I think Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ He was saying that it’s better to try and avoid problems in the first place, rather than trying to fix them once they arise. What exactly does this have to do with veterinary medicine? Everything! Preventative medicine is the foundation of staying healthy for you and your furry friends. Pet immunization is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pet immunization is an important aspect of preventative medicine. All puppies and kittens should have three series of vaccines typically at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. The mother’s milk provides antibodies to protect puppies and kittens from contagious disease. These antibodies start to decrease between 8 to 12 weeks of age, and that’s why we start to vaccinate during this time frame. We are trying to stimulate the animal’s immune system to develop protection on their own before the mother’s protection is completely gone and most importantly, before they get exposed to the real disease. After this initial series of pet immunization, adult animals need yearly vaccinations.
But it’s not just all about the “shots.” The physical exam is the most important aspect of the visit. A comprehensive physical exam involves checking every aspect of the animal from head to tail. During puppy/kitten exams, your veterinarian is primarily looking for congenital birth defects and parasites. Animals age faster than we do, so an annual exam to them is like you going to the doctor every seven years. Annual examinations help us to detect and treat diseases early before your pet starts showing symptoms.
In animals, parasite prevention is as important as vaccinations. 34% of dogs in the United States are infected with intestinal parasites. 1-3 million people are infected with hookworms from their pets each year. The CDC recommends at least once a year deworming for intestinal parasites. It’s also important to keep the environment free from all fecal material to prevent infection from you and your pet. Heartworms, a blood parasite, are easily prevented with monthly medication that is only available through a veterinarian. There are 244,000 dogs diagnosed with heartworms every year in the United States. Heartworm prevention cost an average of $6.00/month. Heartworm treatment can cost $500-$1000 and left untreated heartworms can be fatal.