Pet owners approach veterinary care in different ways
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News October 29, 2012 1:16PM
A veterinarian examines a dog. Veterinarians say pet owners need to take a broader look at pet health beyond required vaccinations. | Associated Press file photo
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:17AM
When it comes to yearly checkups for Sophie, an 8-year-old boxer, Jacki McHale of Channahon keeps it simple: a three-year rabies shot and heartworm test with medication.
“No Bordatella; she is a solo dog and doesn’t go anywhere,” McHale said. “The three-year rabies was less money over the three years, if you added up the cost of the annual shot yearly. Plus it was one less shot to worry about each year. We keep it basic; budget wise is the reason. But we still get her what she needs to stay healthy.”
By contrast, Julie Goetten of Elwood assumes a moderate approach with her two dogs: Rabies every three years, distemper every year plus heartworm test and medication to prevent heartworm and fleas. She also has a liver panel performed on 5-year-old Charlie but not 8-year-old Zoey, who still happily runs and plays.
“Charlie had some liver issues as puppy,” Goetten said, “so we check it once a year now to make sure he hasn’t regressed.”
Sue Hovanes of Joliet wants her dogs to have a full blood work-up. Most important to her are checking the functioning of their kidneys, livers and thyroids. This allows her to modify how she cares for them, such as adjusting the protein levels in the food she serves if their kidneys become compromised.
“As dogs age, just like with people, how their bodies process foods changes a bit,” Hovanes said.
So which approach is the correct one? That depends on the animal, the owner and the veterinarian’s suggestions.
According to WebMD Pet Health Center, vaccinations for dogs and cats are divided into two groups: core and noncore vaccines. Guidelines also exist for puppies and kittens. Their vaccinations are generally given at three- to four-week intervals with the final dose administered at age 16 weeks.
Core vaccines for dogs are rabies, canine hepatitis, parvovirus and distemper. They also may receive, depending on the dog’s risk of exposure, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria.
Core vaccines for cats include rabies, panleukopenia (FPV) and feline viral respiratory disease complex. Noncore vaccines are feline immunodeficiency virus, chlamydophila felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica.
But keeping your pet healthy is more than keeping up with vaccinations, especially rabies, which is required by law, said Dr. Harjit Lehal of Brookville Animal Hospital in Bolingbrook.
Lehal recommends staying on top of fleas as well as intestinal parasites. He checks for the latter with fecal tests and periodic de-worming medication. He also likes performing annual blood tests, even on young pets, since dogs and cats can’t tell us how they’re feeling. Senior animals — those older than age 7 — should have twice yearly checkups.
He feels more owners don’t take advantage of all the options for two reasons: lack of education and/or economics.
“People are having a hard time affording all the pet care,” Lehal said.
In addition to checking for thyroid, liver and kidney disorders, blood work screens for anemia, diabetes and the function of the adrenal glands. Using a special machine, Lehal also performs blood pressure checks on senior pets.
“If we catch things early, we can slow down the disease processes and give pets better quality of lives,” Lehal said.
In between routine visits, Lehal recommends paying attention to subtle signs that your pet may be ill. These include excessive thirst and urination, vomiting several times a day, diarrhea, poor appetite, coughing, hair loss and itching.
“Sometimes they just act a bit off, start hiding or just lay around,” Lehal said. “In an older animal, people might attribute it to arthritis or aging, but sometimes it’s a disease that can be diagnosed and treated.”