Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on veterinary care with the majority of the costs spent on reacting to issues versus preventing them. Traditional veterinary care can be more reactive than it is proactive, focusing on dealing with issues only after they express. Traditional vets take a problem that has surfaced such as allergies, digestive issues, etc. and then prescribes some kind of tool to combat or eliminate that specific problem.
As an example, you as the owner notice that after your dog’s 6th birthday, she has less energy to exercise and play and instead has become very unstable. You take the dog to the vet and find out that she has developed arthritis, as her breed is genetically predisposed to the disease. The vet then prescribes a medication to address her discomfort, and she remains on the pharmaceutical for the remainder of her life. This approach is more reactive.
How can you think Proactively?
If you were to change your mindset and focus on preventive care versus a reactive approach as a pet parent, you would actively take charge of your pet’s health by using wellness screens, examinations, and nutrition. This includes diet, exercise and regular veterinary wellness exams. The application of hands-on and hands-off bodywork can also be as therapeutic for pets as it is for humans, potentially reducing the need for some other clinical intervention.
What are Wellness Screens?
Humans are asked by their family doctor to come in once a year -sick or not- for an exam and for annual lab work. Lab work can evaluate your organ and blood functions and detect early changes. These changes cannot always be determined by physical exams. If these changes can be detected early enough to intervene, some can be resolved or the progress of which can be slowed down. It is the same for our dogs! Lab work is a simple first step which is then submitted to the laboratory for analysis. A good practice is to time a yearly blood test with your dog’s birthday. After the results are received, your veterinarian will review the results, compare to the current physical exam and, if labs have been performed before, compare the new to the last results.
What consists of a Proactive Examination?
Traditional vets usually recommend a yearly examination. Ideally, a proactive vet would instead recommend an evaluation once every 6 months especially since animals tend to age twice as fast as humans. Being a proactive partner in your dog’s care means that you will bring with you a list of questions/concerns that you may have and really join in on the exam discussion! Age is NOT a disease. Examinations should be performed in a systematic and detailed manner. There are lymph nodes that should be palpated and many joints to be rotated and the abdomen should be palpated and masses or bumps should be tested to know if they are cancerous.
What is Proactive Nutrition?
We eat to thrive not just survive - the same goes for your dogs! Choose a fresh, healthy, balanced diet like Volhard Dog Nutrition! The ingredients are human-grade, not by-products or leftovers deemed unfit for human consumption. During the cold dehydration process, only moisture is extracted, so that the integrity of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids is maintained, which revitalize when hydrated with water. Herbs have been added to support the liver, kidneys, heart, stomach and the digestive tract of the dog. Give your dogs body what it needs to keep the symptoms of age and disease away preventatively!
Much of what I've learned recently about being more proactive has come from Dr. Karen Becker, a proactive integrative vet who is one of the most followed vets online and an extremely prolific content creator. If I were to apply Dr. Becker’s proactive approach to the example given above, then it would look like this: your proactive vet would advise you to provide a certain lifestyle and diet for the dog (knowing her genetic predisposition to developing arthritis) from the moment you brought her in as a puppy. You would find a healthy food such as Volhard Dog Nutrition to start your puppy out on it as early as you could. Throughout your dog's life, she enjoys healthy, strong joints, not developing arthritis until her 12th year. Your dog remains on her healthy diet, perhaps adding in an herbal supplement for managing the extra discomfort on bad days, for the remaining years of her life. This is a less expensive and more holistic approach to a healthy dog’s life plan.
This past fall, Volhard Dog Nutrition employees attended the Marcus and Berube 2018 Health Summit in New Jersey and learned that the following tools and a good partnership with a proactive vet can be used to take a proactive approach to a dogs health:
- Using tools from the conventional and holistic boxes.
- Annual (or more frequent) Veterinary Wellness Exams.
- Annual Tests past regular blood work (see links below).
- Minimal but Responsible Vaccination then titer.
- Delayed Spay / Neuter.
- Minimal or Non-chemical pest and parasite prevention.
- Quality Nutrition Including Fresh Foods.
- Practicing Home Exams.
- Body Handling for familiarity with physical manipulation.
- Weight Control.
- Regular Oral Care using raw recreational bones 2x/week.
- Individualized Senior Care.
- Mitigation of Breed-predisposed Conditions.
Therapy as needed (including massage, chiropractic, acupuncture).
Need more information? Here are some links to learn more from Dr. Karen Becker about being proactive, not just reactive:
Veterinary Diagnostic Tests
Veterinary Physical Exam
Diagnostic Tests for Your Pet (video discussion)