Vail Pet Talk column: Veterinary care is important at all ages of your pet’s life | VailDaily.com

Vail Pet Talk column: Veterinary care is important at all ages of your pet’s life

The new year has arrived. We all have our resolutions made for what great, positive changes we will make for ourselves, our families and our work, but what about our pets?

As we glance over at our new puppy who arrived on Christmas day, or see our geriatric kitty walking slower across the kitchen floor, the thought occurs to us: Perhaps this year it is time for positive resolutions with respect to the care of our pets.

Each week, in my mobile veterinary unit as well as at my clinical practice, I see many pets, ranging from ages of 8 weeks to 16 years.

Pets need veterinary care

I often have found in my many years of practice that owners truly do not know what veterinary care is appropriate for their pet, or even if it is needed. The truth is, all pets need veterinary care, and it would be a terrific resolution for you and your family to put your pet's care at the top of your new year's lists.

Pets need veterinary care at all ages and for many reasons.

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First of all, young puppies and kittens need preventative vaccinations, which vary based on exposure to other pets and travel, but there are core vaccinations that all pets need. At the age of 8 or 9 weeks, a new pup or kitten should get a good physical examination, for starters. During that examination, your veterinarian can advise you on proper nutrition for your growing pet, vaccination schedules, behavioral recommendations, potty training, spaying and neutering, as well as parasite control. These foundation visits are critical in giving your pet a healthy start for a long life.

Annual exams

After the first year, annual examinations are recommended for pets. Each year, we as veterinarians like to assess the overall health of your pet: its weight, diet, general health, travel history and, again, need for vaccinations or vaccination titers.

During these annual examinations for pets, typically between the ages of 1 and 8 years, the veterinarian will do a very complete physical examination, just like you would have done on yourself. The ears, eyes and dental health are immediately assessed, as well as heart, lungs, abdominal organs, bones, joints and skin. A baseline blood work is often established to assess internal organ function, as well as a fecal exam to look for internal parasites. Should you plan to travel with your pet, the appropriate vaccinations, as well as preventative parasite medications, would be discussed.

Senior years

The senior years for your pets arrive quickly, often at age 5 or 6 for very large dogs and 8 or 9 for smaller dogs. Senior pet examinations by your veterinarian are as important, if not more important, than all the other years for so many reasons and are actually recommended every six months, rather than annually.

It's during that senior pet examination that your veterinarian will assess the changing nutritional needs with seniors, the impending arthritis that may be slowing your pet down or even the increase in thirst you are noticing in your cat. Any senior pet should have a good physical exam, as it is during the exam that changes in weight can be assessed. Perhaps changes in behaviors such as eating, drinking, urinating and defecating will be key in detecting any disease processes early to head off emergency visits down the road.

During this time, it is critical to have a good senior workup, including baseline blood work, urinalysis, fecal and possibly X-rays or even ultrasound, should any abnormalities in the exam or blood work warrant further looking. As veterinarians, we advocate that prevention is the best medicine, thus the importance of a visit to your veterinarian at all ages during your pet's life.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.