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Posted on 01-15-2014

You and Your Pet: Tips for a Long and Healthy Life

For many of us, our pets are just furry members of the family.  We don’t like the idea of them suffering with, or succumbing to an illness.  That’s not a pleasant thought, but there are ways to significantly increase the chances that your pet will share many happy and healthy years with you—all of which have direct parallels to our own health…

Taking your pet in for a checkup every year is a simple yet vital form of care.  Such exams can help discover a disease early in the process.  Some cancers if caught early can be cured with minor procedures or medications.  I have had more than one case of a skin “lump” that was tested during an exam and found to be cancerous—and a simple surgery removed the cancer before it spread.  Another development that’s easy to detect in its early stages is heart disease. It too can be caught early and managed to give your pet more healthy quality time with you and your family.

Once your pet reaches middle age, it is a good idea to get regular blood work done—the blood tells us SO much about the condition of your pet and what may be lurking.  Hyperthyroidism is one such condition that’s detected in blood screenings. In cats, it can be treated or cured.  But if left untreated, it can lead to severe weight loss and heart damage.  Hypothyroidism in dogs can be treated inexpensively with medication.  Diabetes is another illness that can be controlled if caught early on. Finding a disease early can dramatically change its course and lessen the associated complications.  Without regular blood work, a disease is often not discovered until pets are showing symptoms late in the process when more damage has occurred, and as a result there may be less we can do to help.  It’s really no different than seeing your own doctor for annual checkups and screenings for diseases at various stages of life.

And when it comes to keeping your pet healthy in-between those visits, diet is key. Feed your pet a well-balanced and healthy diet.  Dietary supplements, when given along with a good quality diet, can help in many ways.  I often will start a “middle-aged” pet on a joint supplement like glucosamine.  This will help protect the joints against arthritis or slow any areas of arthritis that may have started.  An omega 3 fatty acid supplement can help with keeping the skin, kidneys, joints and heart healthy.  Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that can help repair cell damage, and is used in people with cancer or heart disease as well. Not sure about the right diet and the ideal weight for your pet? Those checkups make for great opportunities to get your pet’s health needs assessed and questions answered.

Just as is the case with humans, diet goes paw-in-paw with exercise. Play with your cat or dog whenever you can, as getting their little hearts pumping is important. For dogs, walk them daily. It’s not only a great way to keep his or her cardiovascular system healthy, but it makes for a good excuse for YOU to get that needed activity as well.

Lastly, studies show that spaying or neutering your pet can actually prevent many types of diseases from occurring, such as cancer. Regular vaccinations will help protect your pet from many potentially fatal diseases. 

It’s no coincidence that there has been a recent increase in some diseases—this is because people are failing to vaccinate or have their animals checked periodically. With the economy being where it is, checkups and vaccinations are low on the priority list. Ironically, a small investment in preventative maintenance can save you much, much more in surgeries needed to resolve a neglected or advanced issue.

I hope these tips can help add quality years to your pet’s (and your) life. 

Dr. Sandra D. Ontiveros
Manchaca Village Veterinary Care
512-838-2273

 

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