As I have done at the beginning of every New Year since the inception of this blog, below are my suggested top 5 pet resolutions for 2018. I am sure you have been waiting all year for this!
5.) Get Pet Insurance!
For as long as I can remember in the veterinary profession, the costs of doing business increase at a rate of 5%-6% each year, nearly doubling the pace of annual inflation rates. These costs include medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, prescription food, surgical supplies, reference labs, facility expenses, network contracts, medical hardware and software contracts, bio-hazard waste disposal, employee health benefits, regulatory fees…I could go on here, but you get the point.
As small businesses and lacking the leverage that large corporations have to keep business costs in check, veterinary hospitals and clinics must pass these cost increases on to the client or risk running the business into the ground. This is not poised to change for the foreseeable future, leading the pet health industry ever closer to a reality where average pet owners whose salaries do not even keep pace with inflation will find quality veterinary care unaffordable; what I have in the past termed: The Veterinary Critical Mass.
Good quality pet insurance is the best defense against situations where a family must make the agonizing decision to put a dollar value on their pet when he/she may be severely sick or injured and in need of life sustaining veterinary medical or surgical intervention. Pet insurance is the best way to ensure that pet ownership does not get relegated to only the wealthy.
Pet already have a preexisting condition? Still get it! There is plenty more than just one or a few conditions that can possibly afflict your pet so in my opinion, it is never too late to secure pet insurance.
4.) Administer Parasite Prevention!
Whether external parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites, or internal parasites like intestinal worms, heart worms, and blood parasites, if a pet owner is not engaging in regular parasite prevention for both, it is not a question of if your pet will contract a parasite infestation, but a question of when. In the case of external parasites, they commonly lead to discomfort through feeding on the blood of their canine or feline hosts, while putting their human family at risk for collateral injury and in home infestations.
These parasites also have the potential to transmit disease to their pet hosts, such as Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Bubonic Plague (yes, THAT Plague), and Bartonella (cat scratch fever) to name a few. Likewise, for some of these diseases in homes where external parasites may exist in large numbers, the human family can also be susceptible to transmission of these disease.
Internal parasites directly infect their hosts to make them sick. Certain types of intestinal worm parasites have the potential to infect people, especially those that are very young, very old, or immune compromised.
Parasite prevention protects not only the family pet, but the human family as well!
3.) Engage In Preventative Health Screening!
A yearly visit performed properly is so much more than just “the shots.” In addition to updating immunizations and parasite screening, a thorough physical examination can be crucial in identifying disease in its early stages when it is most treatable. In addition to physical examination, yearly preventative bloodwork is also advisable to catch internal disease that may not be evident on physical examination as early as possible. Early intervention is often pivotal in disease management and can mean the difference of having your pet around for months, even many years longer.
I advise starting yearly bloodwork at 5 years of age for any pet. And don’t get upset if it keeps coming back normal year in and year out. That is good news!
2.) Embrace Dental Care When Your Veterinarian Recommends It!
The number one most common chronic disease in pets is dental disease. Dental disease leads to chronic stress from pain that often goes unnoticed by pet owners. Dental disease suppresses the immune system through stress from pain and chronic infection of the mouth. Living with dental disease for an extended period of time predisposes dogs and cats to chronic kidney failure, the number one killer of cats and number two killer of dogs.
Do you find that dental cleaning too expensive? You are not alone, as that is the most common reason for pet owner resistance when we recommend dental cleanings. My answer is always this: I understand that there is a level of investment on your part to get this done, but if you keep waiting it will get a heck of a lot more expensive as your pet’s teeth and gums rot to the point that I must perform extensive oral surgery to extract teeth (not to mention that expensive prescription kidney diet he will need to eat because all of the years of living with dental disease destroyed his kidneys).
1.) Stop Feeding Grain Free!!!
This is one of the biggest gimmicks that American pet owners have ever fallen for hook, line, and sinker. This scenario happens at least daily in practice.
A dog comes in for a yearly visit and literally waddles in because he is so obese. After a through physical examination, below is our exchange.
Me: My first major concern here is your dog’s excessive weight.
Client: I know, I don’t understand, I feed him the best food money can buy.
Me: And what food is that?
Client: It is that [insert gimmicky diet du jour] that is grain free and all natural.
The truth about grain free pet foods is that the most impressive thing about them is their marketing department! Whether it is some pet store clerk talking up a diet that is the best new thing because the manufacturer’s rep just visited the store and told him so, or there is a prime time grain free pet food commercial with wolves in it; these grain free pet food companies have done a great job of convincing a large number of people to feed this stuff to their pets with zero evidence of its purported health benefits (reputable diets have scientific data to back their claims based on actual feeding trials). You gotta give them some credit!
Related: The Grain Free Pet Food Fallacy
Grain free pet foods make dogs fatter and less healthy because to compensate for the lack of grains, something has to give the diet its consistency and appealing taste: sugar. Sure, great alternative to grains! And calling it natural? Please! Anything in kibble form is hardly natural! How does anybody fall for that??
Happy New Year everyone!
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality throughout a number of subjects and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.