Week One: The Veterinary Visit

An excerpt from 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog

The first week of our healthy dog program begins where it should, with a visit to your veterinarian's office. Before we can prescribe what's best for your dog, we must know what kind of shape he's in at the start of our program.

I know that many owners (and unfortunately some doctors) take the attitude that "He looks healthy, so he must be okay". Nothing could be further from the truth! I examine numerous animals each year that look healthy but have one or more illnesses, some of which can be quite serious.

It's been my experience that 99 percent of dogs have mild to severe periodontal disease, requiring their teeth to be cleaned under anesthesia at least once a year. Take a moment right now to examine your pet's teeth and gums. Unless your dog has had a recent dental cleaning, my guess is that your "healthy" dog has periodontal disease. The teeth, when healthy and free of infection, are white and the gums are pink (unless you have a dog with pigmented gums such as a Chow Chow). If the teeth have any yellow or brown tarter on them, and if the gum line (the place on the gums where the teeth and gums meet) is reddened -- a sign of gingivitis -- then your dog has periodontal disease and requires treatment. If your dog has not had a recent dental cleaning, you should schedule one before starting him on our 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog Program.

Early detection of disease is critical for early treatment and, in many cases, a complete cure. Therefore, we start our 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog Program with a complete diagnostic evaluation.

Remember, every year your dog ages is the equivalent of you aging about 7 to 10 years. If your dog is only evaluated annually, it is the same as you seeing your doctor once a decade, which is woefully inadequate.

The evaluation should include a thorough physical examination, history and blood and urine tests. Your doctor should be looking for diseases of the kidney, liver and heart, as well as various kinds of cancers. In my practice, Paws & Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas, we also find a number of pets with thyroid disease and low platelet or red blood cell counts, so have your dog checked for these problems as well.

Learn more about how to keep your dog in top shape with
8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, by Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M.

More articles by Shawn Messonnier D.V.M.


Reprinted from 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog: An Easy-to-Follow Program for the Life of Your Dog © 2003 by Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.

Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M., is a holistic veterinarian and nationally recognized expert on integrative medicine for animals. He is the author of several books, including The Allergy Solution for Dogs, The Arthritis Solution for Dogs and the award-winning Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats.

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