How cognizant are we of our pooches’ healthcare needs? Being a responsible “pawrent” isn’t just about making sure we feed them, provide a comfortable living space, or bring them to the vet when they are feeling under the weather. The most important part of pet care is disease prevention.
This was emphasized in the “Bring My Dog to the Vet” campaign spearheaded by Royal Canin, which aims to educate Filipino pet owners about the importance of preventive checkups. ANCX talked to Dr. Po-an Buiser, Royal Canin's in-house vet on dealing with doggie diseases. Here are four important points she raised:
More on disease prevention:
Is there a one-size fits all way in caring for our pets?
While there are general pet care guidelines we should adopt, knowing our pet’s breed is just as important. Not all dogs are created equal. “Some breeds are more prone to specific illnesses,” the veteran veterinarian points out. For instance, brachycephalic dogs (those with flat noses) like shih-tzus and bulldogs are more prone to respiratory problems. There are also certain diets that better maintain or enhance a particular breed’s physical well-being (say, enhance their coat), or help prevent certain medical conditions (shih-tzus, for instance, are prone to urinary problems also).
We also have to consider the size of their jaw when choosing their food. “You can’t give small kibbles or pellets to a St. Bernard, or big pellets to a Chihuahua,” says Dr. Buiser. There are also breed specific ways to groom our pets. Long-haired breeds should be combed every day to keep them parasite free. You have to make sure that they don’t get traumatized with painful combing. Breeds that are accustomed to cold weather like the Siberian Husky should be provided with good ventilation and plenty of water especially during the hotter months.
How often should I have my pet examined?
We should consult a vet for disease prevention rather than cure. In an informal survey that was conducted among Metro Manila dog owners, Royal Canin found out that only 20 percent bring their pets to the vet regularly, that is, for preventive vaccinations and checkups. But a huge 80 percent bring their pets to the vet only when they’re already sick.
“Most of us are busy at work and get to see our pets only when we get home or when we feed them or play with them. They look cute and happy, so we may not notice that they show symptoms of a health problem,” says Dr. Buiser. “A dog’s simple scratching can mean different things—it can be caused by parasites, a skin condition, a bacterial or viral infection, or an allergy.” It is important to have this checked because there are skin diseases among dogs that can be passed on to humans.
There are also certain health conditions whose symptoms are not easily noticeable. “He could be bitten by disease carrying mosquitoes. He could have a heartworm, which is deadly. He could have intestinal worms that could get transmitted to humans,” she says.
Our pets can look cute and happy even while they suffer from urinary problems. Tartar formation, for example, can lead to heart and kidney problems. Obesity, meanwhile, makes them susceptible to tumors and joint problems. Pets who have been with us for 5, 7, or 12 years—need to be checked as they mature. “There are medical conditions that can be prevented or delayed by giving proper care,” she says.
According to Dr. Buiser, pets need to be checked monthly to prevent ticks, fleas, and heartworm. Their food intake needs to be assessed as well, to be sure that they are getting proper nutrition, and to see if they need to lose or gain weight. They need to be checked quarterly for gastrointestinal diseases, hence the regular deworming. Vaccines for leptospirosis and urinalysis are recommended every six months, while blood tests, physical exam, nutrition and body activities, body scoring, and booster vaccination are recommended annually.
With the Bring My Dog to the Vet platform, which is found within Royal Canin’s official website (royalcanin.ph), pet owners can register their dogs in the system and enable them to schedule their regular visits to over 100 participating vet clinics nationwide.
When should I bring my pet to the vet?
One common mistake that pet owners make is delaying their pet’s checkup. Instead, they resort to searching online for answers, says Dr. Buiser. “If you Google search for ‘dog is vomiting’ or ‘dog is shaking,' you will get different answers. In one Facebook group, someone recommended giving Vetracyn (a doxycycline typically used to treat bacterial infections and infections caused by microorganisms). However, if your pet is a puppy, Vetracyn can cause side effects,” she points out. It can also trigger dangerous allergic reactions, especially to dogs who are allergic to antibiotics in the tetracycline family.
How do I make sure my dog lives a long life?
The life stages of dogs differ by size, Dr. Buiser explains. Small breeds (with body weight of 10kg) are considered puppies up to 10 months, adults at 10 months to 8 years, and mature at 8 years onward. Medium breeds (with body weight of 10-24 kg) are puppies up to 12 months, adults at 12 months to 7 years, and mature at 7 years and above. Large breeds have a longer puppy period (15 months) and very short adult life (15 months to 5 years). They are considered mature at 5 years. Knowing what life stage they are in will tell us the kind of care they need. Their life expectancies also differ per size. Small breeds can live up to 16 years, medium breeds until 12 years, and large breeds up to 10 years. But Dr. Buiser clarifies that this is not set in stone. We can extend the life of our dear pets with proper care and nutrition.