Annual or biannual physical examinations are the foundation to building a solid preventative health care program. Wellness exams are done to try to detect problems as early as possible so that steps can be started immediately to stop, or slow the progression of problems. Routine examinations may look to the untrained eye as being somewhat cursory, but to a skilled veterinarian they can reveal an immense amount of valuable information. A complete physical exam evaluates: overall appearance and health, body condition and weight, skin and haircoat condition, eyes, ears, oral health, heart and lungs, abdomen and lymph nodes. The complete physical exam coupled with an accurate and detailed history can help the doctor make recommendations and develop a wellness program for each individual pet.
Remember that pets age more rapidly than humans and therefore going longer than 1 year between examinations would be the equivalent of a person only seeing their doctor once every 7-9 yrs. Due to this difference an annual examination is recommended for young healthy adults (1-7yrs) and biannual exams are recommended for seniors (7-13yrs) and geriatric pets (13yrs+).
Vaccinations are an important part of the wellness care for most pets and are especially important for younger pets. Vaccination protocols have changed over the years and there is still more changes on the horizon as vaccines are improved and as infectious diseases change.
The vaccination protocols that we currently recommend for pets takes into consideration the age of the pet, the pets health status and the exposure risks for that pet. Due to the many differences with each pet, each vaccine protocol recommended may be different and must be tailored to the individual pet. We strive to do what is best for each pet based on many variables. Puppies and kittens are especially at risk for many infectious diseases and therefore vaccinations are an extremely important part of their preventative health care. Generally we recommend vaccines start for puppies and kittens at 7-8 weeks of age, and boosters are recommended at monthly intervals until they are 16 wks of age. The recommendations on vaccines and other important health issues will be explained when the puppies or kittens come in for their first office visit. Since many puppies and kittens have had some vaccinations and other treatments done, prior to the owner acquiring the pet, it is important to have as much information as possible, regarding what has been done previously, so that we can determine the best protocol for that pet.
Dogs can be immunized against distemper; hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, rabies and bordetella (kennel cough). Cats can be immunized against feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, rabies and feline leukemia.
During the office visit, a thorough history will be completed and then a complete physical exam will be done. The doctor will then make vaccine recommendations and the appropriate vaccines will be administered. During the visit you will receive recommendations on other important preventative health care subjects and the doctor will make recommendations for any other problems that need to be addressed based on the history and physical examination.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and sometimes in the right side of the heart of dogs and cats. Heartworm infection is easily preventable. Heartworms are contracted when a dog or cat is bitten by an infected mosquito. The infected mosquito injects a small number of microscopic larvae into the bloodstream which eventually mature into adult heartworms. The incidence of heartworms is high throughout Texas but tends to be higher in areas with high mosquito populations such as the Gulf Coast area where infection rates in dogs not on prevention can be as high as 45%. The Dallas/Ft. Worth area is considered an endemic area for heartworms. Heartworm disease is seen primarily in dogs, but cats can be infected as well. A recent study in the Texas Gulf Coast region showed that 26% of examined cats had been infected with heartworms at some time and that 10% of cats had adult worms. The rate of heartworm infection in cats was significantly higher than that of feline leukemia or feline immunodefeciency virus.
The clinical signs of heartworm disease in a dog include coughing, lethargy, weight loss and exercise intolerance. The clinical signs of heartworm disease in the cat are somewhat different and include coughing, sudden death and difficulty breathing.
While treatment of heartworm disease in dogs is usually successful, prevention is much safer and more economical. In most cases the cost of heartworm treatment is as much as 8-10 years of preventative. Heartworms cannot be treated in cats and therefore prevention is even more critical.
Heartworm prevention is available in many forms including chewable tablets and topicals. Heartworm preventatives are given or applied monthly the year round and discontinuing preventatives during the winter months is not recommended in Texas. Dogs must be tested prior to starting heartworm preventative, whereas cats do not have to be tested and can be started on preventative at anytime. Annual heartworm testing for dogs is recommended by all the manufacturers of heartworm preventatives. The majority of heartworm preventatives come with a guarantee so that if your dog becomes infected with heartworms, while on their preventative, the manufacturer will pay for all, or a portion of the heartworm treatment costs. The guarantee requires that the dog be tested annually for heartworms and there must be proof that an adequate amount of preventative.
Routine Dental Care: By the time your pet reaches the age of three years old, most dogs and cats have accumulated large amounts of plaque that lead to the beginning of periodontal disease potentially with irreversible changes.
Remember that at Family PetCare we encourage and educate on dental home care and highly recommend professional dental cleanings and examinations. Every year we offer dental specials during the month of February and August.
Every time your pet (dog, cat, bird, exotic) comes to Family PetCare we encourage to evaluate his/her weight to be able to keep a trend of their growth. This measurement coupled with the body condition score assessed during your pets routine physical exam allows our Veterinarians provide their best nutritional guidelines.
Family PetCare offers innovative diets for all ages of dogs and cats from Royal Canin and Science Diet. For our bird clients we recommend our great variety of Harrison's products. Furthermore, based on your pet's nutritional needs the doctor may recommend a specific feeding plan (specially for your bird or exotic pet) or choose from our prescription diets from our large selection of Royal Canin, Hill's, and Purina prescription formulas for your dogs and cats.
Our beloved pets may carry many different parasites, some of which can be transmitted among themselves or even to us. For this reason, here at Family PetCare we emphasize the importance of keeping our patients parasite free.
Since there are so many different types of parasites, we encourage the regular screening for intestinal parasites with our puppy and kitten vaccines and adult yearly vaccines package. With the regular screenings our veterinarians are able to provide the best recommendation for each individual pet. Remember, there is no one dewormer that will control all the different types of parasites in our pets.
The most common intestinal parasites found in dogs and cats include: Roundworms, Tapeworms, Hookworms, Whipworms, Coccidia, Giardia, and stomach worms. Many of these intestinal parasites may be transmitted to people if your pet is not properly treated.
Types of parasites for which we encourage regular screening: Our team screens for these parasites in the stool. A fresh stool sample is submitted to our laboratory, where a specialist in the field will screen the stool for the different stages of the worms. Remember, you may not see the actual worms in the stool, but your pet may be shedding the eggs that are (microscopic).
External Parasites: The most common external parasites found in dogs and cats include fleas, ticks, and mites. Fleas and ticks are dangerous little parasites that can contribute to the life cycle of other parasites or life threatening diseases. For example, fleas can infect your pet with Tapeworms (intestinal parasites), and may also cause severe Allergic Reactions causing severe skin irritations and hair loss. In some animals, fleas may transmit bacteria when feeding. For example, Mycoplasma - a bacteria that affects cats and people is transmitted by fleas. Ticks are also very dangerous since these may transmit life threatening diseases like Lyme Disease. Mites like Sarcoptes and Demodex are commonly seen on dogs. These mites may cause severe skin disorders that will cause severe hair loss on your pet. Some of these mites may be transmitted to people causing similar problems, like Sarcoptic Mange.
Our team screens your pets for these parasites on the annual or bi-annual visits, and provides you with information that will explain what is happening and how to treat and prevent each problem. We highly recommend regular, monthly preventatives year round with a good flea/tick product depending on the individual needs. Remember that these parasites do not disappear and do not die during the winter months in Texas.