ASK THE VET: Veterinary Basics
Answered by MHS Veterinarian Dr. Michael Redmer, D.V.M.

Q. I recently visited the Michigan Humane Society and became a first-time adopter, having fallen for Charlie, an 8-month-old yellow Labrador retriever. Since I’m new to pet caretaking and anxious to begin a relationship with a veterinarian, what are the basics I should know to help keep Charlie healthy, so we can enjoy many years together?

Ask the Vet 

A. That is a great question and one that we at MHS like to say has a simple answer. Within the Michigan Humane Society veterinary program, we use the acronym “S.I.M.P.L.E.” to highlight the six key components of medical care for your pet’s well-being to help ensure a happy, healthy Charlie for many years to come:

Spay/Neuter: This surgery ideally is performed at a young age to maximize the physical, as well as behavioral, benefits of pet sterilization. In addition to preventing many medical and behavioral problems, early-age spaying and neutering is 100% effective in preventing unwanted litters that contribute further to the ever-present overpopulation of adoptable pets in this country. Although early sterilization is ideal and strongly recommended, many of these benefits still are achieved in older pets.

Immunizations: Vaccinations are essential and should begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age to stimulate the animal’s immune system and help protect him against many potentially fatal infectious diseases. The series of vaccines should be administered to healthy animals by a licensed veterinarian at specific time intervals in young and previously unvaccinated dogs and cats.

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Subsequent vaccines in mature animals are necessary to provide continued protective immunity. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your pet.

Microchipping: A microchip is a permanent form of identification for your pet, effective even when collars and ID tags are lost or removed. This simple microchipping procedure can be performed with minimal discomfort at the time of any routine veterinary visit.

The grain of rice-sized microchip is implanted with a syringelike device in a matter of seconds, and the pet-specific code, which is recorded in a national database, can be determined with a hand-held scanner at an animal shelter or veterinary facility. As with ID tags, the pet owners must update their contact information as it becomes necessary.

Parasite Control: Internal parasites include those of the intestines, such as hookworm or tapeworm, as well as those of the blood, such as heartworm. These parasites often go undetected, even by the most observant pet owners, until significant illness is present. Some internal parasites also are zoonotic, or, transferable from animals to people.

External parasites include fleas, ticks, mites and lice. Fleas often are the intermediate source of tapeworm infestation in dogs and cats, as well as humans. Ticks can transmit infectious diseases to animals and people.

Mites can be a source of chronic skin and ear conditions. Routine testing should be performed by your veterinarian, who also can provide safe and effective preventative and treatment medications.

Self-diagnosing conditions and using products purchased over-the-counter or online can be ineffective and potentially harmful to your pet.

Lifestyle Considerations: Research a potential new member of the family and choose a pet that is compatible with your lifestyle, with regard to your age, level of activity, living conditions, and the amount of time you have to spend with a pet.

Early pet-owner education is essential to ensure your pet has a proper diet, exercise and housing. Overweight pets often have associated medical and orthopedic problems.

Examination: Your veterinarian should conduct regular examinations for preventative care, as well as for any medical or behavioral concerns. Examinations are performed during vaccination appointments, as well as on an annual basis, to assess your pet for potential physical, dental and behavioral problems.

Wellness blood testing also should be performed as part of an annual exam. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Routine, annual visits to your veterinarian can maximize your pet’s quality of life and life expectancy, minimize your costs of diagnosing and treating medical and behavioral problems, and give you the peace of mind that you are doing all you can for your pet’s good health.

Additionally, your adoption of Charlie automatically enrolls him in the MHS’ new Alumni Club for one year; this club membership entitles you to valuable benefits, including 10% off all MHS veterinary services and products for your new companion.

Let me welcome you to the club and express our hope that you and Charlie will continue your relationship with MHS through the utilization of one of the organization’s three veterinary centers, in Detroit, Rochester Hills and Westland.

Michael Redmer, D.V.M., has been a staff veterinarian at the Michigan Humane Society Berman Center for Animal Care in Westland for more than 14 years. The three MHS veterinary centers comprise one of the largest veterinary practices in the state.

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