This attitude is frustrating to many veterinarians, who know there is a lot more involved in keeping pets fit, healthy and safe.
Most companion animals don't require the time or effort children do, however, they need more care and attention than many pet parents give them.
But don't expect your pet's vet to share his feelings with you.
Pet doctors, like the majority of people doctors, aren't comfortable telling patients what they're really thinking. Your pet's veterinarian won't often tell you what she wishes you'd do more or less of in the care of your animal.
A few things your vet might be thinking but not saying:
- "Your pet is too heavy and the extra weight is harming her health."
- "I wish you'd checked with me before you got a pet. I could have helped you understand how much time, money and energy is involved in pet ownership."
- "Please pay close attention to your pet's symptoms – write them down if you can -- and be prepared to describe them in detail. It will help me narrow my focus and get to a diagnosis sooner."
- "Let me show you how to brush your pet's teeth so you can do it daily or at least several times a week. It will make a huge difference in her health and the quality of her life."
- "Don't allow your pet to be over-vaccinated. Don't be talked into the need for unnecessary vaccinations by a vet, a boarding facility or any other pet care establishment."
Unfortunately, when a veterinarian avoids advising a pet owner about what he or she could do better in caring for a beloved pet, an opportunity is missed. The animal's health and quality of life will suffer, and future costly medical intervention is almost assured.
I'm a proactive veterinarian, which means my primary focus is helping you prevent illness in your pet – not waiting until disease develops and then treating it.
I can't accomplish my goal by remaining silent or never seeing my patient, so my approach at Natural Pet, my clinic, differs from that of many veterinarians.
Your furry family member was designed by nature to be fit and strong, not ill with disease. The trick is to learn how to allow good health to thrive in your pet. Too often, pet parents actually impede the natural state of good health in their animals.
My role as a proactive, integrative veterinarian is to help clients maintain the well-being of pets in good shape, and return ill pets to a natural condition of healthiness.
I frequently address the same five areas of concern noted above with the pet owners who visit my clinic.
#1: Overweight Pets
Obesity in companion animals is growing at an alarming rate.
In fact, so many pets are overweight these days many pet owners can no longer accurately assess whether their animal is too heavy to be healthy.
A pet at a healthy size will fall into the middle of the range at 4 to 5. If your pet is a healthy weight and in good physical shape, you'll be able to feel the ribs (but not see them), see your pet's waistline when you look down at him, and notice a tuck in the abdomen when he's viewed from the side.
If your pet is overweight or obese, it can have a tremendous negative impact on his health and quality of life. This is especially true as your dog or cat ages
Just a handful of the many health problems linked to obesity include:
- Damage to joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Difficulty breathing, heat intolerance, decreased stamina
- Liver problems
- Digestive disorders
#2: Pet Ownership Is a Commitment
I don't know how to say this gently, so I'll just say it:
If you don't have the time, energy or money to take good care of a pet, it's best not to get one.
Unfortunately, too many people adopt, purchase or otherwise acquire a pet because it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was an impulse decision, not well thought out.
Too many pets brought home on a whim end up living alone in the backyard or in a crate in the garage. Or they're returned to the shelter when the novelty wears off. Even worse, they're dumped by the side of the road and left to fend for themselves.
It seems, too, that some pet owners adopt shelter animals assuming any life they can offer them is better than the one they're living.
As much as I'm a proponent of shelter animal adoptions, I don't think it's fair to take on a pet intending to give her a "good enough" life. Pets are members of the family.
It takes time, energy and money to be a responsible pet owner to a dog, cat or other companion animal. Anyone considering adding a pet to the household needs to give the decision the careful attention it deserves.
#3: You Are Your Pet's Voice
I'm sure like most people you've experienced the frustration of not being able to find the right words to describe to your doctor the particular ache, pain or weird sensation you've come to see him about.
Unlike you, your pet has no words at his disposal, never mind the right ones. Your dog or cat is completely dependent on you to speak for him when he's sick or hurt.
And your pet's veterinarian is depending on you, too. You know your pet better than anyone else and are in the best position to tell the doctor what's wrong or different or concerning to you.
That's why it's so important for pet owners to carefully observe the symptoms or behaviors they're concerned about and accurately describe them to the vet. Jot down notes if you need to, and bring them with you to the appointment. Know how long your pet has been having the problem and be ready with details like how often he's having diarrhea or is vomiting.
Also, any "proof" you can bring – like a stool sample or some odd thing your kitty threw up – can also be extremely helpful. So don't be shy about bringing along something gross in a baggie. Whatever it is, we've surely seen it or smelled it before.
#4: Please Learn to Brush Your Pet's Teeth!
Did you know that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have significant oral disease by the time they're three?
It's a stunning statistic, and a costly one in terms of your pet's health and your pocketbook.
Dental procedures are expensive, especially when extractions are involved. Beyond financial concerns, poor oral health can affect more than your pet's mouth. Research has uncovered a link between gum disease and heart disease in both people and their pets.
Learning to brush your dog's or cat's teeth and making it part of your daily routine can pay off big for both your pet's health and your bank account.
How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth instructional video.
How to Brush Your Cat's Teeth instructional video.
#5: Overdoing Vaccinations
Contrary to what the majority of pet owners have been led to believe, maintaining the good health of your dog or cat does not involve annual re-vaccinations.
Once your pet has received a full set of puppy or kitten shots, she's immune for years and often for a lifetime.
Re-vaccinating your pet for diseases she's immune to is a waste of money. Even worse are the potentially harmful side effects of the vaccines.
There is concern among many veterinary professionals that vaccination is a risk factor for serious autoimmune diseases.
Delayed vaccine reactions are suspected to cause thyroid disease, allergies, arthritis, tumors and seizures in both cats and dogs.