At the 2011 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention, it was reported that there has been a steady decline in our pets’ health. Even though veterinary medicine is much more progressive than a decade ago, reports show that diabetes is up 16 percent in cats and 32 percent in dogs, ear infections are up 34 percent in cats and 9 percent in dogs, and dental disease has risen 10 percent in cats and 12 percent in dogs.

What’s worse, according to the 2011 Banfield Pet Hospital State of Pet Health Report, fleas, hookworms, and roundworms have become more prevalent in dogs and cats and many of these parasites can affect people. Part of the problem is that owners are not taking their pets to the veterinarian for regular checkups and wellness exams. According to the AVMA, 24 percent of people with dogs and 39 percent of people with cats said they’d take their pets to the vet only if something were wrong. And many pet owners rely on the Internet to give advice and never contact a veterinarian at all. Unfortunately, waiting for signs of an illness in your pet isn’t a good idea. Many pets are able to mask their illness quite well and if your pet is showing signs, that might mean a disease has become a major problem. Early diagnosis can be a lifesaver and potentially save money in the long run. So how often should your pet go to the vet? The answer to this question depends on your pet’s age, health, and behavior.

Puppies and Kittens

Puppies and kittens should visit a veterinarian for a basic health check and to receive their initial puppy or kitten shot. Puppies and kittens are usually wormed and vaccinated every three-four weeks until they are four months old. Most veterinarians will spay and neuter at this time as well. After these initial visits, a puppy or kitten will normally only need to see the vet once a year.

Adult Pets

Adult pets should be examined at least once a year. Older pets may need to be seen more often. This schedule allows the veterinarian to learn how your pet normally looks and behaves and makes it easier to spot abnormalities when they occur.

You may want your annual visit to coincide with your pet’s annual vaccines (if necessary) or their examination for parasites such as intestinal worms, fleas, and ticks. You should talk to your vet and determine which vaccine is needed and the risk factors for disease pertaining to each individual pet. Some pets do not need to be vaccinated every year. And most indoor-only cats don’t need vaccines at all. One more reason to keep your cat inside.

To make the most out of your visit, bring a list of questions to ask your veterinarian. The veterinarian can advise you not only about medical health, but also about behavior, nutrition, exercise physiology, and many other topics.

Your veterinarian’s office is also a good place to learn how to brush your pet’s teeth, or trim its nails. Preventive dentistry is increasingly recognized as being important to your pet’s well-being.

In addition to an annual wellness check, once your pet reaches his or her seventh birthday, veterinary experts recommend certain annual health-screening tests designed to monitor your pet’s health status and serve as baselines to detect any changes as your pet ages. These are tests that can detect certain diseases before they become unmanageable. For example, two years ago a serum biochemical profile showed that my 13-year-old cat had the beginning stages of kidney failure. I started giving subcutaneous fluids a few times a week and recent blood tests revealed that his kidneys were stabilized. My cat hadn’t been showing signs of kidney problems and if I had waited to go to the vet, it may have been too late. These tests can be pricey, so call around to different veterinary clinics to find the best price before you go.

Senior Pet Tests

• Comprehensive Medical Exam: This head-to-tail physical exam thoroughly assesses your pet’s overall condition.

• Complete Blood Count (CBC): This test evaluates the status of your pet’s red and white blood cells, which transport oxygen and fight infections.

• Serum Biochemical Profile: This group of tests examines the health of your pet’s kidneys and liver and screens for some cancers.

• Urinalysis: This test shows how well the kidneys are functioning. As pets age, it is important to keep a careful watch on the kidneys and whether there are any early signs of diabetes, early renal failure, or other diseases.

• EKG (Optional): This test checks the condition of your pet’s heart muscle.

Pets age seven times as fast as we do.

Because of of a pet’s aging process, taking your pet to the vet just once a year is equivalent to us going to the doctor once every seven years. If that were the case for us, it would be difficult for our physicians to make a diagnosis, since so much time has elapsed between visits. It’s the same for pets. So, the bottom line is, if you can afford to, take your pet into the vet every six months for a physical exam or wellness check-up, but at the very least, once a year.

As always, if your pet shows signs of appetite loss, decreased or increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, or is acting lethargic, don’t wait for an annual exam — call your vet right away.


DAWG Celebrates Its 20th Birthday

October 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Bring the whole family for live music, face painting, a photo booth, ceramic tile painting, a visit from a special guest, and more! All proceeds go to our dogs here at the shelter so be sure to enjoy our bake sale, raffle, catered food, drinks, and birthday T-shirts. Or simply get in the birthday spirit by bringing DAWG a tax-deductible birthday present. Check out our wish list at We ask those in attendance not to bring family dogs. The party will take place Saturday, October 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at the shelter in Goleta at 5480 Overpass Road. Parking will be available next door at St. Raphael’s.

Over the last 10 years, Dog Adoption & Welfare Group (DAWG) has placed over 2,000 dogs in their forever homes; 360 in 2010 alone! The dedicated staff, volunteers, and donors at DAWG are responsible for saving the lives of dogs in Santa Barbara County every day, and providing the community with educational outreach, and hopefully, new family members. This event will celebrate 20 years of saving dogs with fun the whole family can enjoy. As a nonprofit organization, all proceeds go directly to our dogs, so we greatly appreciate any advertising available.

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Daisy is a young Dalmatian mix looking for a fun-loving family. She has a lot of love and a lot of energy!

To inquire about adopting Daisy, visit DAWG in Santa Barbara. DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not-for-profit dog rescue/adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call (805) 681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at The public is invited to stop by and look around every day from 9 a.m. To 4 p.m. DAWG relies on volunteers to take care of all the dogs, so if you love dogs, think about volunteering! Students are able to fulfill their volunteer community service requirement by volunteering. Volunteer orientations are generally held every other Saturday at 10 a.m.. Please contact DAWG for the next meeting.


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