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Dog Preventive Care - The Critical Nature of Dog Preventive Care


What is preventative care and why is it important?

Preventative care is essentially wellness care in dogs. It's all about proactively doing things and monitoring things to keep your dog as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Things involved in preventative care are regular exams, blood work like heartworm or tick tests, or even full wellness screens, vaccinations for your dog's lifestyle in the area they're living in. Preventative care is a way for us to try and catch things early, protect your dogs against the things that we can keep them from getting, all so we can keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible.


Dr. Menolly Cote
Freeport Veterinary Hospital

What should I be doing at home in terms of preventative care?

There are many things you can do at home to keep your dog healthy. Many of us are already doing a lot of these things. We do our research. We spend a lot of time figuring out the best toys, the best food, and the best beds. Food has become a hot button issue in a lot of ways. We'll leave a lot of that controversy for another video. You must still consult with another veterinarian or us if you have questions about diet because a good quality diet is the foundation of good health. We can certainly help guide you with a lot of the confusing information you might find.

Another thing that you can do at home is exercise. With high-energy younger dogs, it can be a little overwhelming, and you might wonder if you’re ever going to be able to exercise them enough. Even a minimum of a 5 to 10-minute walk of your property once or twice a day can make a big difference. They're not going to be run ragged, per se, in terms of their energy level, but just that mental stimulation of the sniffs, fresh air, and novel environment can make a big difference.

There are also other forms of enrichment, so working your dog's brain even when you can't work their body. We have a vast number of resources on puzzle toys and different games you can do. Training should always be a huge part of preventative care and enrichment, both for their mental health and behavioral health.

Should I get pet insurance?

Yes, absolutely. I am a huge fan of pet insurance. I have a 14-month-old black lab. He has been insured since eight weeks of age, even though I'm a veterinarian. It allows me and pretty much anybody else with pet insurance to provide the best possible care. It takes money out of the equation and allows you to do what's best for your pet without having to consider how much money's in the bank. You just pay a monthly fee, basically your monthly premium, and get the coverage level you need. Most pet insurances are really for illness or injury, so most of your actual wellness care will be something that you can budget for. You know what vaccines we're going to be doing yearly. You know what preventions we're going to need, so you can plan and budget for those things. Pet insurance allows you that peace of mind, that if you spend for the best possible preventative care, you're going to be able to afford the things that come up unexpectedly.

When I'm going back and forth for regular exams, how do I keep my dog safe in the car?

That's a tough one because I think we all want our dogs to be happy with their head out the window with that classic ears and tongue flapping in the wind, but the safest thing is for your dog to be secured in the car. Thankfully, there are a lot of great options for that. Several companies now make a high-quality safety harness where you can strap your dog in either through the latch system in the car or through a seatbelt. If that's not a good option for your dog, there are also crates that you can secure to the inside trunk, like a hatchback, of your car or the back of an SUV so that they are safely secured in the crate. Also, the crates aren’t going to be rolling around if God forbid, you get an accident. The dog must be secured in the car, their head shouldn’t be out the window, their head's not in your face, and dogs aren't in your lap causing a distraction.

When I'm exercising my dog, when can they be off-leash?

We have this idea of our dog running happily through a field while off-leash. There may be circumstances that we can do that safely, but as a general rule, you should plan to have your dog on a leash unless they're in a secured environment where you can control who they come into contact with. Many dogs out there are great off-leash and have relatively good recall, but one thing that we have to remember is when we're out and about in the world, other dogs are not comfortable interacting with other dogs or people. They may be on a leash, but if our dogs are not and get distracted and run up to them, that could frighten that other dog as a best-case scenario. Worst-case scenario, you could end up with a dog fight. When we're out and about in the world, it’s vital to use a leash, unless, say, you're in an empty dog park, or an area that you know is secure, such as private land.

Remember that we have plenty of skunks and porcupines and various other potential hazards that we want to avoid even when on private land. Unless you have a bulletproof recall, I would recommend a leash most of the time. That doesn't have to be a tiny four or six-foot leash. There are certainly long lines, like 20 or 30-foot long leashes that you can get to give your dog a little bit more freedom, but still, keep them safe.

What are common health issues that can be prevented with wellness care?

Lots of stuff. I mean, I think that the common ones that come to mind are things that are prevented with vaccines. Rabies is one that's required by our state law, and that's required because it's also a public health issue. Rabies is fatal when contracted, there's absolutely nothing we can do, and it is contagious to people. We must keep that one. The second most common vaccine that we give is the distemper combination vaccine. That includes distemper, adenovirus (a type of virus that causes hepatitis), and parvovirus, and I think everybody's relatively familiar with parvovirus. It's a pretty deadly disease, usually affects puppies, and is incredibly expensive to treat, and we’re rarely successful in doing so. The second, PNDAPP, is parainfluenza, a respiratory virus sometimes associated with kennel cough.

Another vaccine that we recommend on a pretty routine basis would be the Lyme vaccine. Lyme is, again, endemic in our area. We have a considerable number of deer ticks, and those guys are so small, especially in their nymph stage, that even the most fastidious tick checker could miss one. Lyme disease can be pretty devastating if we don't catch it early, so that's another thing that we do for preventative care is regular screenings for tick-related illnesses. Still, we try and take a multi-pronged approach to wellness care in general. On top of the Lyme vaccine and the tick testing, we also would recommend preventions.

Getting back to the other vaccines. We routinely do leptospirosis, a bacterial organism often found in areas where wildlife congregates and any wet environment. When people think about wildlife, they think of the woods in the streams. Still, even small rodents in the Portland area could potentially cause leptospirosis or carry leptospirosis, so we must protect our pets. Also, back to preventions, heartworm prevention, flea, and tick prevention. All these sorts of things are really small things that we can do on a monthly or semi-annual basis that can make a huge difference in keeping our pets safe. There are so many different things that we can do in terms of preventative care. It’s imperative that when we see your dog each year and do that full physical to screen for problems, that we touch base about anything you have concerns about, changes in lifestyle, etc.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (207) 865-3673, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Preventive Care - FAQs


Dr. Menolly Cote
Freeport Veterinary Hospital

Why should we do preventative care?

Preventative care can mean many different things, but the gist of it is knowing what you can do to keep your dog as healthy as possible for as long as possible. I think we all want our pets to live forever. I certainly do. That's not realistic. So our second-best goal is to keep them going as well as possible for as long as possible. Preventative care is the best tool that we have for that, by being proactive rather than reactive.

Will preventative care keep my dog flea and tick free?

I don't know that I can give a 100% guarantee on that, but we can do an excellent job with the products on the market now. The current product that we're using is called Simparica TRIO. It's all-in-one flea, tick, and heartworm prevention in a single pill, given once a month. I think it's the easiest thing that we've had in recent history to control fleas and ticks, but it's also extremely effective and super safe. The best we can do is give that prevention. And then, especially with ticks, we have to do those daily tick checks, as dogs and even our cats come inside. Just do that once-over check on your pets. One thing I've heard that works well is using a lint roller when your dog comes inside. Just kind of roll that down their back, and you can pick up those tiny little ticks that you may not be able to see very well on your fuzzy dog.

What does preventative care look like in the different stages of life?

That's a great question. If you've had a puppy anytime in the recent past, you remember that we saw you a lot. That's because we want to see you first thing with your puppy, kind of establish who they are, how they are, and what they need. We also split up our vaccines over several visits. We’re seeing them relatively frequently with puppy preventative care to get them fully protected against everything and up-to-date.

As we get into the young adult years, we like to see your dog still at least once a year, just to make sure that they're maintaining okay, that we keep vaccinations up to date, and that no problems are developing that may not be apparent at home.

Then as dogs get into their older adult years, and even their senior years, we start to want to see them more frequently again. Dogs age more quickly than people do, which means that problems can arise much more rapidly. Seeing your older dog every six months can help us catch things early—things that you may overlook at home.

You're a big part of prevention as well. Paying attention at any stage of life to changes in routine, changes in behavior or interaction, and certainly changes in water intake and output can all be indicators that something is going on.

Preventative care is so expensive. Can't I just deal with problems when they come up?

That's certainly an option, but from my perspective, it's not the best option. I think it's less expensive to prevent problems than deal with them as they come up for a couple of reasons. One reason is there can be long-term effects of things that we can prevent. These illnesses are sometimes not fixable, which can mean chronic care and chronic medications, which obviously can add up and be more expensive.

For example, if we can start that Lyme vaccine at eight weeks and keep it up to date year to year, it will keep your dog protected. The vast majority of dogs are very well protected by that vaccine. The company also guarantees the vaccine. So if God forbid, your dog gets Lyme disease even though they're vaccinated, their care is going to be covered by that company.

If we didn't do the Lyme vaccine and your dog contracts Lyme, we recommend regular monitoring of protein levels in the urine, Lyme C6 titers. Often they need several rounds of medications because Lyme can become a lifelong disease. In a tiny percentage of dogs, it can lead to kidney failure.

So when you think about the small things that you can do each year or each month, like a flea and tick preventative to keep these problems from occurring, it ends up being a lot cheaper than dealing with a problem as it comes up.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (207) 865-3673, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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