Ask the Vet

Doctor's appointments are rarely as fun as a Saturday night at Howl at the Moon, but, alas, they're a necessary routine. Same goes for your pet. Dr. Marguerite Gleason of The Carolina's Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic (13331 York Center Dr., 704-588-9788, recommends regular exams every six to twelve months. Here are the top five questions to ask your vet:

Ask the VetDoes my pet really need all of those vaccines?
Make sure your vet is tailoring vaccines to your pet and not overvaccinating for every condition. It's not a one-size-fits-all situation. The vet's vaccine policy should be based on the individual animal, as too many vaccines can overstimulate the immune system, leading to more disease and even cancer in cats. Gleason says adult cats and dogs should receive a distemper combination vaccine every three years, which limits the frequency at which their immune system is stimulated.

Do you need to run blood work on my pet today?
Gleason encourages annual blood panels for healthy adult dogs and cats, more often for senior pets. "Thirty percent of the blood panels I send off for apparently healthy animals come back with something irregular," she says. Sometimes your pet can't tell if it's feeling badly, so this practice provides early detection of diseases like diabetes, thyroid conditions, and urinary tract infections.

Did you check my pet's teeth?
Bad breath is not a result of too many dog treats, but is actually the product of bacteria under the gumline that can get into an animal's bloodstream and lead to severe problems in their kidneys, liver, heart, and other internal organs. Gleason says since pets don't typically show signs of oral discomfort, they can learn to live with chronic pain, ultimately worsening the condition. Pets should receive professional teeth cleaning, by a vet and under anesthesia, once a year.

Should I microchip my dog or cat?
Gleason wishes most pets were microchipped. "So many animals wind up in shelters and aren't able to tell us where they live," says Gleason. Inserting the microchip, which is the size of a grain of rice and lies under the skin between the shoulders, is a five-second procedure and can tell a shelter where the animal's family is.

What diet is best for my pet?

Two-thirds of all pets in the U.S. are overweight, primarily because owners go by what is listed on the back of the food package rather than find out the specific dietary needs of their animal based on their breed, activity level, and metabolism. Gleason advises one cup of adult, light food per day per 20 pounds for dogs, and a half cup per day for most cats.

The American Veterinary Dental Society recommends professional cleanings every six months to prevent dental disease. For the DIY types, pick up doggie toothpaste and a three-sided doggie toothbrush ($5.99) at City Paws (16615 West Catawba Ave., 704-895-0136, Or check out the toothbrush kit ($9.99) that includes a two-sided toothbrush, toothpaste, and a finger brush, which is ideal to use on cats.


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