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Preventative healthcare

PUBLISHED: 16:50 14 March 2013

You shouldn't only visit the vet when your dog is hurt or ill

You shouldn't only visit the vet when your dog is hurt or ill

Nick Ridley

How often should you visit the vet?

A card drops through the door from your vet inviting you to bring your dog for his annual health check and vaccinations. You pin it to the noticeboard in the kitchen to deal with later then head out shooting. A few weeks go by before you notice the card again, but the car just needed an MOT so money is a bit short. A bit more time goes by and you start wondering whether you need to go to the vets at all; your dog looks great after a hard season and you remember reading that dogs don’t need vaccinations every year… but is your dog missing out?

Although clients usually come in asking for their dog’s ‘booster jab’, there is more to this annual visit than just the vaccination. Your vet will give your dog a thorough physical examination, including checking eyes, ears and teeth, muscles and joints, listening to the heart and lungs, feeling the abdomen and checking the skin for any lumps or bumps.

It’s amazing how often vets will pick up little things which owners haven’t noticed as they have come on slowly. Your vet will also ask about your dog’s general health, giving you the opportunity to ask any questions. Again, it’s not uncommon for owners to dismiss minor changes in their dog which could be the first symptoms of more serious disease. This is also a good opportunity to weigh your dog, especially if you are buying wormers and flea treatment online.

Once your dog has a clean bill of health, it’s time to discuss what vaccinations your dog needs. It is true that vaccines give at least three years’ protection against parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis, so after his puppy course and first annual vaccination, your dog won’t get these every year. But the Leptospirosis vaccine is not so long-lasting, and gundogs and working terriers are at particularly high risk of this disease, which is spread in rat urine and water courses, so your dog should be ‘boosted’ for this annually.

Some owners also like to give a kennel cough vaccine, another annual vaccination, especially if their dogs mix with lots of others. If you are concerned that even three-yearly boosters are too much, then it is possible for blood samples to be taken to check your dog’s level of protection.

This annual visit gives you the opportunity to discuss your dog’s parasite control too; a range of products are available and those recommended will vary with the dog’s lifestyle and local risks.

Finally, you may want to discuss any plans you have to breed from your dog, including what health testing needs to be done. People often assume they need to go to a specialist practice but many tests can be done at your own practice, including taking x-rays for hip and elbow scoring and taking blood or cheek swabs for DNA tests. Eye testing does require a specialist but your vet may know of local group sessions which are cheaper.

So, you can get an awful lot out of your dog’s annual health check, making it very good value for money, but what if you have a kennel full of dogs? Vets may offer discounts for kennels or breeders who are regular clients, but you can’t expect a discount if you only visit for emergencies or once year! Larger kennels may find making frequent trips is not an efficient use of their time or money so could consider asking their vet for regular kennel visits in the same way farms have regular visits. These visits would allow the vet to understand the kennel set-up and help plan the most cost-effective parasite control, feeding, vaccination and breeding strategies; a win-win situation!

By Vicky Payne

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