Aug 22 2013

Vaccines and Wellness Care: What Should We Emphasize?

This posting comes to us from our friends over at College Park!

I have been thinking a lot about vaccines and wellness care these days.  Why we recommend vaccines.  What constitutes a wellness visit.  These sorts of questions…

So when it comes to vaccines and wellness care, I thought that I would work out some of my thoughts and educate a little along the way.

Vaccines:

Vaccines have been implicated in a lot of things lately, and the last thing I want to do is under- or over-recommend vaccines.  Too few vaccines, and your pet is in danger of getting a very preventable disease.  Too many vaccines aren’t necessarily going to kill your pet, but they can certainly have unintended consequences.  I see vaccines as risk mitigation – they come with a small risk with the intention of significantly decreasing a more serious risk.  If they aren’t necessary, then don’t give them.  It is knowing when they aren’t necessary that is a little tricky.

Think about low cost vaccine clinics for a minute.  Now I know that these clinics are cheap and they can provide many animals access to vaccines.  Don’t get me wrong, when you are in a bind, and your animal really needs a rabies vaccine, they can be life savers.  The problem comes when vaccines are recommended without thought of decreasing overall risk, or when vaccines are overemphasized at the expense of the patient.  What it boils down to is the individualized care for each animal is missing with these high volume, low cost situations.

Wellness Care:

Wellness care in the form of regular exams can do only good.  It is a great way to make sure that your furry family member has no problems that can be seen, felt, heard, or smelled (I stop at taste for using all five senses!).  We can either give a good report or discuss our concerns with you.  Wellness care is great since it can be as specific or generalized as you want.  Concerned about the teeth?  We can discuss and educate about oral care.   If we notice weight gain, we can talk about health risks posed by this or possible internal conditions that caused it.  With wellness care, our goal is preventing and educating whatever your animal is most at risk.

Even vaccines can fall under wellness care.  Since we take into account age and overall condition of each animal and you have a chance to ask questions, vaccines get wrapped up into this idea of whole patient care.  The avenues for wellness care, including vaccines, are very diverse and specific, since it is the individual patient and client with whom we are dealing.

Education:

Quite frankly, what it comes down to is education.  When it comes to anything – vaccines, exams, labwork, etc. we try to educate, make our recommendation and allow you to decide.  Our recommendations come from us trying to give your pet the longest and happiest life possible.

The question we ask with every interaction is this:  What can we do to improve the quality of life for your pet?  While many animals will be able to live a full life without any veterinary intervention, many will also benefit from regular screenings, some intervention, and a lot of education to the owner.  One thing that makes veterinary medicine difficult is that different people perceive quality of life differently for each animal.  Some think their pet is a member of the family and want to make sure every avenue for health is afforded to them.  Some, because of finances or sheer number of animals, consider food, water, shelter, and love to be all that an animal needs.  It is not my place to judge.  All I can do is educate, recommend, and care.

I guess my conclusion to all of this is simple:  Wellness care with appropriate education is the umbrella that covers all healthy animals in veterinary medicine, and it includes vaccines.  This allows us to provide the best care possible, without taking any unnecessary risks.

-Doc Cleland

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