- Pets and Animals
Why National Pet Wellness Month?
Isn't Every Month Pet Wellness Month?
There's a good reason why you aren't aware that October is National Pet Wellness Month. The reason is because it continues to be whispered from the mountain tops. Personally, I think the campaign is a very good one, yet continues to be "visibility-challenged."
An initiative of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Fort Dodge Animal Health (a manufacturer of veterinary drugs), and Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) it is largely an "in-house" educational program, with literature available at veterinary clinics.
According to the AVMA website, National Pet Wellness Month focuses on educating pet owners about wellness examinations, disease prevention, and pet health insurance. Studies have shown that, on average, clients with pet health insurance schedule more veterinary visits. My guess is that's most likely because insurance is available for routine wellness care as well as injuries and illnesses.
The "Pet Wellness Starts With A Plan" campaign was the 2012 theme of the National Pet Wellness initiative.
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Advances in veterinary medicine and animal nutrition have led to an increased population of aging cats and dogs in this country. Unlike us though, cats and dogs can't tell you where it hurts. An exam every six months enables vets to detect problems early, and in some cases before they develop.
Of course aging in dogs and cats is accelerated, especially after age 5 or 6. The old "1 human-year equals 7 dog-years" formula isn't really valid. The generally accepted "rule of thumb" scale considers a medium-sized dog weighing between 21 and 50 pounds to be in childhood the first six months, teen years from about 6 to 13 months, young adult from 14 months to 4 years, middle age from 4 to 7 years, and senior from then on.
Thus, a 1 year old dog would be the developmental equivalent of a 15 year old human, a 3 year old dog the equivalent of a 28 year old human, and a 7 year old dog the equivalent of a 47 year old human. So many variables (weight, breed, genetics, etc) come into play, that it's difficult to pinpoint the animal aging process.
The focus of the AVMA wellness initiative is older dogs and cats, although they consider all pets a part of the program. Because pets are living longer they encounter more health issues, and the older they get, the more susceptible they become.
Geriatric pets fall victim to many of the same health problems that we geriatric humans do. They get gray, their coats get thinner, their skin loses its suppleness. There are changes in the heart, kidneys and other major organs.
They get arthritis-like symptoms, their hearing and eyesight diminish, they can even get a form of doggie Alzheimer's Disease known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (or Disorder). Their bowels and bladders don't work as well as they used to, and they can really lose their taper.
You’ll probably notice that these changes can sometimes come fast and furious. You bring your dog in for his annual check-up, the vet is happy with what he sees, and, boom, a few months later the dog has developed something.
You keep an eye on things for a few more months, and eventually you schedule him for an appointment to see what the problem is. Quite often the delay, from the onset of symptoms to the exam and diagnosis, is of no serious consequence. But more often, quicker action may have resulted in a better outcome.
And that's why contemporary protocols suggest semi-annual check-ups for aging animals. With an arsenal of treatments available, the aging pet's quality of life can be greatly enhanced by timely veterinary intervention. From diets to medicines to complementary and alternative modalities, the aging pet nowadays has many more options available to it than pets of even 10 or 15 years ago.
The AVMA website says that thousands of veterinarians nationwide have signed up to be active in the campaign, and that staff will be wearing buttons to encourage clients to ask the clinic's personnel about pet wellness plans.
They’ll also offer free checklists…one for dogs, one for cats…to help identify disease risk via questions about behavior, environment, health history, and other factors.
The veterinarian can use the results to assist in developing an individual wellness and vaccination protocol. Additional questions address pet health insurance and provide staff with an opportunity to discuss coverage.
There’s also a roll-out brochure and poster to inform us about wellness examinations, disease prevention, and pet health insurance. Your local clinic may have programs and offers of its own, so whether or not you have an aging pet it may be a good idea to call your vet clinic and see what's cookin'.