Bellevue Veterinary Hospital
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Frequently Asked Questions
Over the years, we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions. Please feel free to browse the questions and answers below. As always, we welcome discussion with you directly, so if the answer to your question isn’t listed below, we would like to hear from you.
Why does my pet need an annual physical examination?
Two main reasons:
- “Prevention is the best medicine” … and
- Recognizing disease early will usually allow for more successful treatment results.
Granted, most of the time (hopefully) your pet is probably feeling just fine and there are no signs of disease. Checking for signs of disease at least annually, increases our chances of preventing future problems or catching things early.
What does the vet look for during an exam?
- Body condition (overweight, underweight, muscle condition, etc.)
- Alertness, behavior & attitude (is your pet reacting normally to the things around them? moving normally?)
- Eyes, Ears, Nose — any redness, discharge, swelling, or snuffling/sneezing?
- Lymph nodes are examined for any enlargement.
- Mouth & teeth — (in those pets who’ll allow it) we look in the mouth for any sores or changes to the gums & tongue, but also check the teeth for tartar & signs of decay or infection.
- Haircoat & skin — Watch for fleas!
- Heart & Lungs — We listen to breathing sounds as well as heart rate & rhythm. We also try to determine if there is a heart “murmur”.
- Abdomen – we observe & feel the belly to try and detect any abnormalities inside. We can often feel normal structures such as kidneys, spleen, bladder & intestines.
- Temperature — body temperature is taken by aural (ear) thermometer or rectal thermometer. During this procedure, the tail is manipulated and checked + the perineum (area around the anus) is examined for any changes.
I have a new puppy or kitten. What do I do next?
From breeder? Some new pets are purchased from a breeder. If they have not received a checkup and first immunization yet (8 weeks & older), you should call the veterinary office to make an appointment for this. Often they will have their “first vaccinations” already done. Boosters and a checkup are required about a month after the first ones. Usually a breeder will give you suggestions for these follow- up veterinary appointments. If not, please phone our office to ask.
A new stray? Finally some new pets may be found as strays. These pets should be examined and assessed for whatever health care requirements they need based on their individual circumstances.
How often do I have to vaccinate my pet?
See our section on vaccinations
Individual lifestyle will dictate what vaccinations are required and how often. The following questions are considerations that can assist in vaccination frequency decisions.
Does your pet socialize with others?
Do you travel with your pet and if so, where?
Does your pet spend time in a boarding facility? (or frequently at a grooming shop?)
Does your pet have any ongoing health concerns?
Rabies vaccination is recommended every 3rd year (on Vancouver Island) after the initial immunization and booster (at about 4 months and then 1-1/2 years respectively).
How can I get rid of fleas?
We carry medications that are given once/month or once every 3 months by mouth, or products that can be applied once/ month on the skin. Also there is a pill that can “kickstart” the flea eradication by working fast but for a short burst. These are all very safe and we use them on our own pets.
Some pets who socialize a lot with other animals may require ongoing flea treatments throughout the year to prevent infestation.
Others, who live a more isolated life, may only require treatment when there is a problem.
If you know that there are fleas present, all pets in the household will have to be treated for several months.
Phone our veterinary office for answers to your specific questions.
How often to treat for worms?
Some types of parasites are transmissible to people, especially children and immuno-compromised adults, so this is an important health care concern for the whole family. Regular deworming should be considered for every pet in contact with the outside world. Individual lifestyle and exposure potential will determine how often deworming should be recommended (from once every month to once every 6-12 months), and this is a conversation you should have with your veterinarian.
What do you mean by 'geriatric pets'?
Aging pets are classified as “mature”or “senior”, and then “geriatric”.
For larger dog breeds this occurs earlier than for the smaller breeds and for cats.
Dogs over 50 lbs are considered mature over 7 years of age and geriatric at 9 or 10 years of age & up.
Smaller dogs & all cats are considered “mature” at 9 years, and “geriatric” after about 12 yrs.
Suggestions for geriatric pet care:
Check-ups: Older pets are more likely to experience chronic, slowly progressive diseases due to their age. An examination every 6 months increases the likelihood that disease will be caught earlier in its course.
Weight management: It is much easier to prevent weight gain than to try to lose extra weight afterwards. Leaner body condition encourages a healthier, longer and more comfortable life for your pet. Weight issues are very often influencing the health of our senior pets.
Screening blood tests should be done to obtain baseline values and detect early changes in thyroid, liver, kidney or other organ systems. Discuss the need for & frequency of blood testing with your veterinarian.
Dental exams & treatments: Many older pets are beginning to show signs of dental problems and gum disease. Although ideally we should try to prevent this from happening (by brushing teeth regularly through life), dental disease should be treated when there is evidence it exists. A cleaner, healthier mouth can translate into a happier, longer life.
Care of sore older joints: Larger breeds of dogs, especially, have a harder time getting up and around as they age. The first piece of advise to take is: keep the dog at his/her optimal weight. Being overweight will only add to the discomfort of osteoarthritis. Talk to your vet about investigating and treating canine osteoarthritis. There are some very effective pain medications available, as well as other remedies to consider.
Should I have pet insurance?
We do not sell pet insurance. Therefore we can’t get into details about premiums, and deductibles, and what is covered by different policies. We’d like to encourage people to look into the different options.
Insurance is a great thing to have when you suddenly need it. Premiums are based on the breed & age of dog or cat, any pre-existing health conditions, and the geographical area you live in. There are web sites with explanations and information for anyone who wishes to look into this.
Why should we consider our pets' teeth?
Dental health has a significant influence on the rest of the body. When not kept in check, bacteria in the mouth can invade below the gum line, cause dental decay and affect deeper tissues and cause chronic infections. Sometimes these infections can travel further to other organs through the bloodstream. Our veterinarians recommend maintaining your pet’s dental health through annual check-ups. Some pets will require more frequent cleanings and dental exams than others, depending on age, breed, and individual variation.
Potential Consequences of Not Maintaining Dental Health:
e.g. heart, kidneys
Why does veterinary dentistry require a general anesthetic?
A general anesthesia is required for our veterinary team to do a thorough examination and cleaning.
Reasons for this are:
- Examination, cleaning and polishing of all surfaces of the teeth, right to the back of the mouth.
- Examination and cleaning below the gum line
Dental cleanings that are done without attention to the area under the gum line are leaving behind a lot of plaque, tartar and bacteria to continue the progression of decay.
Cleanings without general anesthetic are only cosmetic procedures.
- Dental x-rays are often indicated
Dental x-rays are necessary to assess health of the tissues beneath the gum line (bone, periodontal ligament, and root of each tooth).
- Dental extractions are often indicated
What about teeth that need to be pulled?
Dogs & cats have much longer dental roots than those of humans. Not all tooth extractions are the same. Some teeth are simply ready to fall out! Some have three roots and only one of the roots is diseased (so two are holding strong!) Some teeth have very little root left and others have huge roots (sometimes almost twice the size of the crown), and some are curved or even hooked!
So they are not all treated exactly the same.
But most extractions require local anesthesia (or similar to the “freezing” that you get at the dentist). In veterinary dentistry, this decreases the amount of anesthetic gas required to keep the patient anesthetised. It also improves the patient’s comfort during recovery. Other pain medications are given during and post-operatively, in addition to daily for 3-4 days post-op, depending on the patient (and on the extraction).
What about pain?
We are very attentive to our patient’s comfort level – in response to chronic pain, or the post-operative period after a surgery or a dental extraction.
Good pain control, given prior to, and during, a procedure, decreases the amount of anesthetic required to keep the patient “asleep” for a surgical procedure.
Various methods of surgical and medical analgesia (pain control) are used in our hospital:
Pre-anesthetic medications: Before the patient goes under general anesthesia, a sedation is given that also includes some pain control medication. If pain control is dealt with before it’s really needed, the patient experiences less discomfort to begin with and will require less pain medication overall.
Local anesthesia: Freezing the nerves to an area. This is when lidocaine or bupivicaine is instilled locally around a nerve that influences the site of the procedure or surgery. A good example of this is when we use dental nerve blocks for a tooth extraction in veterinary dentistry.
Intra-operative pain medications: Often medications are given intravenously just prior or during a procedure to add pain control to our anesthetic protocol.
Post-operative analgesics: These medications include injectable drugs given in the clinic after the procedure, as well as meds that go home with the pet for a few days after a procedure.
Medical short-term & long-term analgesics: These medications are often anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the discomfort of a temporary injury or alleviate the inflammation of ongoing arthritis. Sometimes other types of prescription pain relievers are also added or used on their own.