Statistics point to an alarming trend in pet health care: even though the population of pet owners has increased, the number of dogs and cats that are getting formal veterinary care has sharply decreased. The study, commissioned by Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division and conducted by Brakke Consulting in collaboration with the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, was comprehensive and well documented. It included two phases, answers from pet owners and consultations from veterinarians. The study indicates that the decline in veterinary visits may be due to misconceptions people have about their pet’s health. These misconceptions can stem from a combination of factors including the glut of information – some accurate and some not—available on the internet, and economic drivers enticing people to independently diagnose their pet’s health problem and explore home remedies.
While it’s not necessary to run to the vet every time your dog has hiccups, there are times when proper veterinary care is the right choice. Here are some common pet health myths and accompanying facts to help you determine the best course of action for your animal companion:
Are annual wellness exams really necessary? Nothing is ever wrong with my pet.
95 percent of veterinarian involved in the study strongly suggested that both dogs and cats need at least one veterinary wellness exam annually. Conversely, a lot of pet owners believe the only time their pet needs to go to the vet is for shots or vaccinations. Routine checkups are important because that’s when the vet examines your pet’s eyes, ears, heart and lungs. Additionally, the vet may take x-rays and do a blood workup. These examinations require specialized tools and techniques. If your pet is examined on a yearly basis, the veterinarian can catch problems or conditions before they become serious and costly.
If I just bring my pet in when he’s sick, he gets treated for that specific ailment and I save the money that annual wellness exams costs.
True, but you are still not giving the vet a chance to catch an ailment before it escalates. Moreover, your pet may be suffering from something that is asymptomatic. Think about your own healthcare. You see multiple doctors throughout the year, perhaps including a dentist, an ophthalmologist and a family doctor. Veterinarians have to be all these things to your pet during an annual wellness exam. If you only go to the vet when your animal is ill, your pet never gets a full checkup.
With all the helpful websites, why can’t I just figure out what’s wrong with my pet without going to the veterinarian?
There are many helpful websites with good animal health information out there, but there are sites with bad information and advice floating around as well. And according to the Bayer study, 39 percent of pet owners do consult the Internet before calling their vet if their pet gets injured or shows signs of illness. The problem with the abundance of online healthcare resources is that it’s hard to be completely sure if your animal is suffering from what’s described online. Another issue is that, in certain circumstances, pet owners are spending too much time on the internet looking for answers. By the time they actually bring their pet in to a veterinary clinic, the dog or cat is even sicker than he would have been if the owner would’ve brought the pet in at the first indication of a problem. This delay could lead to a longer and more expensive course of treatment.
Since my cat hates going to the vet and the stress makes us both crazy, can’t I just skip it?
Getting a cat into a carrier and driving him to the vet is a challenge, to be sure. And many cats exhibit extreme stress once they’re at the veterinarian clinic. Unfortunately, this issue causes cats to lose out on important health care. The Bayer study illuminated that more than one third of the domestic cats in the U.S. have not been to the veterinarian in over a year, and their quality of life suffers as a result.
Once my pet gets older, we don’t have to still go to the vet annually, do we?
Older animals do not require the number of vaccinations that younger pets do, but they still need regular veterinary care. In fact, older pets are at risk of a range of chronic and expensive illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer. Think of your pet as you would an older friend or parent; as they age, they need regular medical care to ensure continued robust health and a good quality of life.
Photo by Stephanie Wallace
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