Why your pet needs more than just a Rabies shot
When I talk to people about vaccinating their pets, everyone immediately thinks about rabies. Rabies is a very serious disease as well as a public health concern which is why this vaccine is required by law. Rabid dogs used to be a real threat to the public until vaccines became the law. Many counties have rabies officers that will go door to door and ask to see proof that your pets are vaccinated. As important as this vaccine is, there are many other vaccines and tests that should be part of your pets yearly vet visit.
The Physical Exam
One of the most valuable things for your pet is a physical exam performed by a veterinarian. Our pets cannot talk to us and tell us when something is wrong and usually they do not shows signs of illness until things are serious. Many things can be detected by your vet during their physical exam. During a thorough physical examination, all body systems are evaluated including the skin and coat, eyes and ears, mouth, teeth, and gums, heart and lungs, and the abdomen. During the abdominal palpation, your vet should be able to feel any areas of pain or discomfort, any masses or tumors, as well as if all organs are normal size and shape. Veterinarians undergo extensive training to do this and their skills cannot be replaced by anyone else.
Fecal testing and heartworm testing should also be a part of your pets annual visit. These tests ensure that your pets are safe and free of parasites. Many people do not think these tests are necessary if their pet takes a monthly parasite prevention product i.e. heartworm prevention. However, annual testing is recommended to make sure the product is working and doing its job as well as that the pet is receiving the prevention. Many pets can go outside and vomit up the prevention and no one ever knows. All preventatives bought by your vet carry a guarantee and if your pet is found to be positive then the manufacturer will cover the treatment. This is only covered if the owner has proof of purchasing the product from a licensed veterinarian AND proof of annual testing.
Last but not least, there are several other vaccines that your vet will recommend based on the lifestyle of your dog. Your pet is at risk for many viruses and diseases just from being outside. This is true even if your pet only goes outside to go to the bathroom. For example, parvo virus lives in the soil, and can survive at least 7 years in soil. Coyotes can carry parvo and distemper virus. These days coyotes not to mention stray dogs are in many suburban areas. Booster vaccines are very important for complete protection, especially against parvo. One vaccine IS NOT going to keep a dog, especially a puppy from getting parvo. If you take your pets to grooming or bathing facilities, boarding kennels, pet stores or dog parks, your pet is at risk for contagious respiratory disease such as canine influenza or kennel cough. Dogs along the East coast are highly susceptible to Lyme if they are not on strict tick prevention. Our feline companions need to be vaccinated against feline leukemia if they spend anytime outdoors or around cats from unknown backgrounds. There are respiratory diseases that cats should be protected against as well. Most communities have large feral cat populations and these cats are in your yard and flowers beds. These cats can leave parasites for your pets to pick up. Monthly parasite prevention should be administered to keep your dogs and cats safe.
Most people that learn about these things want to do what is best for their pets however they feel the expense is to great and choose to opt out. I ask you to think of these tests and vaccines as an insurance for your pets. The medical treatment and diagnostics if your pets become ill, is much much greater than the costs of these annual visits. Also, who wants their pet to get sick? Some people also have heard that too many vaccines can be bad for your pet. There are some pets who are sensitive to vaccines and your veterinarian should be able to help you with this and guide you as to which vaccines are needed and even may recommend giving an antihistamine prior to vaccinating to try and avoid any vaccine reactions. However, the vast majority of pets handle all of their vaccines with no problem whatsoever. Just remember to take your concerns to your veterinarian and listen to them, not Dr. Google. Your veterinarian wants to help you and your pets, we have dedicated our lives to doing so. We want you to have all of the information to keep your pet healthy and happy for a very long time.
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