Pet Connection: Regular care vital to cats' long-term vigor

02/28/2012 12:00 AM

02/27/2012 2:51 PM

Veterinarians have long recognized something very sad about how cats are treated: Compared to dogs, cats aren't given much medical care at all.

And that's just not right.

We know more about the care and treatment of cats than ever, and as veterinarians, we want to share what we know and what we can do for the good of cats everywhere. That means preventive care before a cat gets sick – proactive care and advice that keeps a cat healthy. And when cats do get sick, we veterinarians not only want to address little health problems before they become big health problems – and sometimes become untreatable – but we also want to help treat those problems in ways that are less painful to our patients.

The word is getting out, but too slowly for my taste. As great as you may be in your role of pet "parent" at home, there's no substitute for your cat's regular wellness checks with the vet.

When you consider these visits, think of your cat for a second as a trusty, well-loved car. You see that car every day – and you know how it looks and how it sounds. But do you really understand what goes on under the hood? Your cat's veterinarian is responsible for checking your cat's internal systems and making sure he's "running right."

Long years studying every aspect of animal health and learning the ropes of feline medicine make your cat's veterinarian the pro at diagnosing health issues and troubles, and also at anticipating them. Veterinarians know what problems can be common at what ages.

For most young, healthy cats, an annual checkup after kittenhood should be enough. Your cat's veterinarian may order basic lab tests to provide baseline information on what's normal for your pet at the time your pet is spayed or neutered and then again in middle age for an early comparison.

At every visit, your cat should get a nose-to-toes examination and an objective assessment of his general health and body condition.

As your cat enters middle age, your veterinarian may recommend bringing him twice a year for routine exams – I certainly do. These semiannual exams – and the diagnosics that go with them – can actually save you money and your pet pain, spotting problems early and slowing or even stopping some age-related issues for a good long while.

When you factor in any increased risk of health problems, frequent wellness checks become the No. 1 tool available to you for keeping your feline companion in good health and for saving you money in the long run.

To return to the car repair theme: You can pay me now or you can pay me later. Routine health maintenance always saves. Sadly, if you ignore preventive care for your cat the way so many people do, it's your cat who will have the most suffering when it comes to paying.

Video: On the website, dog trainer Mikkel Becker shows how to greet your dog appropriately to eliminate behavior problems when you are in and out you home.

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