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Dr. Karen Becker Headshot

Why Even Healthy Pets Should See A Vet

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Since lots of people don't visit their own doctor until illness strikes, it's not surprising to me so many pet owners avoid the vet's office as well.

In many ways, the traditional medical establishment seems to have set the stage, encouraging sick visits, not well visits. The approach of conventional Western medicine, both human and veterinary, is often reactive rather than proactive.

The fact is that with the exception of a handful of common screening procedures and tests, some traditionally trained M.D.s and D.V.M.s wait for full-blown illness to show itself and then try to cure it with drugs, surgery or a combination of both.

Why Take My Pet to the Vet if He's Healthy?

I practice proactive veterinary medicine. I want to see your pet when he's healthy so I can help you help him stay that way.

My goal with my patients is to maintain them in the "white zone" of health first and treat disease -- the "black zone" -- as necessary.

In between the white and black zones is the grey zone, in which an animal can be moving in either direction -- toward disease or toward health. I do a lot of my best work with pets in the grey zone, where I'm often able to stop or significantly slow progress toward full-blown illness.

For example, let's say your pet's blood test results come back and some number is a bit off, but not yet out of the established "normal" range. Many vets would take a wait-and-see approach because the number is not (yet) out of whack enough to warrant further action.

In contrast, my approach, and the approach of any proactive practitioner, would be to probe deeper to find the root cause of the not-quite-normal blood test result.

Chances are, something is going on inside your pet's body which is moving her health from the white zone into the grey zone. We want to find out what that something is and deal with it before it becomes an expensive, debilitating or even life-threatening health crisis.

Lots of pet parents are amazed and hugely relieved to learn many disease processes can be halted or reversed with small dietary or lifestyle changes, often coupled with appropriate natural healing therapies.

Re-vaccination Should NOT Be a Reason for Regular Vet Checkups!

It's discouraging to learn that pet owners are often seeking out other sources for re-vaccinations, like pet stores and mobile clinics. And it's not the other sources that concern me; it's the re-vaccinations.

Yearly re-vaccinations are unnecessary and dangerous for many pets. These immunizations should not be used to promote annual veterinary visits. I believe that it's tragic so many pet owners have been led to believe that their pet's health is all about those yearly vaccinations.

At my clinic, I tailor vaccine protocols to minimize risk and maximize protection, taking into account the breed, background, nutritional status and overall vitality of the pet. The protocol I follow provides a single parvo and distemper vaccine at or before 12 weeks of age, and a second set after 14 weeks. I titer two weeks after the last set and if the dog has been successfully immunized, she's protected for life.

If titer tests on any pet, no matter the age, indicate vaccine levels are low, we recommend a booster for only the specific virus or viruses that titered low, and only for those to which the animal has a real risk of exposure.

We do not use or recommend combination vaccines (six to eight viruses in one shot), which is the traditional yearly booster.

Why I Encourage Routine Wellness Exams

I recommend twice yearly wellness examinations to my Natural Pet clients. This is especially true for animals getting up there in years.

It's somewhat the nature of humans to avoid situations that may bring bad news. This is another reason many pet owners avoid routine vet visits. It's the old "ignorance is bliss" approach. Needless to say, this isn't a wise outlook when it comes to issues of health.

That's why I want to emphasize, again, that in the case of a developing illness in your pet, often a few simple lifestyle changes are all that is needed to return your companion to glowing good health.

Many diseases seem to come on quickly and progress rapidly. The reality is that there are almost always subtle changes taking place long before there is evidence of a full-blown illness. It's those subtle changes I look for in routine wellness exams, so we can take action right away and hopefully prevent a developing illness from destroying your precious pet's health.

For the same reason, I also recommend you perform regular at-home wellness exams on your pet between veterinary visits.

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