Updated: Oct 13
September 28 is World Rabies Day, in recognition of the still widespread viral infection that kills animals and humans all over the world. Around 59,000 people per year, usually children in developing countries, die of rabies, as well as an untold number of animals. The World Organization for Animal Health holds free clinics all over the world so people can get their dogs vaccinated.
This reminds us of the importance of routine preventative care and vaccinations. Rabies isn’t the only preventable disease that pets can contract. Science is chipping away at the most deadly diseases that shorten pet lifespans, and pet owners play an essential role in stopping preventable diseases in their tracks while ensuring long happy lives for their furry family members.
What Other Vaccines Should My Pet Get?
Preventative Shots for Dogs
New puppy owners should mark their calendars with a vaccination schedule. Vets recommend different shots at different stages — they’re often done in a series, with carefully timed boosters over the first few months of a dog’s life.
Puppies typically get a combination vaccine that includes vaccines for parvovirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and canine adenovirus-2. These are called core vaccines, and the diseases they prevent are highly infectious and sometimes deadly.
Depending on their location, owners might consider adding these non-core shots to their dog’s regimen.
Bordetella bronchisptica causes kennel cough, a highly contagious cough that can lead to pneumonia.
Dogs who love water are at a higher risk for leptospirosis, which is typically found in areas with rodents and standing water.
Certain places in the world, including the Eastern U.S., have deer ticks that can cause lyme disease. Luckily, there’s a vaccine.
If dogs spend lots of time in doggy daycare, the canine influenza vaccine may be appropriate for them.
Read a more detailed chart covering what shots dogs need on The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website here.
Overdue for Shots?
Have a dog that missed its shots? The AAHA has recommendations for dogs that never got their shots, or dogs who have had a longer-than-recommended amount of time elapse between shots.
Preventative Shots for Cats
Vets inoculate kittens against distemper and feline viral rhinotracheitis. As is so often the case with vaccines, the distemper vaccine prevents an illness that used to be a major cause of death among cats, but today is nearly unheard of.
Pet Checklist for Regular Checkups
Vets check for a wide range of issues, and the better they know their patient, the more they can tailor their assessment. Here are a few concerns that vets can assess during a routine exam.
1. Ear Infections
Ear infections are one of the most common reasons for a visit to the vet for dog owners — although this could be an instance when a video conference call could tell pet owners whether they need a visit or not.
Dogs are especially prone to ear infections, although cats are susceptible as well. Dogs can get ear infections from bacterial infections (maybe after swimming in a stagnant body of water), and ear mites. Ear mites also afflict cats. Pets who shake their heads or paw at their ears might be trying to dislodge a tiny pest.
Vets can prescribe medication as well as give handy tips for thorough ear cleaning.
2. Eye Checkups
Eye issues are common in certain breeds, as well as older animals. Here are a few of the issues vets look out for on a routine visit:
Glaucoma is especially common in certain breeds, including spaniels and terriers. It’s caused by a buildup of pressure in the eye and necessitates medication. If glaucoma becomes severe, it may be necessary to perform surgery.
During a routine exam, vets can check pets for signs of cataracts, which can eventually make pets’ eyes have a cloudy appearance and impair vision. Routine surgery can take care of the problem.
Flat-faced breeds of dogs, like pugs and chihuahuas, have eyes that tend to protrude and are more easily injured. Injuries need treatment to prevent infection.
3. Proper Dental Care
Plaque build-up can lead to tooth pain and inflammation of the gums. Gum inflammation can have far-reaching consequences, and can even lead to infections in other organs. Heart disease and liver failure stemming from untreated dental issues are surprisingly common.
Pets need help maintaining their dental health, even if they don’t hesitate to eat everything they see. Cats suffering from tooth or gum problems frequently stop eating, but dogs often don’t let on that they’re experiencing pain. Unfortunately, this means that there aren’t many noticeable symptoms until the inflammation has progressed into a serious health threat.
If we could teach our pets to brush their teeth, we would. But with the right products, it’s actually pretty easy to keep pets’ oral health in check. Vets can recommend special products and treats that help prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar.
More Reasons for Regular Check-Ups
Cancer is among the leading causes of death for dogs and cats. It’s also very common for dogs and cats to develop tumors as they get into their senior years. Non-cancerous overgrowths of cells are called “neoplasia.” Lumps under the skin or unusual swelling of the abdomen should prompt a visit to see the vet so that they can perform a biopsy and determine if the tumor needs to be removed.
Pets Can’t Tell You What’s Wrong
Pets can’t tell you what’s wrong, and they’re also wired to conceal any feelings of pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, many of these preventable illnesses can progress without much warning which is why it is so important to have routine care. Telemedicine makes it easier than ever to help pet owners do everything in their power to keep their pets in peak health.