New Dog Study Promotes Preventive Care

Veterinarian checkupBy Ashley Watson

If you subscribe to Veterinary Practice News, you may have seen the recent article about the five-year study that examined the results of regular wellness checkups for dogs. The results showed that 31 percent of the 7,800 dogs tested had some type of lab panel abnormality. The study also included a health risk assessment questionnaire, which was given to the dog’s owner. The surveys and lab results were consistent, indicating that if more dog owners took their dogs in for regular visits, they could prevent many common health problems in pets.

Preventive care is one of the most important components of a pet’s health, according to the group director of Zoetis Animal Health—the group that conducted the study. But the study also indicates that some dog owners are still not aware of just how important regular vet visits are to their companion’s overall wellness. This week’s post will look at the results of the study and tips on how to get pet owners to make veterinary checkups part of their routine.

Pet Owner’s Survey

Nurse DogEvery year, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) publishes a pet owner’s survey to help establish responsible pet ownership. Their extensive market research surveys pet owners of small and large animals. According to the 2013 survey, there was an increase in the percentage of dogs that were taken to the vet for routine exams. The number increased from 61% in 2012 to 70% in 2013. Owners of more than one dog were more likely than single dog owners to take their dogs in for dental care.

One of the more staggering results from the Zoetis study concluded that pet owners who didn’t take their dogs in for regular exams were “68 percent more likely to have dogs that tested positive for heartworms.” Although the study did not test cats, the APPA reports that the most common reason that cat owners take their cats to the vet is for a vaccination. Only 2 percent of owners took their cats in for heartworm medication, and this number has remained steady since 2002. This may be an indication of a lack of education about feline heartworm. Education about preventive care for companion animals may be the answer.

Preventive Pet Care Education

During our many interviews with vets for the Vetri-Science® Clinic of the Month, we found that one of the most consistent ways that veterinarians educate pet owners is through the physical exams with pets. Dr. Kessler owns and operates this month’s featured clinic, Affectionately Cats of Williston, VT. While she was giving a preliminary exam for cats that were brought in for boarding, Dr. Kessler was very thorough with the cats’ owner about any issues she saw.

Veterinarian cleaning teethIn fact, we were enlightened about several conditions, including tooth resorption, which is the most common of the four feline dental diseases. Tooth resorption is also called feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs), Dr. Kessler explained, further adding that it is commonly thought of as cavities due to the holes that may appear in the tooth. She explained to the cat owner that it is genetic, and she showed her the cat’s teeth that were affected by this disorder and explained why these teeth needed to be removed. This helped the owner know what to look for and how to tell if the cat is in pain, which, as many vets know, can be difficult because they hide it so well.

Many veterinarians now use social media to educate pet owners, and the majority of clinics send out checkup and vaccination reminders via snail mail and email. Outside of that, posting regular blog posts and publishing useful information on their websites can also be useful online tools. The article in VPN recommends joining the Pet Wellness Report online and also recommending it to their clients so that they can learn ways to help prevent common conditions in pets.