleas. The more we take dogs to the vets for suppressive drugs, vaccinations and expensive veterinary formula foods, the more we compromise their health, in turn making them more prone to parasite infestations.

These new guidelines are not designed to prevent disease in dogs.  They are meant to get dogs through the clinic doors more often.  Whether this is because your vet actually cares more about your dog or about his bottom line depends on the vet.  But the most important point to consider is that these guidelines were designed for vets by vets.  There are many caring, holistic vets and homeopaths who are shouting from the rooftops that these guidelines are wrong.  Although there may be merit to regular veterinary visits for your dog, if he is being subjected to a simultaneous onslaught of dangerous procedures under the guise of preventive healthcare, then you will find yourself taking your dog to the vet regularly out of necessity because of the chronic diseases brought on by veterinary over-servicing.

It is important that you demand two things these guidelines do not allow for:

  1. Insist on being an active partner in your dog’s health care decisions.  Educate yourself and challenge your vet to think outside the box based on the good information you bring him.  The more you know and the more you question, the more he will be forced to consider the actions he is taking with your dog.
  2. Insist on informed consent.  Demand to know both the risks and the benefits of every procedure your vet recommends for your dog.  If you feel he has missed an important risk, be sure to point it out to him.

By being an active participant in your dog’s health care, you can help to educate your vet and open his eyes to a world outside of suppressive drugs and medicines.  Don’t sit on the sidelines and wait for the veterinary community to wake up – we are their customers and vets will pay attention to what we are and aren’t willing to pay for.  These guidelines fall very short of the mark but it is a wake-up call for vets as pet owners are telling them we are not bringing our dogs in yearly or every six months because we are not seeing value for it.  There is a small victory for us because it tell us that the vets are listening:  now it is up to us to tell them where we want to go.

Related Posts

Popular Posts