As we take down the decorations and put away our holiday cookie recipes, our thoughts turn from the indulgences of the season toward the new year ahead and plans for healthy living for ourselves and our pets. This is a great time to take stock of your furry friend’s health, and we are here to help!

Both cats and dogs have evolved to bring very little attention to weaknesses that would potentially make them vulnerable to predation. That’s why yearly exams are so important, especially for animals over 7 years of age.

The annual exam is a wonderful time to discuss all of the ways we can make your pet healthy and happy. Diet and exercise are key to any healthy lifestyle. Digestive health is the foundation upon which we build a healthy immune system, healthy bones and muscles, soft coat and clear skin. Diet choices as well as herbal and nutritional support are important tools for strengthening a weak digestive system. . As pets age they can develop stiff joints and despite their enthusiasm for hikes and trips to the beach, their comfort may be affected in ways that are more subtle. Acupuncture, chiropractic, joint supplements and herbs are some of the ways we help our patients stay active into their senior years.

Dental health is a classic example of how well hidden chronic disease can be. What may be observed as “bad breath” may actually be severe periodontal disease, resorptive lesions, or a fractured tooth. Regular, routine cleanings may prevent periodontal disease. Unfortunately, all too often we find severely progressed dental disease that, as a chronic infection and source of pain, is a constant stress on the immune system. Addressing these severe conditions and, even better, preventing them with routine dental cleanings plus home care can minimize the toll of chronic pain, infection and inflammation.

We couldn’t have a discussion about pet health without discussing parasites, those off-putting tiny creatures that live on or in our pets and give nothing in return. Fleas, ticks, roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, giardia, and heartworms are examples of parasites that have the potential to plague our pets and have serious health consequences. The annual exam is an excellent opportunity to discuss which preventatives are recommended depending on the health and risk of exposure of your pet.

The annual exam also affords us the opportunity to screen for changes in laboratory values, like those indicating liver disease or thryoid disease. Many animals start to show signs only after a disease has progressed significantly. Catching lab changes early, instead of waiting until our patients become symptomatic, can give us a head start in addressing the problem while it’s still mild. In many instances we can manage even chronic diseases in a way that keeps your pet comfortable and active for many years.

Preventing life threatening diseases like Parvo, Distemper and Rabies involves following a vaccination protocol which, based on the annual exam, is tailored to the health and risk of your pet. We often will recommend the use of a blood test to determine antibody levels for Parvo and Distemper instead of vaccination. There are reasonable concerns about the overuse of vaccines in our pets so we use the annual exam to determine what protocol would be best for our patients.

Finally, the annual exam is what you make of it. At Two Rivers Veterinary Clinic we can answer all your questions from both a conventional and alternative perspective, giving you a truly holistic approach.

If any of your pets haven’t seen a veterinarian in over a year, we look forward to seeing them and you soon!