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An Interview with a Pet Wellness Veterinarian

By: Stephen Sawicki

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Veterinarian Dr. Douglas Brum is director of the Wellness Program at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. Here he speaks about the importance of educating clients about preventive health care for their animals.

PetPlace: How does the Wellness Program work?

Dr. Brum: Clients who bring their pets into the program are met by a veterinarian and a technician. On visit number one with a new puppy, we make sure we address certain topics. On visit number two, 3 weeks later when they come in for their second boosters, we may review certain things but then bring up new issues. This procedure continues with later visits; with each session we try to bring out something new. We discuss heartworm prevention, vaccines, flea control, obedience, dental care and proper food – among other things. We emphasize different things each visit.

With an adult dog, we cater the discussions to the individual breed a bit more. How old is the dog? What are his specific risk factors? Is this a breed that's predisposed to hip dysplasia? Should we look at getting hip films? Is this a breed that's predisposed to certain blood disorders? Should we test for thyroid problems in a breed that's predisposed to thyroid problems?

For geriatrics, we have a more involved type of program. We have the owners fill out a more detailed history sheet and basically have twice the appointment time – 40 minutes instead of 20. We fill out a very complete health assessment to give to the owner and we may make recommendations on what needs to be done or what doesn't need to be done, what they're doing right or what they can be doing better.

PP: What kind of things do pet owners need to know?

Dr. Brum: We try to cover many different aspects of pet health care, from behavior issues to dental care to proper parasite control. We like to talk to owners about starting to brush their pet's teeth at a young age, for example, so that when the dog or cat is older they won't need to be put under anesthesia and have a full dental workup on a regular basis.

Or, we talk about doing home health exams on pets, just looking at their ears, opening their mouth, touching their paws and getting them prepared so that if they ever do need treatment of some sort, they won't mind it because they'll be used to being handled and having things done to them.

PP: What's the end result?

Dr. Brum: If owners are well-educated, we can catch things before they become a problem. A simple diet change, for instance, may save a week in intensive care 6 months down the road. Or, brushing their pets' teeth from the start may save a client hundreds of dollars in dental work for their pet. Prevention definitely pays off.

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