Most people have heard the old saying that pets age much faster than we do-seven pet years for each of our human years-but few of us consider what that really means for our pet’s health care.
Consider that most dogs and cats reach adulthood by age 2, and by age 4 they are middle-aged. By the age of 7, most large dog breeds are entering their senior years. And as these “dog and cat years” pass quickly by, serious health issues can arise in a similarly shorter amount of time. Dogs and cats are prone to many of the diseases and disabilities that we are-cancer, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, to name a few-but they will develop health problems in “pet years,” too.
For this reason, during National Pet Wellness Month, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds pet owners that they should take their pets into their veterinarian for wellness checkups twice a year. If you take your pet to the veterinarian only once a year, this is equivalent to you seeing your own doctor just once every seven years.
These regular visits will give your veterinarian a chance to detect serious health problems earlier and treat them to extend and improve the quality of your pet’s life. During a twice-annual visit, pet owners should mention to their veterinarian any of the subtle changes they’ve noticed in their pet’s behavior, such as changes in weight, water or food consumption, elimination or anything that seems new. Pets have no way of communicating to their owners that they are having discomfort or other health problems. Cats, in particular, are known for hiding any distress they may be having, so pay close attention. Your observations may help your veterinarian determine if there are any problems, provide an appropriate treatment or prevent problems before they start.
It’s also important to remember that a healthy pet can also ensure that you and your family will remain healthy as well. Some diseases, called zoonotic diseases, can be transmitted to your family by pets, and others are equally threatening to pets and humans. These diseases include rabies and cat scratch disease, which can be transmitted from pets to humans, and Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to pets and humans via parasites. Taking extra precautions to make sure your pets are healthy with regular veterinary visits also helps ensure that you and your family remain healthy as well.