I am often asked during examinations to “give only what my pet really needs.” The response depends on your pet’s health, what it does, and where it goes. It is important for pet owners and pet health care providers to maintain a pet’s personal health plan, not just a pet’s vaccinations.

The most important thing a pet needs is periodic physical exams. This biennial or annual veterinary physical examination may reveal health concerns that 90% of pet owners are not aware of. Similar to seeing a relative only every 7 years (1 pet year), you notice changes that have taken place more easily than if you see that relative every day. Some obvious changes may be body conformation, hair, coat, or dental changes. These changes in your pet may facilitate in the development of a health care plan for longer, happier, and healthier pet lives.

The most common disease detected and prevented during routine examinations is intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites or “worms” are not prevented by vaccinations but by intestinal parasite screening and appropriate preventive worming.

Rabies vaccination is the only vaccination required by law for dogs and cats. Even though it is very important for public health significance, it is a disease your pet is not likely to get. In dogs, a very common disease is Bordatella (Infectious tracheobronchitis or Kennel cough). The incidence of Bordatella is increased in dogs that go to dog parks, kennels, and groomers. Diseases such as the Parvo Virus and Distemper Virus are still being diagnosed in our community. Vaccinations protect pets against these life threatening diseases.

Environmental factors, such as ticks, may indicate the need to vaccinate against Lyme Disease.

In cats, FVRCP (Feline Rhinotrachitis) and Feline Leukemia are highly prevalent diseases and vaccinations should be required. For outside cats with exposure to cat fights and bites, Feline Infectious Peritonitis and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus vaccinations are advised. Feline Bordatella is a respiratory disease in cats. All cats that may be boarded or exposed to other cats should be vaccinated for Feline Bordatella.

Canine Heartworm testing and Feline Leukemia/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus testing are routine tests. They need to be incorporated in your pet’s veterinary health care plan.

When determining what your pet really needs during a veterinary examination, discuss with your veterinarian what kind of health concerns your pet has, its living environment, and its activities and habits. A health care plan is very personalized and should include vaccinations, diagnostics, diets and behavioral adjustments, so your pet can enjoy a healthy and happy life.

By Thomas Carlos, DVM MS