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Wellness Care for Your Adult Dog
Adult dogs should have a wellness exam at least once a year. Twice a year exams should be done if your dog has any ongoing health concerns or is on any chronic medications. At the wellness exam, we will review with you what you are feeding your dog, what you are doing for home dental care, what parasite control methods you are using, what vaccinations are indicated, and what medications or supplements your dog is on. The veterinarian will do a nose to tail physical examination of your dog, checking his or her mouth, eyes, ears, skin, coat, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, abdomen, joints, anal/genital area, and body condition. After the examination, the veterinarian will make recommendations regarding diet, dental care, vaccinations, parasite control, and wellness screening. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your dog's behavior or health we want to address them at this time, so bring a list in order to make the most of your visit.
Diet and Body Condition
The most common health problem we see in dogs, other than periodontal disease, is obesity. We will help you evaluate your dog's body condition score, make feeding recommendations, and give you a target ideal body weight for your dog if your dog is overweight. We have excellent weight loss diets and a weight loss drug is even available for dogs where diet change and increased exercise has not been effective.
For dogs without specific diet needs, we recommend Hill's t/d as an excellent maintenance diet that has been proven to help prevent calculus and gingivitis. Most dogs really like this food and it is an excellent alternative to daily brushing.
For dogs who have arthritis or who are at risk for getting arthritis (large breed dogs, active dogs, dogs with developmental joint abnormalities, etc.) Hill's j/d is an excellent maintenance diet. This unique diet has been proven to decrease discomfort and increase activity and mobility in dogs with arthritis. Hill's j/d contains very high levels of fish oil and is very palatable.
If you are making a home made diet for your dog we can refer you to resources that will help you ensure that you are feeding a balanced diet.
At your dog's wellness exam, the veterinarian will let you know if your dog needs a dental cleaning or if home dental care alone is sufficient. Periodontal disease, a chronic progressive infection and inflammation leading to loss of soft tissue and bone in the mouth, is the most common disease seen in dogs and cats. By three years of age, 80% of dogs have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease not only leads to bad breath, painful gums, and tooth loss, but can also lead to general poor health and disease in organs throughout the body. Periodontal disease can be prevented with diligent home dental care. Once it is established, regular professional dental cleanings under anesthesia as well as home dental care are needed to slow the progression. We carry many different home dental care products and can help you find a home dental care routine that works for you and your dog. If your dog needs a dental cleaning, it can be performed here using the safest available anesthesia, intensive anesthetic monitoring, and lots of TLC. At each dental cleaning we perform a tooth by tooth exam, remove calculus and plaque from above and below the gumline, polish the teeth, and apply an anti-plaque sealant.
Broken teeth are also often found at wellness exams and may require extraction or root canal treatment (done by a specialist). Teeth are most often broken by chewing on bones, hooves, rock, or nylon bones.
We will recommend vaccines for your dog after you have completed an annual vaccine assessment form that goes over your dog's risk factors and lifestyle.
All dogs should be kept current on Rabies vaccination. This is required by law. The first Rabies vaccine given to a dog must be boosted a year later. After this, vaccination for Rabies is done every three years.
The other vaccination all dogs should get is a combination vaccine for Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus (DHPP). This vaccine is needed one year after the initial series is given and is then recommended every three years. If you with to give minimal vaccines or if your dog has health issues where minimal vaccination is recommended, this vaccine can be given less often than every three years.
Dogs who will be in close contact with dogs outside of the family (i.e. dogs who will be boarded, go to grooming parlors, go to dog classes, or go to dog parks) should receive a vaccine to increase their resistance against respiratory infections caused by Bordetella and Parainfluenza ("Kennel Cough"). This vaccine is also recommended for dogs who would be more severely affected by a respiratory infection, such as short faced dogs (Pugs, Boxers, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, etc.), dogs with chronic respiratory problems (collapsing tracheas, chronic bronchitis, heart failure, etc.) Because Bordetella can cause illness in people who are immunocompromised, it is probably wise to vaccinate dogs who are part of a family where someone is immunocompromised. This vaccine should be given at least once a year, as the protection it offers is not long lasting. Many boarding facilities require it twice a year. The vaccine is available as a nose drop or an infection.
Dogs who are outdoors frequently should receive a vaccine to protect them from four strains of Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which is shed in the urine of infected dogs, wildlife, and livestock. There has been a significant increase in the number of Leptospirosis cases in Western Washington in the past decade. Leptospirosis carriers include squirrels, rats, deer, coyotes, possums, skunks, as well as dogs who have been infected (and may appear healthy). The bacteria can survive for extended periods in water and wet soil. When dogs are infected with Leptospirosis they may show no signs of illness or they can become severely ill, developing fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and progressive liver and kidney damage. The vaccine does not provide complete protection against Leptospirosis and does not protect against all strains that are out there, but it does increase protection. It is not a long lasting vaccine, so revaccination is recommended at least once a year. If your dog has not had an initial series of the four strain Leptospirosis vaccines (i.e. if he or she just received a single dose initially or received a two strain vaccine), then two doses should be given three weeks apart to establish an effective immune response. The current Leptospirosis vaccine that we use is much less likely to cause side effects than were the older Leptospirosis vaccines used in the past. Leptospirosis can cause illness in humans and cases are most often seen in swimmers, white water rafters, farmers, meat packing plant workers, and veterinary personnel.
Intestinal parasites are not as common in adult dogs as they are in puppies, but we still see intestinal parasites in at least 5% of adult dogs. Intestinal parasites usually do not cause any symptoms in dogs but can cause diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. Most intestinal parasites of dogs can also infect people and cause a wide variety of illnesses, including blindness, diarrhea, and skin rashes. It is essential that all dogs be tested and treated for intestinal parasites at least once a year throughout their lives. Twice a year testing and/or administering a monthly medication to prevent common worms is ideal. Among our patients, we see the highest incidence of parasites and the widest variety of parasites in dogs who go to dog parks and dogs who compete in agility and other dog sports, probably because of the shared toileting areas.
Fleas are a year round problem in Washington. They can cause itching and skin problems and carry a variety of diseases and parasites. We can recommend a safe monthly flea control product, either oral or topical, for your dog.
Fortunately, heartworm disease is not yet a significant problem in Washington. However, the areas affected by heartworm have been steadily expanding. If you travel with your dog, even just down to Oregon, heartworm preventative is recommended. Heartworm is easily prevented with a monthly pill or topical treatment. Before starting heartworm preventative, your dog should be tested for heartworm and regular testing is recommended if you travel out of state with your dog. Heartworm is very difficult and expensive to treat and is often fatal.
Ticks are not common in Western Washington in general, but there are local areas where they are a big problem and they are extremely common in Eastern Washington. Ticks carry numerous diseases which can affect dogs and people. If you find any ticks on your dog in Western Washington or if you are going to Eastern Washington, we can recommend a safe and effective monthly treatment.
Early Disease Detection/Wellness Screening
Observing your dog closely and bringing your dog in for regular wellness exams is important, but many diseases can only be detected early if we do routine wellness blood screens. In order to detect diseases of the kidneys, liver, adrenal glands, thyroid, bone marrow, and pancreas early, before they are causing signs of illness, we recommend early disease detection/wellness screening for all adult dogs. With a single blood sample we can determine if your dog is as healthy inside as he or she looks on the outside. Dogs will instinctively hide signs of illness as long as possible and many diseases don't cause any symptoms until they are too advanced to treat. Studies have shown that in dogs one to six years of age who appear completely healthy to both their family and their veterinarian, 8% have significant problems that are detected only by doing wellness screens. When we find problems early, they are much more likely to be treatable, often with just a simple diet change or nutritional supplement. Normal results are also very valuable, as they give us a baseline to look back at and allow us to notice subtle changes within the normal range that may in fact be significant for that individual patient. For dogs between one and six years of age, we recommend a yearly early disease detection/wellness panel that evaluates the kidneys, liver, blood sugar, blood proteins, and blood count. If your dog has any chronic health problems or is on ongoing medications, we recommend that blood testing be done at least twice a year.
All dogs should have a collar with an identification tag with your phone number. We also recommend all dogs have a microchip placed that is registered to you. Nearly all veterinary hospitals, animal control agencies, and shelters screen incoming lost dogs for microchips.
Never give your dog medications that have not been prescribed or recommended by your veterinarian. Prescription and over the counter medications meant for people are a common cause of accidental poisoning in dogs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, in particular, should never be given to dogs except under the close supervision of a veterinarian. Be very careful with chewable medications, as dogs can easily ingest toxic amounts of these.
Some foods that are safe for humans can be toxic to dogs. Never give your dog chocolate, grapes, raisins, alcohol, or baked goods or gum containing xylitol. Be very cautious with onions and garlic, as large amounts are toxic to dogs.
When traveling in a car with your dog, it is safest to confine him or her to a crate.