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Exams and the Internet

Exams, Internet Information, Internet Pharmacies, and Nutrition ...

This is a FAQ area to help our clients understand the importance of the physical exam, the pros and cons of the Internet's "Dr. Google" as a source of information, shopping on the internet for your pet's medications, and nutritional "buzz words".

Recently, the American Veterinary Medical Association produced a document about how pet owners can save money. The link to this site is

Continuing with our FAQ:

1) My friend gets her pet's shots at a local vaccine clinic at a retail store and pays much less for them than I do. Is there a reason?

Yes. Many vaccine clinics held in retail stores or even at regular veterinary offices attract people with low "overall" prices. What is often "included" with the vaccines is a cursory examination, if there is any exam at all.

At Ridgefield, we believe that the yearly examination is of utmost importance. Because a pet ages more rapidly than we do, an annual for a dog or cat is equivalent to seeing your doctor every 5-7 years! There are very few pets who come in "just for shots" where we don't find abnormalities on exam. It may be as simple as an ear or skin infection, but often it is dental disease or we may palpate a mass or hear a heart murmur. Your veterinarian is trained to do a thorough exam and will see things that you may not know to look for, and catching any problem early on is the key to sucessful treatment (and avoiding emergency visits). Your veterinarian is also trained to help you with suggestions appropriate to your pet in areas of husbandry, training, diet and more - all important to the overall health of your pet. This takes time, and an appropriate amount of time is sheduled for this during the exam.

What's included in your pet's Annual Visit at Ridgefield is a thorough exam, as well as the vaccines deemed appropriate for your pet's health. These will vary depending on your pet's age and lifestyle. We also perform a stool parasite check (a fecal exam) on all pets and a heartworm check on all dogs. Even pets that are on prevention can become infected with heartworms if a dose is late, and in rare cases even if they have never missed a dose ( recent research has shown that the dog's immune system plays a roll in how the prevention actually works ). It is important that we catch these cases early to begin treatment, as opposed to catching them after the pet shows symptoms.

While the vaccines given vary depending on the type of pet and their needs, rabies vaccination is mandatory for dogs and cats, and highly recommended for horses. In Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, Rabies vaccination is required every year.

What is the most important part of the Annual Visit ? It is the exam. It isn't often that a pet is presented for "just shots" and actually has no other problems.

2) The Internet's "Dr. Google" is the best source for all information related to my pet, right?

The internet has become a great overall source of information, but remember that it is not specific to your pet and your situation, and often it is not "peer reviewed" and monitored for site accuracy. Breeders may be a great source of breed specific information, but their presence on the internet is mainly to sell pets. Common health and behavior problems of a breed may not be their focus. Medical information on the internet may also be in error, as much information on lay-person run web sites is not referenced, and may have had errors passed down as the information has floated in cyberspace. Also, medical proticols and treatments change frequently as we learn more about various diseases. Chose your sites wisely, and ask your veterinarian for their opinion as they know you and your pet's particular situation.

Check our Pet Library page for correct, up-to-date information. Also check our website's page of internet listings, but another trustworthy source for companion animal information is provided by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

3) The Internet, Internet pharmacies and National Store Chains are a great source for purchasing inexpensive medications for my pet.

Internet pharmacies have become huge marketing giants over the last few years. These businesses advertise low prices and free shipping, and are especially fast to say they have a "Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee". Unfortunately, all of the major manufacturers of Heartworm preventatives will not cover the treatment costs of pets who have become heartworm positive on product purchased from online ( third party ) pharmacies. There have been several lawsuits over where the product is obtained and inappropriate prescribing on the part of some of these pharmacies.

Because these large companies deal in huge orders of medications, they can frequently purchase their products far cheaper than a small business (like us!). However, know that purchasing your product locally can give you not only additional peace of mind, but ensures your money stays local, supporting the local economy and keeping your tax dollars here to educate your children and pave roads. Also note that often a veterinary clinic's prices on frequently used medications may not be that far removed from a large retailer's prices. Our suppliers offer free doses and rebate coupons on a regular basis, and these can decrease the cost per dose considerably (A example would be 2 free doses of Advantage Multi with a 6 pack - it adds up to a 25% discount). A recent (May 2017) check of the fairly expensive antibiotic Baytril showed that we are less expensive than Pet Med Express's sale price on all three sizes.

A money-back guarantee will not come close to treating a pet who has become heartworm positive due to a possible product failure. We suggest that you get all of your pet's medications from a trusted provider like your pet's own veterinarian or a licensed human pharmacy acting on your veterinarian's orders. When using an online pet pharmacy, be sure they will back the products they sell, and don't accept medications prescribed by a veterinarian who has never seen your pet. We are in process of starting an online pharmacy through this website, where we control the products and can personally back up what is sold.

Even non-perscription medications can be dangerous when purchased from a source that does not know your pet and cannot explain risks, hazzards, and proper usage to you ( like pet stores and feed stores). Recently we had a client order Advantage for her cats from a source on eBay. One of the packs was actually K9 Advantix - a dog product that is highly toxic and normally fatal if applied to cats. Knowing your medications come from your pet's health care team adds a layer of safety and confidence to your purchases for your pet.

The latest "player" in the world of pet pharmacy is Wal Mart. They are begining to market their own brand of heartworm prevention. The first thing on their ad is a disclaimer that they do not guarantee the pet will not get heartworms or parasites. The second thing to understand is the price they can pay when they are a giant in the industry. We cannot purchase product at their prices. Third, is that they can sell many products at or below cost, because they count on the other purchases you will make out of convenience while you are there. While this situation is not illegal, it is also not something our practice can match.

Your support of our practice ensures that we are here for you when your pet is sick or has an after hours emergency.

4) Holistic, Organic, Grain Free, Raw and Natural foods are the best for my pet.

While we all agree that foods should be safe and nutritious, not everyone agrees on what makes up "holistic" or "natural" when it comes to labeling in pet foods. National standards must be met by every pet food manufacturer, and words like "holistic" and "natural" are there to market one product over another. Vegetable shaped and colored dog food kibble is still kibble, and foods with meat as their first ingredient meet the same national standards as other diets - and visa versa. "Grain Free" is now a buzz phrase, due to marketing that states wolves are carnivores and your dog is related to the wolf. The truth is, a domestic dog's GI tract is not so related to the wolf, and 13,000 years of domestication and grain exposure has produced dogs that can digest grains. There are pets with food sensitivities and allergies, but it is not a simple thing to diagnose and treat. So, let more than marketing sway you on choosing the right food for your pet. Get input from your pet's advocate - their veterinarian - who will make suggestions with your pet's medical history in mind !

As more and more of our clients deal with pets who have food allergies, some interesting facts have come to light. 68% of reported food allergies come from beef, dairy, or wheat. Corn, which is often cited in advertising as being "bad" for dogs is not listed even in the second 25% which includes lamb, chicken eggs, chicken and soy.

Raw Diets have also become the rage. The statistics for bacterial contamination in both fresh and freeze dried raw diets is sobering. The American Animal Hospital Association has a page on diets that you should read before deciding to feed a raw diet. is on their site. Human and pet exposure to salmonella and e. coli bacteria from raw diets has been confirmed. The CDC ( Centers for Disease Control ) also strongly oppose feeding pets raw diets.

The number one health issue related to diet is obesity. Whatever Americans are feeding, we are feeding too much of it or giving our pets more treats than is healthy. Get with your pet's veterinarian at your next visit and have a hard look at your pet's weight and its eventual effects on your pet's health. As we try and lose weight as a nation of overweight adults and children, we also have to consider our other family members - our pets! Keeping your pet at proper weight during its life can add 2 years or more to your pet's lifespan - and who doesn't want their pet around for as long as we can have them!

Make it a resolution to exercise and play more with your family, including your pets. Everyone will be better off for it!

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