Small Dog Running on Grass | Taste of the Wild

You hope your pet never gets sick or needs a trip to the emergency clinic (knock on wood). But did you know you can actually reduce the chances of these things happening to your pet?

Preventive pet health care includes simple steps you can take to minimize your pet’s risk of emergencies and disease. Typically, preventive care costs a fraction of what you’d end up paying if your pet became ill. Regular preventive care also helps your veterinarian catch health problems early, when treatment is often more likely to be effective.

As part of National Animal Safety and Protection Month, we’re sharing simple, preventive health care actions you can take to help safeguard your pet.

Schedule regular veterinary checkups. Your veterinarian knows how to recognize subtle changes in your pet that may be early signs of a problem. By diagnosing a disease early, your veterinarian can recommend ways to treat or manage the problem to keep your pet comfortable and happy for as long as possible.

Keep your pets’ vaccinations current. Any time your dog or cat comes in contact with another pet (like at the dog park), there’s a chance your pet could be exposed to serious viruses. Think your cat is safe on your screened-in porch? A feral cat that wanders into your yard could spread infection. Veterinarians now give some core vaccinations every three years, rather than every year. Your veterinarian can tailor a vaccination schedule to your pet’s lifestyle.

Give preventives for internal parasites. Heartworm disease has been found in all 50 states, and left untreated, it can be fatal to infected pets. The parasite is transmitted by a mosquito and even indoor cats can be infected. Many heartworm preventives also protect against other internal parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms, which can infect people, too.

Don’t forget about external parasites. Have a pet that can’t stop itching? It could have fleas (which means your house could have them, too). Blood-sucking ticks can transmit disease-causing agents that can also be fatal to pets. Regular preventive medications can help keep your pet comfortable and healthy.

Feed a nutritious diet. Your veterinarian can recommend a wholesome diet tailored to your pet’s life stage and health status. Avoid feeding fatty treats and opt instead for pet-safe fruits and vegetables.

Keep your pet lean. One study that followed dogs for their entire lifetimes showed those who stayed lean lived an average of two years longer than their chubbier counterparts.

Keeping your pet trim can also help reduce the chance of other diseases, such as diabetes and painful arthritis.

Brush your pet’s teeth. Most pets have some kind of dental disease by three years of age. Left untreated, it can lead to painful infections, tooth loss and oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and affect other organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart. By gradually helping your pet become accustomed to the toothbrush, and providing frequent treats and praise, your pet may actually look forward to cleanings and sit calmly for the procedure.

Spay or neuter your pet. This reduces your pet’s chances of contracting mammary and testicular cancer as well as prostate disease. These procedures can also minimize aggression as well as marking (spraying urine) and roaming behaviors.

Keep training your pet. Pets can learn (and love to be rewarded for good behavior) at all ages. Commands like “drop it,” and “come” can be lifesaving in some situations.

Make sure your pet has proper identification.  Pets can slip out of the door or yard when you least expect it. Having identification tags with your current address and phone number, along with a registered microchip, can increase the likelihood that your pet will be returned safely to you.

Pet-proof your house. Remove toxic plants, cover up electrical cords that can be chewed on and keep household cleaners out of your pet’s reach. Prevent curious pets from gobbling up prescription medications (both human and veterinary) by keeping these items in a drawer or medicine cabinet. And put away foods to keep those counter surfers from getting into trouble.

With a little effort, you can help your pets stay safe and healthy this year.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.