Does My Dog Really Need a Yearly Vet Visit?

Dog getting vet checkup
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Q. My vet won’t refill my dog’s heartworm medication if I don’t bring my dog in at least once a year. He says it’s for the good of my dog. I say it’s for the good of his bank account. Who’s right?

A. I have to side with your veterinarian on this one. Your vet would be doing your dog a disservice if he prescribed a medication to a pet he never saw. Your veterinarian also needs to follow both the law and the guidelines of ethical practice, both of which demand that prescriptions be written only for animals actively under his care — which they cannot be if they're never in his exam room.

Prevention Is the Key to Good Health

Annual examinations (or twice-yearly for older pets) are the cornerstone of a good preventive care regimen, and preventive care is where the real savings come in. You will truly save money when you can work with your veterinarian to tweak your pet’s care in order to prevent health problems from occurring (changing his diet, for example, to prevent or reverse obesity), or to catch and treat illness before it becomes expensive — and possibly life threatening. The approval of another year’s worth of heartworm medication, as well as a review of all other medications, is part of that process.

I know many people accept the need for that first heartworm test, but balk at subsequent ones. They argue that they've given the medications as prescribed and their pets should be heartworm-free. Problem is, we're only human. Studies shows that about a quarter of all pets don't get all their heartworm doses, leaving room for infestation. Your veterinarian needs to make sure your pet isn't carrying these parasites despite your best intentions. That means you'll need to take him in for a heartworm test at regular intervals.

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