National Pet Week

by Bruce W. Little, DVM

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National Pet Week

Every Spring brings with it National Pet Week, a tribute to the pets that share our daily lives. The week of May 7-13 has been designated as National Pet Week this year, a period that is meant to reach out to pet owners and veterinarians alike to spread the concepts of responsible pet ownership and the need for preventive veterinary care for our furry family members. National Pet Week was originated in 1981 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Auxiliary to the AVMA for fostering responsible pet ownership and recognizing the human-animal bond. Since that time, National Pet Week has flourished into an event that has brought veterinarians and pets to elementary schools, high schools, college campuses, nursing homes, hospitals, and Veteran’s Administration facilities to bring joy, entertainment and knowledge to the students and participants who utilize those facilities. National Pet Week benefits many groups of people and organizations; however, the primary recipient of the results are the pets themselves.

Owning a pet is a privilege, but the benefits of pet ownership come with responsibilities. Don’t purchase a live animal of any kind without analyzing the situation closely regarding the time commitment, costs for preventive healthcare and food, energy required especially if you choose a puppy or kitten, living environment and willingness to provide responsible management of the pet. Select the pet that’s right for your family’s lifestyle, and make a commitment to that pet for its life. Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship. Providing your pet with regular preventive care is the key to a healthy and long, enjoyable life for your pet and your family. Vaccinations against the major diseases can save lots of dollars and create comfort for your pet by protecting them against transmissible diseases. In most geographic areas of the country rabies vaccinations are required by law for both dogs and cats. Most regulations require a rabies vaccination at twelve weeks of age with a booster vaccination one year later. Regardless of your dog’s age, the first rabies vaccination must be followed by a booster vaccination one year later. In certain areas of the country rabies vaccine may be required on a more frequent basis where rabies is endemic in wildlife. Other infectious diseases in dogs include Distemper, Parvovirus, Bordetella, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, and Influenza. Some areas of the country do not require vaccinations against some of these diseases, as the disease is not prevalent in that area due to weather and environmental conditions. For instance, Leptospirosis is not found in the dry desert environment of the Southwest, therefore, vaccinations may not be necessary. Cats may require vaccinations against Feline Distemper, Feline Leukemia, Upper Respiratory Infection, and Rabies. National Pet Week is a good time to be reminded to call your veterinarian to check on the vaccination status of your pet against these diseases that can be controlled or contained.

Annual examinations for parasites and the utilization of parasite control to prevent your pet from infestation will save money overall. Annual examinations for tumors can be much cheaper to treat and resolve if caught early rather than delaying until the tumor has encroached upon more vital tissues and must have expensive surgical techniques to remove it. Routine dental evaluations can identify teeth and gum problems in their infancy and are much cheaper to treat than if the condition has progressed to an advanced state. One of the most beneficial preventive measures that you can provide for your pet is maintaining its proper weight. Prevention is almost always cheaper than treating your pet for any disease or condition. An annual examination by your veterinarian is important in assuring that all these precautions and conditions are under control with your pet. National Pet Week is a great reminder each year that a trip to your veterinarian is necessary for preventive healthcare and administration of proper vaccines and parasite control is put in place.

It is important to socialize your pet so that it fits into the routine of all family members. Learn how to appropriately prepare your pet to enjoy a variety of interactions with other animals, people, places, and activities. Everyone will be more comfortable. A puppy that has been leash trained and accepts other people and pets is much more accommodating to take in car rides while enroute to the dog park, the veterinarian, training classes, or family visits and vacations. There are several books and helpful videos on dog training and socialization that can give direction on this effort. Visit your local library or book store and check out one or more of these books. Also, consult with a local dog trainer to determine the best procedures for socializing your pet.

For more than a decade there has been added attention to the fact that, along with their masters, most pets are considered overweight or obese. In fact, per a 2014 study done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) 57.9% of cats are overweight or obese, while dogs are close behind with 52.7% weighing more than the optimal weight for their breed and age. It is generally considered that an animal that is 15% or more over its optimum weight is obese. Approximately 27.4% of cats and 16.7% of dogs are designated as obese. To regard this epidemic of obesity a normal occurrence is a monumental disservice to the animals that have become a part of our families. Overweight pets are predisposed to many health concerns such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint injury and osteoarthritis, heart and respiratory diseases that leads to decreased life expectancy and recently various forms of cancer have been linked to obesity in pets. Hip replacement and cruciate ligament surgeries cost additional money that may be prevented with proper weight control for your pet. It has been determined that obesity reduces life expectancy in our pets up to 15% of their normal lifespan. It takes discipline and commitment to properly feed and exercise a dog or cat to lose weight. Develop a plan and stick to it and the reward will be a more active, more lovable, and longer living pet with less trips to the veterinarian to treat conditions that develop due to excess weight. The AVMA encourages pets and their owner to get regular exercise---together! This not only improves cardiovascular health, maintains a healthy weight, and supports good mental health for both owner and pet, but it strengthens the human-animal bond. The Surgeon General of the United States has recently introduced a program to encourage walking called “Step It Up.” This program encourages brisk walking to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in people. Dog owners know there is no better motivator for a walk than their canine companion. Recent scientific studies show that dog owners may get more exercise and are less likely to be obese than those who didn’t own or walk a dog. Owners that walk their dog also had greater mobility within their homes. Other studies have shown that all pets, not just dogs, have been shown to lower heart rates and blood pressure as well as promote quicker recovery times from stressful events.

Recent studies reveal the number of visits to their veterinarians by the 164 million household pets in the United States is declining by a significant amount, while the incidence of preventable diseases such as arthritis, obesity, dental disease, heart failure, diabetes and allergic dermatitis are growing at an unprecedented rate. In fact, 4 out of 5 cats over three years of age have dental problems. Yet, only about 38% of cats have seen a veterinarian in the past five years. One out of every three dogs have an internal parasite infestation that has been undiagnosed, and may cause other health problems such as suppressed immune systems, diarrhea, heart problems and/or anemia. And, it is estimated that 25% of dogs in households have never been to a veterinarian. All these conditions are preventable if monitored accurately. My suggestion is to schedule a visit to your veterinarian annually for a checkup and a proper therapeutic regimen as needed to correct these problems. All pets should see their veterinarian at least once per year. Pets often hide signs of illness. Regular check-ups are vital to catching health problems early. Not only can early treatment mean better health for your pet, it can also save money. Again, National Pet Week is a great time to be reminded to call and get an appointment with your veterinarian for an annual check-up.

Do your part to prevent pet overpopulation. Every year, millions of unwanted dogs, and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized. The good news is that responsible pet owners can make a difference. By having your dog or cat sterilized, you will do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens. Spaying and neutering prevent unwanted litters, help protect against some serious health problems, and may reduce many of the behavioral problems associated with the mating instinct. Removing female dog or cat ovaries eliminates heat cycles and generally reduces the unwanted behaviors that may lead to owner frustration. Removing the testes from male dogs and cats reduces the breeding instinct, making them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home. Early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life, such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Neutering your male pet can also lessen its risk of developing an enlarged prostate gland and testicular cancer. The procedure has no effect on a pet’s intelligence or ability to learn, play, work or hunt. Some pets tend to be better behaved following surgical removal of their ovaries or testes, making them more desirable companions. While both spaying and neutering are major surgical procedures, they are also the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians on cats and dogs. Like any surgical procedure, sterilization is associated with some anesthetic and surgical risk, but the overall incidence of complications is very low. Talk to your veterinarian about when you should have your pet spayed or neutered.

Be prepared for emergencies, both in plan preparation and finances. Disasters can strike at any time and at any place. Be prepared with all family members by having an evacuation plan, an evacuation kit and numerous practice sessions in place. Written instructions, both for emergency first responders and family members may save time and lives. The Boy Scout Motto: BE PREPARED is as effective when planning for emergencies as it is in any other situation. Lives, money, and anxiety can be spared with proper emergency and disaster planning. And that makes for a better life for all family members, including the animals in our lives.

Give your pet a lifetime of love! Thanks to better care, pets are living longer now than they ever have before; but, as pets get older, they need extra care and attention. Regular veterinary examinations can detect problems in older pets before they become advanced or life-threatening, and improve the chances of a longer and healthier life for your pet. Remember, dogs and cats do not age at the same rate as humans, and they get into their middle years and old age much quicker than humans. The different life stages require different needs in caring for our pets. We have a moral and legal obligation to care for the health and well-being of the pets we keep in our homes. If we give them forever love, they will give us unconditional love in return. And that, is what makes the human-animal bond so precious!



For more information go to:
American Veterinary Medical Association: www.avma.org
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention: www.petobesityprevention.org


Bruce W. Little, DVM