After 20 years of hearing the term “preventive health care”, most people have finally acknowledged and embraced the role it plays in human medicine. Annual physical exams and vaccinations from childhood through all stages of life are the accepted standard of care. Pregnant women visit their obstetricians monthly before delivering babies as prenatal care is routine and has helped decrease infant mortality. The colonoscopy, skin cancer screenings and the mammogram are all common topics of discussion as people age given the widespread acceptance that such screening tests help save lives.
In veterinary medicine, preventive health care for pets is currently receiving renewed emphasis from the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), AAHA (the American Animal Hospital Association) and AAFP (the American Association of Feline Practitioners). Guidelines have been developed for veterinarians to assess a pet’s risks for the development of disease. The expertise of a licensed veterinarian performing a thorough physical exam and prescribing tests as needed is essential in preventing disease. The annual exam is even more important for our pets as they often hide their symptoms. In a recent study, approximately 1/3 of all pets coming in for routine annual visits had significant on-going disease undetected by their owners (Zoetis, May 2013). Some of the more common findings include dental disease (a huge problem in cats), arthritis (missed because the pets slowly become less active) and weight loss (which can happen at an imperceptibly slow rate).