Check Up Time!

By Dr Cam Day BVSc on 2 April 2017

Are you a forgetful pet owner? Many of us neglect our once-a-year pet care jobs because we forget when those duties are due. Nevertheless, it becomes easier to remember such things when we link them to a particular annual event such as the holidays that occur around Easter time.

That way, whenever the Easter eggs are cracking or the Anzac Day Last Post is piping, you’ll remember that you also need to get cracking with your pet's vaccinations, yearly heartworm injection, worming medications and other important pet care tasks.

It's easy to be complacent about pet care because many deadly diseases are so easy to control nowadays. While this complacency can lead to forgetfulness, neglecting tasks such as your pet's yearly 'jabs' for instance, can have dire consequences.

So, for a holiday activity, get the kids together so the whole family can take the Pooch and Puss Cat to the local veterinary surgery for their annual check ups. That way, your whole tribe can become immersed in the responsibilities of caring for the family pet.


Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases including canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia/enteritis (FPV) have been reported around Australia in late 2016 to early 2017. There is some concern that vaccination rates are down and these disease outbreaks emphasise the need to have animals vaccinated regularly. Dogs should also be vaccinated against distemper and hepatitis and cats against the two viruses causing 'cat flu', feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus.

Kennel cough also rears its head in many areas throughout the year. It is important for owners to get their dogs vaccinated at least 2 weeks before going into the kennel to optimise their protection. Vaccinating only days before can potentially put their dog and other dogs in the kennel at risk.

There are vaccines available for puppies that can be finished at 10 weeks of age (for the C3 - parvo, distemper, hepatitis - components). If an intranasal canine cough vaccine is used, they can be fully protected with a C5 at 10 weeks of age! This means earlier and safer socialisation of puppies.

Three-year C3 vaccines are becoming more popular around Australia. Although dogs still need to visit their vet yearly for their annual health check, canine cough vaccine and heartworm prevention, the 3-year vaccine means their dogs require fewer vaccination visits over time. This is great for dogs that don't like needles, or for owners concerned about vaccine reactions. Your vet can advise you on the best option for your pet.

For cats, the latest data shows that 14% to 29% of cats that have outdoor exposure are positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV or feline AIDS). This is a potentially deadly disease spread by fighting. If cats can't be kept indoors at all times, the best prevention is vaccination from their vet.

Heartworm prevention

Easter is also a good time to check on how well you have been getting on with your pet's heartworm prevention. Have you been the perfect pet owner and given all the heartworm preventatives your pet needs, or have you forgotten some?

If you feel you have missed a few, then a simple heartworm test will show if your dog has a problem and if the worst happens and your pet has a heartworm infection, at least you will know this and your vet can implement treatment before serious problems commence.

If you are forgetting your dog's heartworm treatment regularly, perhaps you would be better to change to an injectable heartworm preventative so that you can adopt the principle of 'inject and forget', thereafter giving your vet the job of reminding you about your pet's yearly Easter injections.

Intestinal worming

Intestinal worms are another consideration. Your pets should be dosed with a good-quality intestinal wormer on a regular basis, so Easter is one of the times you should earmark for this task. Use an all-wormer that lays a claim to zapping away all the wrigglers that your dog or cat can harbour, including tapeworms if you live in a tapeworm-affected area.

There is now a huge range of worming products available, including combination products that protect your pet from other nasties including fleas, so talk to your vet for the best product for your pet.

Dental care

Easter is also a time to think about your pet's teeth. Being such a responsible pet owner, I am sure you have been brushing your pet's teeth every day, but just in case you have missed a day or two in the last 365, maybe having Fido's or Felix's teeth cleaned at your vet's clinic is a good idea.

This will probably involve an anaesthetic because, unlike humans, pets don't stay still when their teeth are cleaned, and unlike human patients, pets sometimes bite the dentist! Don’t let the anaesthetic concern you – modern anaesthetics are very safe and the risk of an anaesthetic is a drop in the ocean compared with the risk involved if your pet has diseased teeth.


Another consideration is that Easter heralds the beginning of chilly weather. This means that the evil fingers of arthritis will be prodding the old bones of senior pets, thus causing pain and discomfort. There are many new and effective treatments for arthritis that will minimise the pain and return mobility for both dogs and cats, so no pet should forced to hobble their way through winter.

Behaviour problems

Lastly, with a bit of extra time over Easter, why not tackle some of your pet’s problem behaviours? That annoying barking behaviour your Pooch is practising or your calamitous cat’s claw sharpening behaviour that is wreaking havoc on your furniture could be remedied quite easily. Having a week or two of holiday time means you can get stuck into the behaviour therapy so that the change occurs much more quickly. All you need is the right advice and your veterinarian can help with that, too.

No chocolate!

And another reminder – don’t go feeding your pet chocolate over Easter and other holiday periods as chocolate can make a pet quite ill.

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