Posted on March 12, 2018 by

What’s the Deal with Preventive Care?

By Margot K. Vahrenwald, DVM, AVJ

One of the areas where pet owners and veterinarians sometimes struggle is preventive care – and, with that, frequency of examinations.  To an owner, an exam is an exam is an exam. To a veterinarian, there is a very marked difference in a preventive care exam versus seeing a patient for a minor or major illness. And, we also legally have to follow our licensure for the definition of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship – per Colorado regulations, “the veterinarian should have sufficient knowledge of the animal to understand its current health and render at least a preliminary diagnosis. This would require that the veterinarian is personally acquainted with the animal through office visits.”

As veterinarians, we have a very limited window of time in the exam room to extract information about our non-speaking patient from an often slightly stressed owner, process that information along with the results of our hands-on exam while formulating a diagnostic plan and getting those diagnostics done and evaluated and then coming up with and fulfilling a treatment plan – usually about 15 to, if really lucky, 25 minutes. And, still trying to get you out the door to deal with the rest of your undoubtedly busy life demands in a reasonable amount of time.

When focusing on a specific problem, major or minor, we don’t have time to cover a long list of preventive care needs – we’re looking at how to best address the problem or problems being presented that appointment. We’re consulting on the ill pet in front of us – and while we tend to be wholistic in our view of examining the patient from nose to tail, our focus is on the specific issue/s of that day.

A preventive care examination is meant to concentrate on a pet’s age, life stage, health risks due to age/breed/lifestyle, seasonal risks, nutrition, parasite risks/prevention, oral health and behavior – and whatever else the owner brings up as valuable questions or concerns. From that preventive care evaluation, we tailor vaccinations, diagnostic screenings, treatment, weight loss plans and more to your individual pet – also in that same 15 to 25 minute time span of the doctor time of your scheduled appointment. Whew – tired yet?

Remember, your cat or dog is aging physiologically the equivalent of one year of human time every three – yes, three – months. And, preventive care means that we can talk about the changes of needs of your pet at various points of age – going from a teenager to a young adult, going from the equivalent of a 45 year old human to a 55 year old (things change in middle age!).

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” really is part of the preventive care paradigm.  If we can prevent a problem from arising or identify and manage a chronic health issue early, we are not only able to save the pet owner financially, but we also can support our veterinary goal of increasing the quality and quantity of your pet’s life.

The recommended guidelines for preventive care based on age/life stage are:

  • Puppies and Kittens – need to be evaluated by their veterinarian at least twice during their initial vaccinations and care.
  • Adult dogs under age seven and cats under age eight – need to have a preventive care exam at least annually.
  • Senior dogs age seven and older and senior cats age eight and older – should be seen by their veterinarian for preventive care at least twice yearly.

I can see you thinking, particularly for a senior pet, this could get pricey. Pets do come with a healthcare price tag, but regular preventive care exams actually could save you financially by preventing bigger, more expensive problems.  Your veterinarian can help you plan out preventive care to provide a win-win for you and your pet health-wise and financially.

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Posted on February 6, 2018 by

Tooth Matters – How Much Should a Pet Dental Cleaning Cost?

The nationally acclaimed Pet Dental Health Month is February, but, in reality, dental/periodontal disease never takes a vacation or slows down – it’s always accruing in your pet’s mouth every day. And, unless, you are giving your pet twice daily toothbrushing and regular adjunctive home oral care, your cat or dog will need to have their teeth assessed and professionally cleaned by your veterinarian at least a few times in their life.

How often a pet needs to have their teeth cleaned is variable, but many should have at least annual dental cleaning and assessments while others may be more frequent and sometimes less frequent. Breed, crowding of teeth and other issues play a significant role in how quickly tartar accrues.  Add to that a faster than human physiologic time clock and you can see why we develop dental/periodontal disease.

One question we always hear is, “Why does it cost so much for my pet to get their teeth cleaned?” It’s simple really – it is not comparable to when you and I as humans get our teeth cleaned at regular visits every four, six or twelve months. Rather, veterinarians are performing a deep cleaning for which we humans would be drugged to keep us in the chair with our patients safely under general anesthesia.  And, most typically, we are dealing with a pet’s periodontal disease at stage 2 or greater while humans getting regular dental care tend to have minimal periodontal disease.

It’s hard to compare facility to facility and care varies highly among practices, but the chart below can help you ask questions if it is not obvious the level of care your pet will receive.  Cheaper is not better when it comes to pet dental and periodontal care and treatment – do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian about what is and isn’t included in a dental assessment and cleaning as well as who monitors the pet, who cleans the teeth and does the veterinarian perform the extractions. Transparency should be present and, if not, should give you concern for the level of care.

Lastly, know that good oral health and dental care can keep your pet comfortable and actually give them more healthy years with you.

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Posted on November 30, 2017 by

It’s the Best Time of the Year …. The Holidays!!!!

By Margot Vahrenwald, DVM, ASVJ

No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus or other around this time of the year, you will want to ensure that the furry members (and maybe the humans) of the household are taken care of with a gift or two.  I’m changing up our annual compilation of pet holiday shopping by moving it online this year and rather than only highlighting specific products, have also included a list of some fun pet sites.  Please click on the highlighted links for more information or purchasing. Enjoy! Wishing all the best of the season and a Happy New Year.

For the Humans:

Fairsile Pet Pajamas – your pets may not appreciate the thought or the garment, but a great picture for next year’s Christmas card.

A wearable masterpiece if you are a Grumpy Cat fan – these slippers  or these less expensive slippers to keep your feet warm.

Adog Pet First Aid Travel Kit – this or alternate pet first aid packet that can go with you on all adventures.

Vino Canidae – wine glasses that declare your love of pet and wine.

For the Cats:

Laptop Cat Scratching Pad – for the cat who loves your computer, a realistic-sized cardboard computer complete with scratcher keyboard and a mouse to play with.

Catit Senses 2.0 Circuit – a play-track circuit to test your feline’s canny skills

Laser Chasing Scratch Post – from Hammacher Schlemmer, the best modern scratching post for our feline friends, they can scratch but will also play with the randomly generated laser lights for hours.

For the Dogs:

Pooch Selfie: The Original Dog Selfie Stick – it’s hard to get a great still shot of your canine friend. This simple selfie-helper attaches to your cell phone and keeps their attention on you.

Wigzi Dual Doggie Pet Leash – when you have multiple dogs to walk, it can be a crazy tangle. This dual dog leash avoids tangles and even allows adjustment of leash length individually.

Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball Interactive Treat Kibble Dispensing Activity Ball – keep boredom at bay with a treat dispensing ball. Adjustable to learning levels to keep them engaged.

For the Others:

Unicorn Horn for your Horse – make your equine family member feel magical.

Bwogue Small Animal Hideout Hamster House – for the smallest family members, a hidey-house for nesting and chewing.

Hunt the Web for Your Pets….a few of my favorite sites: – interactive toys to get kitties moving – another great source for interactive cat toys – all good things dog – fun and functional dog toys – unique and creative pet products among their many offerings.

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Posted on November 15, 2017 by

Senior Pets are Special – Consider Bringing One Home Today

While it doesn’t feel like it, it really is finally fall and there are many things to be celebrated. Wouldn’t it be a good time to add a new furry family member? Maybe a senior pet who deserves to be loved and taken care of. November celebrates adoption of senior pets. Is there room in your heart and home?

Why adopt an older animal? Isn’t that setting yourself up for sickness and sadness?  Not necessarily. No one can make guarantees, but age is not an illness and there are a great number of benefits from adopting an older dog or cat.

  1. Older dogs are already house-trained – they know their manners.
  2. Older dogs settle in easily because they already know the fundamentals of living in a household.
  3. Older cats adapt well in to households with children. Kittens and young children can be a recipe for stress and disaster while an older, friendly kitty can tolerate more handling and also know when to escape.
  4. Older cats are litter-box trained.
  5. Older dogs and cats are good at giving love. They are grateful for your care and the second chance they’ve been given.
  6. With both older dogs and cats, what you see is what you get – their personality is already established…and they’re already full-grown.
  7. An older dog already knows “no” – and they are past the stage of teething, so shoes and furniture should be safe.
  8. Older cats are less demanding of your time and more independent – but also much more ready to cuddle and nap with you too.

Most older pets end up in shelters, with rescue groups or are abandoned as a function of their age. Their former owners may have been impacted by illness or financial difficulties while others cast the aging pet aside because they tired of taking care of them.

Sadly, because of age bias, these older pets are more likely to face euthanasia in the shelter system because adopters overlook them in favor of puppies and kittens.

So, if there is room in your heart and home, consider visiting a local shelter or rescue group today or soon to find one of these special pets waiting for love.


Denver Dumb Friends League –

Denver Animal Shelter –

Foothills Animal Shelter –

The Senior Dogs Project –

— Dr. Margot Vahrenwald, ASVJ

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Posted on January 5, 2017 by

How cold is too cold?

Remember your dogs when the weather gets cold!

During this cold and snowy time of year, it is important to remember our little furred friends and the effects the cold can have on them. That lone layer of fur is not enough to keep your dog or puppy warm and happy during the colder days of the season! Remember that any temperature lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit is potentially hazardous for your dog’s health, and that includes the temperatures inside of parked cars.

Please refer to the chart above to see what risks are involved with taking your pet out into the cold, and remember to call your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Remember to stay warm and have fun!

Courtesy of PetPlan blog:

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Posted on April 21, 2015 by

Vet Your Pet!

kitten faceThis recent Denver Post article covers all the right points for the why’s of regular veterinary examinations for your pets.

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Posted on April 3, 2014 by

What’s Better for your pet’s health – a vaccination clinic or a veterinarian?

Chihuahua NurseI love my job! I love our practice, our patients and our clients, but as a long-practicing veterinarian, I still get frustrated and flummoxed by the request to just give a pet “shots” and not to worry about the exam.

The examination of your pet, annually under age seven and twice yearly over age seven by a veterinarian, is more important than vaccinations. Vaccinations are a health care tool used to protect against common diseases, but the examination from nose to tail is the key to keeping your pet healthy throughout his/her lifetime. But when we know that our furry friends are aging faster, approximately 4 to 6 years for every six months of human time, why would you choose “shots” over an examination that can help to detect changes or recommendations from your veterinarian on how best to prevent health issues?

Vaccination clinics offered by various entities are no replacement for building a relationship with a veterinarian. A vaccination clinic, in my opinion, in this day and age is just inappropriate – would you take your child for “shots” by some random person in a warehouse store? For my daughters, no way – I want the relationship I have with their pediatrician as an expert and respected resource that has helped us with numerous things, big and small. For our patients, I want to offer the same – a personal relationship and partnership that helps maintain the health of their pet throughout the changes that life throws our way and cuts through the glut of misinformation abounding in the world and on the Web.

Dr. V. of the Pawcurious blog summed it up even better in a recent blog post and infographic.

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Posted on February 6, 2014 by

Dr. Google Never Attended Veterinary School

The internet is a great resource for lots of research, but that resource also contains a lot of incorrect, unverified and sometimes wrong and dangerous information as highlighted by a recent article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Dr. Google is best for non-emergent concerns and general research after a diagnosis.


For your pet/s’ or your own medical care, make sure to talk your veterinarian or your doctor’s office for the best information from those with the proper training to make recommendations for your individual circumstances.

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Posted on January 31, 2014 by

The Mouth’s Ticking Time Bomb

Do you brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily or at least weekly? Do you use dental products such as water additives or chews regularly? Would you miss seeing your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular schedule each year? Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month?

XrayperiodontalWhy start with all the questions? Because there might be a ticking time bomb lurking in your pet’s mouth – can you see or smell it? I’ll confess that I don’t brush my dog’s or my cats’ teeth. Part of it is time or the lack thereof, but the other is personality – none of the three furry creatures that live in my house would be willing to have their teeth brushed without great struggle and stress. So it is okay to answer no to regular brushing, but if you are not brushing or using some pet dental care products, then your cat or dog may require more regular dental cleanings to keep their oral cavity in good shape.

Time of a different kind also plays a role in our pets’ oral health. A year is a year to a human, but our set calendar does not match the physiologic time clock affecting your pet. As an adult cat or dog, they are aging roughly three years for every six months of human time. If you only landed in your dentist’s chair for cleaning and evaluation every three years, there would be a whole lot more disease to be dealt with – fillings, root canals and more.

12 Canine dental B4Human dentists do a really great job at educating us about the benefits of preventative dental care. I would much rather have my teeth cleaned than experience another root canal. As veterinarians, we strive to educate our pet owners about dental health care, but we run into resistance to the investment of that care. Why? Because there is a cost involved, because there is anesthesia involved, because growing-up we never did that for our family pets, because 13 Canine dental afteryou the vet is just trying to sell me something – there are a plethora more, but I’ll take those top four.

1) Yes, there is a cost involved –the cost of pet care comes directly from our discretionary income after all the other bills, debts and demands are met. However, the cost will be definitely greater for your pet in terms of pain, infection and a shortened life span. And, it will have greater impact on your wallet if it becomes an emergency dental procedure.
2) Yes, there is anesthesia involved – and it’s not the big scary deal that many would have you believe. Anesthesia lets a pet be stress and pain free while allowing the veterinary staff to do the most thorough evaluation, cleaning and treatment possible.
3) Yes, times have changed and pet owners have pushed and demanded that veterinary medicine in many areas offer the same level of care that they themselves receive, including dental care. We’ve come a long way in the past 20-30 years in helping pets live longer because of preventative care, including preventative veterinary dental care with regular cleanings when needed.
4) No, we veterinarians are not just trying to upsell unsuspecting owners into costly procedures. Our education, whose foundation is evidence-based medicine, teaches us through training and experience that preventative and interventional dental care really do make a difference. And, preventative care always is a better course than interventional care in terms of cost, stress for a pet and more.

So avoid any oral ticking time bombs and get your own and your pet’s or pets’ oral health assessed regularly. February is National Pet Dental Health Month — and while we believe every month is Pet Dental Health Month, we and other veterinarians do offer a variety of specials to help encourage owners to flip the lip and take a look at what’s in there with their veterinarian or veterinary technician.

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Posted on January 17, 2014 by

New Red Cross Pet First Aid App

RC pet first aid appThe American Red Cross has always been a trendsetter in training and support for crises big and small. Just released is their newest app on Pet First Aid. Click here or the picture for more information. Available for both iPhone and Android. It’s a well spent 0.99 cents.

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