When thinking about health and wellness, don’t forget the furry members of the household.
Often overlooked because animals cannot talk about their health woes, pets suffer the same ailments of old age, arthritis, tooth decay and heart problems as humans.
Fortunately, as with humans, many of the ailments of beloved pets are also preventable and treatable.
With advances in pet medicine, taking care of our four-legged friends is easier and more effective than ever — although also potentially expensive if neglected until major problems develop.
For instance, a new vaccination can help prevent dental disease.
And if that’s not enough shaggy dog technology, some dog owners dying of curiosity about their loveable mutts’ breeding are looking forward to the release in the next six months of a new, relatively low-cost DNA test, to settle for certain the mingling of breeds in any pooch.
Starting a dog or cat out on the right paw of health ensures a long and comfortable life for both pet and owner.
Keeping dogs healthy
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Sandra Snyder, at Payson Pet Care, says the best way to keep a puppy healthy is to follow a schedule of vaccinations starting at six weeks old to four months.
“The first year of your new puppy’s life can be very exciting, but it is also a time that can be frustrating and expensive if the appropriate steps are not taken to ensure their health and future well being,” Snyder said.
The most important shot every puppy should receive is the Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus and Coronavirus (DHPPC) vaccine. DHPPC covers a dog against five contagious diseases that most often afflict puppies.
Parvovirus, or parvo, is especially deadly, but fortunately entirely preventable, Snyder said. Parvo attacks the intestinal tract and causes various symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea and possibly death. The virus is spread through infected stool.
“We see people who don’t get the right information or don’t think it’s important to get shots, and then the puppies suffer and commonly get the parvovirus,” she said. “With the vaccine, there is no chance of dying.”
Break out a toothbrush
Besides vaccinations, another area vital to a dog’s health is dental care. Snyder said pet owners often ask if dental care is important.
“Not only do unhealthy teeth cause the obvious problems such as toothaches and bad breath, but also unhealthy teeth cause serious internal organ problems,” she said.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three.
The best way to take care of a dog’s teeth is to brush them with a pet or child toothbrush and pet toothpaste. While this may take a little time and persistence, a dog will eventually get used to the idea of getting its teeth brushed and actually like the flavor of the toothpaste.
A new development in dog care is prevention of dental bacteria that causes separation of the tooth from the bone. Smaller dogs with a mouthful of crowded together teeth are especially prone to tartar and porphyromonas.
“Small dogs with smaller mouths get dental problems faster,” she said.
The bacteria can eventually work its way into the blood stream and cause heart, kidney and organ diseases. A $27 shot is available that stops this bacteria. The vaccine does not prevent tartar, but does prevent serious infections. The shot is given in two doses over three weeks and then annually.
Try a well doggie checkup
Besides maintaining a dog’s teeth and getting the necessary vaccines, owners should also take pets in for regular checkups. Snyder recommends dogs between one and seven years old get a checkup annually. Dogs over seven should get an exam every six months, he said.
“Dogs age a lot faster,” she said. “The old adage that one human year is seven dog years, is kind of true.”
When a dog enters into its silver years, Snyder said recent pain medicines are keeping dogs happier, but not necessarily living longer.
“Senior health has seen huge developments over the last 10 years,” she said.
The test costs $135 and it takes two weeks for results. “The test is more for our curiosity,” she said.
Keeping cats healthy
Cats are generally easier to care for than dogs.
Granted, vets say cats still need regular wellness checkups and teeth brushing, but “cats are generally healthy animals if cared for properly,” Snyder said.
Still, cats can pose a frustrating challenge for veterinarian because they can get contagious diseases with perplexing symptoms, some of which have no cure, Smith said.
A kitten should get its first shots at between two and four months of age.
The Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia and Pneumonitis vaccine should be given three times roughly three weeks apart. Adult cats need annual booster vaccines to maintain immunity from disease, Snyder said.
Taking care of animals
Growing up on a farm in Iowa, Snyder was surrounded by animals. Early on, she knew she would be a veterinarian.
“My parents were always animal lovers, she said. “So I never considered doing anything else as a career.”
Snyder got her bachelor’s degree in genetics from Iowa State University, and then attended veterinary school.
After graduating, she migrated to Scottsdale where she worked in a vet clinic for several years. After moving to Payson with her husband, Snyder opened Payson Pet Care in 1998. After more than 10 years, Snyder has nine employees and another vet, Katie Smith, on staff.
“We have outgrown this location and would like to move into a bigger location within the next year,” she said.
Payson Pet Care is open Monday though Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.
Diamond J Veterinary Service
Main Street Animal Clinic
411 W. Main St., (928) 474-9292
Payson Pet Care
714 N. Beeline Highway, (928) 474-8387
Pine Country Animal Clinic
401 W. Main St., (928) 468-6030
Rim Country Veterinary Clinic
203 S. Bentley St., (928) 474-5325
Star Valley Veterinary Clinic
103 Walters Lane, (928) 474-9605