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Posted on 08-15-2017

When was the last time your cat went to the veterinarian?

Cats have been getting overlooked by pet owners when it comes to wellness care. There are lots of reasons why this happens, and most are related to the fact that owners think checkups aren't needed if their cat appears healthy.

Ironically, these same owners take their kids, dogs and themselves to the doctor and dentist regularly for wellness visits.

Surveys done by the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Feline Practitioners show that even though there are more cats in this country, cats visit the vet half as often as dogs.

Most cat owners only see the vet when their cat is sick, and many cats quite literally hide signs of illness in places like the closet and under beds. Many times, people incorrectly think signs of illness, like inappropriate litter habits, are simply a way for a cat to communicate negative feelings.

By the time owners recognize changes in behavior most likely indicate a health problem, their cat may be seriously ill.

The AVMA and your vet want to encourage cat owners to get your feline friends the wellness appointment you've been putting off. We want to see your cat at least twice a year. Maintaining wellness is much easier than treating illness.

What will happen during an appointment?

1. A physical exam, when performed well, looks like we are petting and playing with your cat. The vet is really checking the body condition, weight, gums, teeth, skin, hair coat, ears, eyes, heart, lungs and organs.

We make it look like we are playing, so both you and your cat relax. My office employs stress-reducing and fear-free techniques to create happier visits.

Be sure to let the office staff know if you have a scaredy-cat when you schedule so we can take our time, helping you create a better vet experience.

2. Parasite prevention helps protect you and your pet from internal parasites, fleas and ticks. Indoor pets need parasite control because up to two-thirds of indoor cats harbor intestinal parasites. Flea control is also an important way to prevent blood parasites, like Bartonella, which can spread between cats and owners.

3. Laboratory testing may include blood counts, liver and kidney testing, thyroid levels, cardiac enzymes, cancer testing, virus screening and urine tests. Even when tests are normal, we create a range of normals for your pet.

4. X-rays are recommended to monitor for bone and joint health, and heart and lung conditions.

5. Vaccines may be recommended based on your pet's risk of exposure and age, but don't expect the same vaccine routine that was suggested 10 years ago. Most vets have changed immunization programs as a result of new data about vaccine needs.

6. Expect to be asked about your pet's behavior, eating and litter habits. If there are any abnormalities, explore possible solutions your vet recommends.

7. Weight control and exercise will likely be mentioned. Be sure to find out how to keep your pet active and learn how to prevent feline diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.

8. If visiting a holistic vet, you may see something called motion palpation of joints, which alerts the vet to the need for X-rays and possible spinal adjustments. This info helps us improve joint health.

Whatever your reason for delaying a checkup for your cat, call your vet this week and plan to improve your pet's quality of life and your knowledge of steps you can take at home to provide better nutrition, dental health and even games which stimulate movement.

Schedule an appointment when you won't feel rushed, and if you have flexible hours, ask the staff for a low-stress appointment time of day.

Bring your pet to his visit in a hard-sided carrier with a removable lid. Be sure you have gotten your cat comfortable with the carrier by leaving it open offering treats, cat nip and toys for several days before the visit.

You might be able to tell your friends: "I took my cat to the vet on Take Your Cat to the Vet Day, Aug. 22.”

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