Alex is a lover of animals, and an experienced licensed veterinary technician with a BS in Biology and and AS in Veterinary Technology.
Food and Nutrition
First things first, this is going to be a repeating theme in this article: you get what you pay for. Think about it. Most of us have learned at some point that for good quality you are going to have to pay a little more. I feel this sentiment transcends most areas of life and is not limited to the veterinary industry.
I think it is also safe to say that most of us know that fast food is bad for us. Think of the cheap dog food you find at the grocery store as fast food. It's ok if you are in a pinch (and your dog doesn't have a sensitive stomach) but not good for the long term. If you want your pet to be healthy and live a long life you need to make sure they are getting proper nutrition.
- Royal Canin
- Purina Pro Plan (important to note specifically this line)
These are some of the best foods for pets. Are they a little pricey? A bit. There are often coupons for Pro Plan in the Sunday paper! But, these companies have spent a lot of time and money on researching what pets need nutritionally.
There are a lot of pet food companies that 'bandwagon' onto popular human trends (like grain-free) to make pet owners feel like their pets are lacking in their diet. Some will even claim that pets are allergic to grains.
Fun fact: If a pet has food allergies it is far more likely that are allergic to the protein (most commonly beef, pork, or chicken) and not the grains. Also, feeding diets that are not nutritionally balanced can have some very harmful effects on your pet's health.
By feeding your pet the appropriate diet you can help prevent a lot of illness and improve the quality of your pet's life. That means less time and money spent at your vet's office! If you have any questions about which food is best for you and your pet, talk with your veterinarian.
I've heard from many clients that they have read online that veterinarians aren't taught about nutrition in school, and that is why they get their pet food recommendations online. I can promise you that if I had to take classes in veterinary technician school on nutrition, veterinary schools covered it too. Nutrition is crucial to the health and well-being of pets, and it is something your veterinarian will be familiar with.
There are a lot of vaccines out there for pets. Your veterinarian is the expert, that is why you see them. Not all vaccines are needed for all pets. If you have concerns about any vaccines talk with them.
Legally, all you need for dogs and cats is rabies, but there are so many other preventable diseases out there. The number of puppies I have seen come in with parvo because the breeder told the new owner not to vaccinate for it breaks my heart.
Talk with your veterinarian about what diseases are in the area (leptospirosis, Lyme, canine influenza, etc.) and what your pet could be exposed to. Do you need to vaccinate your cat that is completely indoors only in a single cat household for feline leukemia? Not necessarily. Have them tested and as long as they do not get out of the house or are exposed to another cat they should not be at risk of contracting the disease.
In my area, we do not see many snake bites, but there is a vaccine that helps with rattlesnake bites. Would it be recommended at my hospital? No. Would it be recommended at a veterinary hospital in the American southwest? Yes. Lyme disease is not prevalent in Nevada, but it is in Virginia.
If you are concerned about possible reactions to any vaccines (not as common as Dr. Google makes them out to be), simply call your veterinary clinic before your appointment and ask how much Benadryl to give and when to give it before and after the appointment. They will also be able to tell you if you should use liquid or tablets based upon your pet's needs. (Liquids might be easier for puppies, while larger dogs can take tablets.) They will even be able to calculate the proper dose for you.
Vaccines Given by Breeders
It is very likely that your veterinarian will not count these vaccines as valid. It's not because they are lining their pockets with money from puppy vaccines. It is for the safety of your pet. The veterinarian does not know if the vaccines given had been stored properly, if they were expired, or if they were given properly.
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While giving an expired vaccine that has not been stored in the fridge might not hurt your puppy, it most certainly will not protect them from parvo. I've had clients bring in paperwork from a breeder that indicated that the puppy was vaccinated for Tdapp. This is a human vaccine... I don't even want to know what the breeder actually gave, if anything at all.
If Your Pet Is Sick
If your pet is sick, it is best to call your vet's office. They will let you know if you should keep an eye on your pet, bring him in, or give him something at home. It will also be documented if your pet gets worse and ends up coming in for a visit.
Even if you think it might be nothing it could possibly be something. Fluffy has been shaking his head a lot lately. That could be an ear infection. You haven't seen Tiger the kitty urinate for a day? That could be a serious problem and possibly life-threatening for your cat. Spot has been dragging his hind end on your clean carpet. He most likely needs his anal glands expressed.
If left untreated, things can turn into big things. Sometimes, that is how vet bills get so high. Captain only vomited once, but now it's been three days and he isn't eating or drinking. What could have been a visit that ends with anti-nausea medication and monitoring at home now could mean fluids, bloodwork, x-rays, and maybe even a hospital stay. Not only could the visit be more costly your pet could be suffering. Pets are very good at hiding pain, but not very good at telling us what is wrong.
When in doubt call your veterinarian. You as the owner know your pet best and if you feel that something is off, chances are high that something is off.
The Staff Is Happy to Teach You
Not everyone knows how to trim their pet's nails or express anal glands. And not everyone wants to bring their pet into their vet's office every time their pet needs these basic services. I get it. Trust me. That is an extra expense and time you need to take out of your day to bring your pet in for something that could be done at home. Just ask your veterinary assistant or technician to show you how at your next appointment. Some pets might do better at home, and some might do better at the veterinary office. Not all pets are good with their paws or hind ends being touched. But, if you are lucky enough to have a pet that will let you trim their nails at home, why not?
If you have a dog that is prone to ear infections and needs their ears cleaned regularly, it might be a good idea to have the assistant show you how to properly clean your pet's ears.
If you have a pet that needs subcutaneous fluids administered at home, and your veterinarian is comfortable with you giving them, you can save yourself some time and money by learning how to give them at home. Just talk with your veterinarian.
I can also tell you this: Not only will you be saving yourself time and money by being able to perform basic care at home but your veterinary staff will be grateful for one less appointment. We are busy. Nearly every day, I have clients that express an interest in performing basic tasks at home and I am more than happy to take a few minutes and teach them. Truly. I strongly feel that as a technician this is part of my job. You can do a blood glucose curve at home, you can give those subcutaneous fluids, and you can give subcutaneous injections. I am all for client empowerment, and I will be your biggest cheerleader and coach.
Don't Believe Everything You Read Online
The number of times people come in thinking they already know what is wrong with their pet because they read about it on google is just silly. What is even sillier is how often people try home treatments based on what they read online.
I saw one dog that had an ear infection. His owner read online that she should clean his ears out with apple cider vinegar. (Remember when apple cider vinegar was all the rage?) She did this for a month before she brought him in. The apple cider vinegar had been making the infection worse, not helping. The veterinarian got the pet the proper medication and the ear infection cleared up.
There are some scary home remedies out there. Would you believe there are people that rub motor oil on their pets? There are. Would you do that to your baby? I think not. If you come across something that seems too good to be true it most likely is.
If you feel like you need to post something online to get advice that means you need to see a veterinarian. When in doubt, call the vet's office.
Is this everything? Not by a long shot. But understanding some of this information can help you to become a more confident pet owner.
If you feel that you cannot have a conversation with your veterinarian about any of the above topics, or you feel that they are only trying to increase profits, then you need to find a new veterinarian. You should be able to speak with your vet and the staff about any concerns you have.
Remember, no one entered the veterinary industry for the money. The hours are long, often there are more bad days than good (if you know what I mean), and the pay is terrible. Your vet staff is there because they genuinely care about animals and want to help them.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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