What Goes Into a Dog Health Preventive Care Regimen
At La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, we believe that a sound preventive health care regimen is the easiest and most effective way to keep your dog healthy and happy. Many canine diseases are easily preventable and most can be effectively treated and cured if detected early enough. However, if allowed to develop and progress unchecked, many diseases can quickly become difficult and expensive to treat, and in some cases incurable. Therefore, we strongly encourage every dog owner to take a proactive approach to preventive care.
Our comprehensive dog wellness programs typically consist of:
- Education by our staff and various resources we can make available to you (ie doctors, technicians, handouts, and information available here on our website)
- Things you can do at home to support weight loss, diet, dental care, etc.
Our goal is to partner with you to ensure optimal health for your dog. A healthy and happy canine companion will remain a loyal and loving member of your family for many years to come.
Your Dog's Annual Physical Exam
Taking an active role in a dog wellness program begins with visits to the veterinarian for periodic physical exams. The physical exam is a comprehensive assessment of your dog's health. Because your dog cannot talk, we rely on the owners to provide us with key information to help us to assess your dog's health. Our veterinarians will ask you specific questions and your answers will help guide the examination to assess overall health and reveal developing health issues that can easily go unnoticed. Based on age, health status, and pre-existing conditions, some dogs require a physical exam annually, while others require semi-annual exams (every 6 months). During the physical exam, your veterinarian will review various aspects of your dog's health, including:
- Vaccination status
- Parasite control
- Dental health
- X-rays - primarily for older dogs
After the physical exam, our veterinarian will discuss the findings with you and what, if anything, should be done to keep your dog in optimal health.
The Effect of Proper Nutrition on Dog Wellness
Overall dog health and quality of life depend heavily on the amount and type of food consumed on a daily basis. Low-quality dog food and treats high in fat or sugar can negatively affect your canine companion physically, emotionally, and mentally. This is why dogs of all ages and life stages can benefit from a sound nutrition program, including:
- Puppies: Generally speaking, puppies may need increased frequency of feeding and more proteins and fats
- Adult Dogs: Concern for weight management, breed-specific, and lifestyle specific nutrition choices
- Senior Dogs: Many senior dogs have health concerns that may require specific nutritional choices
It is important to understand that these guidelines are meant to demonstrate that the nutritional needs of dogs do change through different stages of life. However, it is also important to understand that the above bullet points are not meant to serve as the basis for the nutritional program for your dog. There are many factors that must be considered when creating a nutritional plan for a dog, including breed, age, health conditions, and more. This is why you should discuss the nutritional needs of your dog with a veterinarian at your next appointment.
Other considerations when choosing a diet include:
- The best canned or kibble diet for the breed, age, and activity level
- Items ok to add to your dog's food - i.e. some cooked veggies
- Supplements - what you may be using and what our vets want you to consider using
- Healthy dog snacks
- What to avoid feeding your dog
Many clients are afraid or embarrassed to discuss what they feed their dog with a veterinarian. You should always be open and honest with your veterinarian about what you are actually feeding your dog. We are happy to discuss any supplements or treats you may be using and it will help us have a complete picture of your dog's health. This is a great topic for discussion that can allow us to partner with you and take a team approach to optimize your dog's health. Some of your "people" food may even be a great addition to your dog's diet. However, let us help you to determine the type and amount that is best.
For more information on dog nutrition, visit the dog nutrition page.
Dog Dental Care
Your dog's oral health is key for maintaining overall health. Dental disease is generally gradual and dogs adjust to living with oral pain and will not show signs they are uncomfortable. It is difficult for owners to know when their dog has dental disease or oral pain. For this reason, an important part of the physical exam is an oral exam. During this part of the exam, we will look at the teeth, tongue, and oral cavity. The unfortunate reality is that periodontal disease affects most dogs by age 4-5.
Some of the possible dental conditions which can affect your dog include:
- Tooth Loss/broken teeth
- Mouth Sores and Ulcers
- Periodontal Disease
This is why periodic and thorough dental care is essential to your dog's overall health. A thorough oral cleaning is something you should trust to your veterinarian every 6-12 months, but brushing can be performed on your canine companion in the comfort of your home. You can also help facilitate good dog health by providing toys and treats formulated to help strengthen and/or clean your dog's teeth and gums.
For more information on dental care for dogs, visit the dog dental care page.
Protecting Your Dog From Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are a great nuisance to your dog and family. These pesky insects cause discomfort and can carry disease to your dog and possibly to your family. While these parasites are common, it is our goal to prevent your pet from experiencing the irritation that fleas and ticks cause. We can work with you to set up a preventive plan to avoid the infestation of your pet and your home. We will help to customize a plan for your dog based upon the dog's lifestyle, number, and type of pets in the household. There are so many flea and tick products on the market. They are not all created equal and some are not effective and even dangerous. Our doctors and staff are very knowledgeable about these parasites and the best way to prevent them. Part of the annual physical exam is developing and managing the best flea and tick treatment plan for your dog.
For more information on flea and tick prevention for dogs, visit the dog flea and tick page.
What You Should Know About Dog Vaccinations
Vaccinations are a foundational and critically important part of the preventive care plan. The vaccinations we recommend will prevent diseases that, while not common, are still a serious threat to the health, longevity, and quality of life of your dog. The only reason they are not common is because of the excellent vaccines we have to protect your dog and hopefully the rest of the dogs that your dog will come into contact with. When owners stop vaccinating, we see a resurgence of these very deadly diseases.
Generally, a vaccine protocol consists of a series of immunizations given to your dog as a puppy, followed by boosters at one year and then periodically throughout its lifetime.
Although the rabies vaccine is the only vaccination currently required by law in most states, we strongly recommend making sure your canine companion is up to date on all of its core and non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian can help determine a vaccination schedule as part of your dog's health program based specifically on the lifestyle, geographic location, and pre-existing medical conditions of your dog.
For more information on vaccinations, visit the dog vaccines page.
Heartworm Prevention for Dogs
Heartworm is another very important issue in preventative healthcare for all dogs. Heartworm is a deadly but completely and easily preventable disease. Heartworms spread through dogs via bites from infected mosquitoes. Living in CA, mosquitoes are present throughout the spring, summer, and early fall months and can even live inside during the winter. For this reason, we recommend prevention 12 months of the year.
There are a number of medications that are highly effective and commonly used across the veterinary industry. We will help you determine which product is the safest, most cost-effective for you, and most effective for your dog.
For more information on heartworm prevention for dogs, visit the dog heartworm page.
Intestinal Parasites in Dogs
Canine intestinal parasites commonly referred to as "worms", are one of the most common conditions seen in both young puppies and adult dogs. Dogs can contract worms by:
- Ingesting eggs (most commonly stepping in feces and licking paws later)
- Passed from the mother during gestation
- Consuming an intermediate host like a flea or a small animal
Furthermore, some worms can infect human beings, making intestinal parasites a health issue for dogs and humans alike. Our veterinary team can prescribe a preventive program to help your dog remain parasite-free, and implement a treatment program to fight off any existing infestation.
One of the greatest joys in life is having a cuddly, cute puppy to have and hold, but it can also be stressful for people who are unsure of how to properly care for a puppy. It is important for you to come to see us as soon as you get your puppy so we can set you on the right path as soon as possible both with preventive care and puppy training. Plan to spend at least one hour on your first visit. During this first visit, we will give your puppy a complete physical exam, update all necessary vaccines, provide deworming medication and spend time educating you on your puppy's needs.
Our puppy health care services include:
- Periodic Wellness Exams
- Puppy Nutrition
- Behavior/Potty Training
- Planning for Spaying and Neutering
For more information on puppy care, visit the puppy care page.
Senior Dog Care Screen
Having a senior dog can be relaxing and rewarding. Most senior dogs have settled into a gentle routine and require less exercise. We love senior dogs for their calm demeanor and the elderly wisdom they can bring to our lives. It is our goal to help your senior dog age gracefully and comfortably.
At La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, we understand that the experience of caring for older dogs can be a tremendously rewarding one that enhances and enriches the lives of dogs themselves, as well as their human caretakers. Therefore, we offer a full array of senior dog health care services, including:
- Senior Dog Wellness Exams
- Nutritional Consultation
- Body Condition Evaluations
- Dental Care
- Pain assessments and pain management
- Exercise/Activity Recommendations
No dog should be allowed to suffer when his or her pain can be easily managed. Our pain management services can significantly improve the quality of life for many dogs who are experiencing pain associated with a wide variety of conditions. Our veterinarians will work with you and your dog to develop a unique pain management plan that best serves his or her individual needs. Our dog health pain management plans may include one or more of the following modalities:
- Complementary Treatments
- Laser Therapy
- Lifestyle Recommendations
- Raised Food Bowls
- Softer Bedding
- More Exercise
Scheduling an appointment to develop a preventive care regimen for your dog is as easy as picking up the phone or filling out the contact form on our website. Our staff is here to help make your trip to the vet as easy as possible for you, and enjoyable for your canine companion!