When Does Your Pet Require Vet Care?

What is proactive and reactive vet care

A common misconception is that a vet’s main purpose is with “reactive” care. Reactive care is the treatment given in response to an illness or injury, while proactive care is the preventive care we give to our pets to ensure they do not get ill, or to catch an illness early on and have it treated before the symptoms become too severe.

Both types of care are important, and it is vital to ensure that one does not take preference over the other.

The best way to explain the differences between, and importance of, proactive and reactive care is with a couple of hypothetical scenarios:

Scenario A: Your cat is 18 years old and has never been ill. In fact, your cat has been so healthy, he has not needed to go to the vet since his neuter surgery 17 years ago! Sure, he is a little stiff and not very active, but what old animals don’t have arthritis, right? Recently, however, you notice that, although he has always been overweight and not very active, he has lost a lot of weight over time. He has also been drinking a lot of water, and using the litter box very frequently. You delay the visit to the vet because you hope it is a passing illness. But when your cat starts to vomit and refuses to eat, you accept that you cannot wait any longer and you book an appointment at the vet.

At the vet, after a thorough examination and discussion about the clinical signs you have noticed, as well as the brief medical history that you have for your cat, the vet concludes that blood work is required to obtain a diagnosis. The blood work is performed and the news you receive about the results is grave – your cat is in stage 4 kidney disease and his kidneys are failing. The news is very sudden and you are in shock. There is not much your vet can do at this point to help your cat besides some limited palliative care to ensure your cat is not in too much pain or discomfort. The estimated cost of hospitalization for your cat is thousands of dollars and there is a very low chance of survival. Ultimately, you decide that you cannot watch your cat suffer any longer and you elect to have your vet perform a humane euthanasia.

While this scenario may seem rather extreme, it is sadly a common picture that we veterinarians experience. I do have to emphasize that this owner is not a bad person and is not cruel. This person acted reactively and sought the best care for this cat in the only way he knew how. I merely used this example to show the importance of the addition of proactive veterinary care in the second scenario.

So, let’s have a look at a more combined proactive and reactive scenario to illustrate the importance of preventative care:

Scenario B: Your cat is 18 years old and has never been ill. However, you can be sure of this because you have taken your cat to your vet regularly. You even signed him up for a wellness plan and health insurance at a young age to help cover the costs. After his neuter surgery you have ensured that his vaccinations or titer tests were done annually. You have administered preventative care regularly against internal and external parasites. Your cat starts to gain a little weight, but your vet is able to advise you about portion sizes and activity levels and your cat loses the weight to maintain a healthy form again. From the time your cat was 10 or 11 years old, and classified as a senior, your visits to the vet became more frequent (semi-annual) and regular blood work has been performed. Your vet advises you to change the cat’s diet once again because senior cats have different metabolisms and nutritional requirements. The senior diet also contains joint supplements to delay the onset and development of arthritis

At the age of 14 your veterinarian noticed on blood work that, while your cat’s kidney values were still within the normal range, based on the comparison with previous blood work over the years, there is a gradual increasing trend. Your vet advised that you changed your cat’s diet to one appropriate for cats with kidney problems. As your cat has aged, the trend in kidney values has continued, but at a much slower rate. Today, when your cat is 18 years old, your vet informs you that according to the new blood work performed, your cat has stage 1 kidney disease. Your cat is on a good diet, eating well, he is maintaining a healthy weight and is pretty active and agile, considering his age. You may not have noticed any clinical signs at home yet. As far as you are concerned, your cat has been healthy. Your vet may recommend starting some medication to reduce the cat’s blood pressure and further protect the kidneys, adding even more comfortable years on to your cat’s lifespan.

Two very different outcomes can be seen in both of these scenarios. While these examples are only hypothetical, they are based on real life accounts. I hope that they help to illustrate the importance of implementing comprehensive proactive (preventive) AND reactive care to your pet’s healthcare regimen.

Please call our Client Care Coordinators at 403-615-8016 for information regarding wellness plans for your pets at Montgomery Village Veterinary Clinic.