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Speaking of Pets
Four-paw new year’s resolutions
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Happy New Year! You have made your resolutions, but have you considered how to include your pets? The new year is a good time to take inventory of your heartworm and flea preventatives and if you have been regular on them. Florida has a high incidence of heartworm disease, intestinal parasites, and flea infestations.

Is your pet up-to-date on advised vaccines and parasite checks? Have they had a dental exam lately? And the most obvious, do they have some holiday pounds to shed?

Even if you do not have a flea problem, many pets have allergies to fleas. Fleas and ticks can transmit diseases, and they are simply not nice to have in the house. Therefore, even if you do not think you need it, I still advise flea prevention monthly for pets in Florida.

If my pet has been off heartworm prevention, can I just restart it?

All it takes is missing two consecutive months of preventative for a pet to be at risk for heartworm infection. Cats do not have to be tested to safely be put on preventative, but dogs do. Therefore, if you have a dog and have missed two or more months consecutively, we need to do a heartworm test before getting your pet back on a preventative.

If you restart a heartworm product without testing and the dog is unknowingly heartworm positive, it can cause serious adverse reactions, and in some cases, even death. Heartworm preventatives also carry intestinal parasite prevention. They are not a treatment if your pet has a parasite, but the preventative does make it less likely for your pet to contract one.

I don’t see worms in my pet’s stool, so why does it need a fecal check?

Though there are some parasites that are visible in stool, the majority are not. Only under a microscope can we find giardia, coccidia, hookworms, whipworms, etc. What most people don’t realize is that heartworm preventatives also have some intestinal parasite prevention. They are not a treatment if your pet has a parasite, but the preventative does make it less likely for your pet to contract one.

A fecal parasite check is advised annually for every pet, but especially those that have been off heartworm preventative because they are at a higher risk.

Does my pet really need to come in every year?

For most pets a routine vaccine schedule is recommended; However, a full exam every six to 12 months is advised, regardless of if in need of preventative vaccines or not. Even in those pets with medical conditions where vaccines are not advised, it is still important for us to evaluate your pet and discuss other forms of preventative care, such as lab work, dental care, etc.

We try to tailor our vaccine protocol to each individual patient, and I would be more than happy to discuss it with you at the time of exam. I also advise annual, if not biannual, dental exams for every pet to help in early detection and treatment of dental disease. That bad breath does not have to be that way.

Let us help you ring in a New Year with a healthy pet. Contact us to see if your pet is up to date on routine care, if you have questions about preventatives, if you would like your pet to have a dental exam, etc. We are at your service to try to keep your pet happy and healthy for as long as we can.

Dr. Christen Woodley, DVM, is a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of Dunedin, 1355 Pinehurst Road.
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