Animal Care Blog
Why does your pet need a semi-annual examination?
Your pet seems fine. He is eating and drinking and playing as usual. Nothing has changed. So why did your veterinarian recommend an examination every 6 months, instead of once a year? And why is blood work needed?
Most pets do a good job of staying healthy with minimal intervention so long as they are provided quality nutrition, a safe environment, and a lot of love and affection. With young patients who are not on chronic medications, an annual veterinary examination may be all that is required to ensure that everything is as it seems at home. However, there are some exceptions that make it advisable, or even necessary, to bring your pet in more often.
In general, dogs over 8 years of age, and cats 10 years and older, are considered “senior”. This can vary by breed and life expectancy, so it may be different for your pet. As animals age, changes can occur that are not detectable at home. By examining these pets more often, your veterinarian may be able to pick up on subtle changes that occur over time. This older population of patients is at risk of chronic, slowly progressive diseases such as heart disease, thyroid hormone imbalance, kidney dysfunction, diabetes, and even cancer. Through systematic evaluation with a physical examination and lab work, many of these diseases can be discovered in the early stages, when treatment is most successful. Recently, one of our doctors saw a dog for its routine semi-annual visit and uncovered thyroid cancer that was completely curable in its early stages.
In addition to senior dogs and cats, any pet that is receiving chronic medications needs an examination every 6 months. Of course, this depends on what medicine is being given. Some drugs have the potential to cause serious side effects, but the benefit from the medicine far outweighs the potential risk. Some examples are anti-seizure drugs, heart medications, diabetes treatments and anti-inflammatory agents. If your veterinarian has prescribed a medication that requires routine lab work every 6 months, there is a reason for it. It is imperative that the directions be followed in administering the medication, as well as complying with the follow-up recommendations. Sometimes the dose of medicine will need to be adjusted over time as the body acclimates to it. Other times, the manufacturer of the drug has established guidelines for safety. For example, a patient at our hospital recently had to change medication because after being on a drug for urinary incontinence for quite awhile, it began to affect her blood pressure.
In all cases, your veterinarian will let you know what her recommendation is for your specific pet’s needs. Please keep in mind that we all have your animals well-being in mind and are doing our very best to keep our patients living long and healthy lives.
See our older blog posts here.
The Misadventures of Parvovirus
Having a pet that is sick is always heartbreaking and difficult, but it's always worse when they are a young puppy or kitten. Ronin, a 9-week old Red Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) and Dooley an 8-week old Retriever Mix both came to us lethargic and not eating. After diagnostics were run, both were found to have Parvovirus. Parvovirus is a potentially fatal disease, especially in young puppies.
Parvovirus was first discovered in the 1970s. The virus is spread between dogs through an oral-fecal route, where a dog is exposed to contaminated feces that the parvovirus is being shed in. Parvovirus is a hardy virus that can persist for many years in the environment. It is difficult to inactivate the virus with common disinfectants and detergents.
Once the virus enters the dog, the virus begins to replicate in rapidly dividing tissues (lymph nodes, thymus, intestines, bone marrow, and heart). Clinical signs appear within 1-5 days after exposure to the virus. As the virus destroys the intestinal lining, the dog presents with vomiting and diarrhea. Due to the loss of the intestinal lining, electrolytes are lost resulting in dehydration and the bacteria from the intestinal tract can be released into circulation causing sepsis. As the virus attacks the bone marrow, there is suppression in the white blood cells produced, resulting in the dog not having an immune system to mount a response to the bacteria being released from the damaged intestinal lining and viral infection. Typically the heart muscle is targeted in dogs 8 weeks or younger, resulting in a myocarditis leading to congestive heart failure and death in most cases. The congestive heart failure can occur within days or months after the heart was affected.
Parvovirus is diagnosed based on clinical signs and diagnostics. A positive ELISA test for the viral antigen in the feces confirms the diagnosis of canine parvovirus. A false negative on the ELISA test can be obtained if the test is performed before the virus is shed in the feces. It can take 3-5 days before the virus is shed in the feces after exposure. A complete blood count is performed to assess the bone marrow for any suppression, and to help with the prognosis for the patient. A chemistry panel is performed to assess the electrolytes and organ function.
Only supportive treatment is available for parvovirus infections. The patient is placed on intravenous fluid therapy to correct the dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea. Electrolytes are supplemented in the intravenous fluids if there is a derangement noted on the chemistry panel. Intravenous antibiotics are given to help prevent or treat sepsis, especially if there is suppression of the bone marrow present. Antiemetic drugs are used to treat the vomiting and nausea associated with the parvovirus infection. The white blood cell count and electrolytes are monitored while the patient is in the hospital to assess response to treatment. Hospital treatment continues until the patient is able to eat without vomiting and their immune system has mounted a response to the virus, in order for treatment with oral medications to commence. The patient will continue to shed the virus in their feces for 7-14 days after recovering.
Parvovirus can be prevented with proper vaccination. A puppy should start the initial vaccine series at 8 weeks of age, and continue to receive vaccines every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Puppies are still susceptible to parvovirus infections while undergoing vaccines. Therefore, while puppies are undergoing vaccination they should not be exposed to areas where dogs congregate or pass through with unknown vaccines histories, and to areas where previous parvovirus infected pets have had access.
Thankfully both Ronin and Dooley have recovered nicely and are enjoying life once again with their families. Please be sure your dogs, young and old, are vaccinated against this nasty virus!
Insurance and Wellness Plans
Veterinary care has expanded in recent years to encompass advanced medical and surgical procedures as well as preventative measures that are helping our pets to experience longer, healthier lives. The team members here at Kitsap Veterinary Hospital are dedicated to ensuring that each patient receives the best care available in each situation and at every stage of their lives. Part of this effort includes offering options that help to make excellent care more affordable through medical insurance and wellness plans.
Veterinary medical insurance and pet wellness plans complement each other, but have a couple key fundamental differences. Both insurance and wellness plans are similar in that they can be secured through monthly payments. With insurance, you pay a premium based upon the coverage you prefer and the deductible you select. The monthly amount is paid whether you need to use the plan or not. With wellness plans, you make monthly payments for recommended services that are likely to be used throughout the term of the plan.
One main difference between insurance and wellness plans is that insurance is utilized when your pet is sick or injured, and wellness plans are used for preventative services when your pet is healthy. For example, insurance would be most beneficial when your dog has swallowed a rock and needs surgery to remove it. But, a wellness plan is helpful for your pet’s annual examination, vaccinations and dental cleaning. Also, insurance is provided through independent carriers and the savings is provided through reimbursement after payment is made for services. But wellness plans are administered directly through veterinary clinics like us, and the financial benefit is provided at the time of service.
Often, pets benefit from both an insurance and wellness plan together. With this approach, you have the best opportunity to provide optimal care without the worry of the financial aspect. The best way to determine what is right for your pet is to ask one of us at your next office visit. We will help you to decide what makes the most sense for your pet’s individual medical needs and stage of life.