Preventive health care for your dog does not end with the puppy vaccination series and the other aspects of puppy care, but is a lifelong program intended to help your dog maintain wellness. During the adult years, a comprehensive preventive medical care program for your dog should consist of the following:
YEARLY CHECK-UPS: A yearly physical examination by your veterinarian is the basis for detecting diseases early and preventing medical conditions from developing or worsening. During this check-up, your veterinarian will perform a complete examination of your dog including the ears, eyes, nose, skin, temperature, heart and lung sounds, lymph nodes, teeth, and other body systems. A yearly check-up allows for early disease detection, which is the key to successful preventive medical care.
YEARLY FECAL PARASITE EXAM: Some dogs will acquire intestinal parasite infections from ingesting items in the yard or while on walks. Since most intestinal parasites are only detected microscopically and many are transmissible to people, a microscopic examination of your dog’s feces should be included as part of a yearly check-up.
VACCINATIONS: All dogs should receive vaccinations to help fight off or prevent certain infectious diseases. During your dog’s yearly check-up, your veterinarian will advise you of any vaccinations that may be due. Based on the most current scientific information available, we recommend the following vaccines and vaccination schedules:
DA2PP (Distemper/Adenovirus Type 2/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus): This vaccine is recommended for all dogs. After a puppy vaccination series, the vaccine should be administered after one year and then every three years.
Rabies: This vaccine is recommended for all dogs and, in fact, is required by law in California and many other states. The vaccine is administered as early as 12 weeks of age, then one year later, and then every three years.
Bordetella (“kennel cough”): This vaccine is usually only needed by dogs that will be in a situation where exposure to other dogs infected with kennel cough is possible, such as boarding kennels, grooming facilities, public parks, and dog shows. This vaccine can be administered as early as two weeks of age and should be repeated every 6 to 12 months in dogs that need this vaccine.
Lyme Disease, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, Giardia and Canine Flu (H3N8): For various reasons, we do not recommend these vaccines for general use, but only for certain special circumstances.
PROPER DIET: The best diet for your dog is a good, high-quality commercial puppy food until one year of age, then an adult food after that. Once or twice a day feedings are adequate, and the amount to feed depends on the individual dog and the calorie content of the brand of food (check the food’s label for a feeding guide). To help prevent nutritional imbalances, table scraps and homemade diets are not recommended. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed if your dog is receiving a good balanced commercial diet. No single food is the absolute best food, and several foods are quite good. We only recommend feeding diets whose label contains the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement of nutritional adequacy.
PROFESSIONAL DENTAL CARE: Dogs have dental care needs very similar to those of people. In fact, tooth and gum disease is the most common health problem of dogs. Most dogs will need a professional dental cleaning every one to three years, depending on the individual. Your veterinarian will assess the need for a dental cleaning during your dog’s yearly check-up. A proper and thorough dental cleaning is performed while your dog is asleep under general anesthesia. A careful oral examination is performed, then tartar and plaque are removed from all surfaces of the teeth (including below the gum line) with an ultrasonic scaling instrument, the teeth are polished, and lastly stannous fluoride is applied before he or she wakes up. Unqualified persons who operate outside of a veterinary hospital should not perform dental “cleanings” as this is not only illegal, but a competent dental examination is missed, and cleaning below the gum line as well as polishing the teeth cannot be done.
HOME DENTAL CARE: To help maintain your dog’s dental health between professional dental cleanings, home dental care in the form of daily dental brushing is recommended. Special toothbrushes designed for a dog’s mouth and special animal toothpaste (human toothpaste can make your dog sick if swallowed) are available. Many dogs will learn to accept or even enjoy having their teeth brushed if they are accustomed to it early in life. Daily dental brushing can help to extend the time interval between each professional dental cleaning. The beneficial effects of dental brushing can also be enhanced by offering rawhide chews and by the use of a “dental” diet such as Prescription Diet Canine t/d.
HEARTWORM PREVENTION: Heartworms are parasites that infect the heart and blood vessels of dogs and other animals. Heartworm infections are contracted through mosquito bites and can be life-threatening. Heartworms are more prevalent in some areas of the country than others, but they have been reported from all 50 states. Heartworm infections are not common in Southern California, but they have been reported in dogs from Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties and as close as Ojai. Although heartworm infections can be treated, preventing infections (by the use of orally administered once-a-month medication) is much easier and safer. Dog owners, therefore, should give consideration to heartworm prevention, especially if your dog travels with you out of our area. Your veterinarian can inform you about the details of heartworm testing and prevention.
FLEA AND TICK CONTROL: Fleas and ticks are very common external parasites of dogs. Allergy to flea bites is the most common allergy of dogs. Several effective flea and tick control products are available. Your veterinarian can help you choose the product best suited for your dog’s situation.