The Best Routine Vet Care for Healthy Pets

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Pets bring joy to our lives.

They make us laugh and keep us company. We sometimes even like them more than people!

And even though we know it’s impossible, we secretly hope they live forever. That way, we’d never be without our best bud.

Since we can’t have that, we can at least make sure they get the care they need to stay healthy for a long time.

Check out today’s article to learn about the routine care needs of pets, and how to deal with the related cost.

Note: this article specifically talks about cats and dogs. Other pets may need different care, which should be discussed with a qualified vet.

Routine Check-Ups

Puppies and Kittens (Up to 1-Year-Old)

When pets are young, a vet should examine them once each month. They’ll do a physical exam to make sure our pet is healthy.

They’ll also ask about how our pet’s social development and training are progressing.

Adult Dogs and Cats (Ages 1 to 7 Years)

At this age, our pets should typically visit the vet annually. They’ll have a complete physical exam and additional testing depending on the results.

Dogs will also have bloodwork to check for heartworms. This isn’t typically done for cats because the results can be unclear.

The vet should also perform a disease risk assessment, which will determine the vaccines they suggest.

Seniors Dogs and Cats (Age 7 and Older)

Our senior pets should see a vet every 6 months. In addition to a physical exam, our vet might take blood and urine samples to look for kidney, liver, and thyroid functions.

During these visits, we should tell our vet about any changes to our pet’s behavior and physical health.


Vaccines are divided into two categories, core, and non-core. Core vaccines help prevent very common, often life-threatening illnesses. Immunity is usually somewhat long-lasting.

Non-core vaccines help protect pets from environmental/lifestyle-specific conditions, like kennel cough (Bordetella) and feline leukemia. Immunity typically doesn’t last as long as core vaccines.

For non-core vaccines, we should speak with our vet about our pet’s risk, activities, etc. They’ll be able to guide us to the most beneficial vaccines and schedules.

Recommended Core Vaccines for Dogs

Puppies (from 6 Weeks to 12 Months)

  • 1st dose: DHPP – distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus), parainfluenza, and parvovirus (6-8 weeks)
  • 2nd dose: DHPP (10 to 12 weeks)
  • 3rd dose: DHPP, rabies (14 to 16 weeks)

Adult Dogs (12 months to 7 years)

  • 4th dose: DHPP, and rabies (12 months to 24 months)
  • DHPP booster, rabies (every 1 to 3, depending on professional recommendation and state law, respectively)

Senior Dogs (7+ years old)

There is a debate about the schedule and necessity of different vaccines for older dogs.

We should speak with our vet to determine the best plan for our individual senior pet.

Recommended Core Vaccines for Cats

Kittens (from 6 weeks to 12 months)

  • 1st dose – FVRCP – Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia aka Feline Distemper (6 to 8 weeks)
  • 2nd dose – FVRCP (10 to 12 weeks)
  • 3rd dose – FVRCP, Rabies (14 to 16 weeks)

Adult and Senior Cats (1 to 15+ Years)

  • Rabies (every 1 to 3 years depending on vaccines used and state law)
  • FVRCP booster (12 months after the initial 3-dose series, and then once every 3 years)

Parasite Prevention

Parasites can be internal (e.g. intestinal worms like hookworms, heartworms) or external (fleas, ticks, etc.). These parasites can cause serious discomfort or illness to our pets.

Our vet can provide a prevention plan depending on the type of pet we have, and their lifestyle risk factors. They can also treat infections if they happen.


Hookworms attach themselves to the intestinal walls of our pets to feed on their blood. Both cats and dogs can get hookworms, typically of different species.

Pets are typically most vulnerable to hookworms as puppies/kittens.

These parasites are shed through feces and can be found in soil, grass, etc.. They can be ingested, and can also penetrate the skin, typically the feet.

Hookworms can cause poor growth, internal bleeding, anemia, weight loss, pale gums, itchy feet with lesions, and death.


Mosquitoes spread heartworms when they inject larvae into our pet’s bloodstream.

They live in the blood vessels around the heart and lungs.

Heartworms can reach up to 14 inches long.

Pets with heartworms may suffer from lung damage, heart failure, and injury to other organs.

They are more common in dogs but have become increasingly common in cats, as well.


We’re all probably familiar with the ankle-biting, high-jumping flea. This familiar pest can cause serious diseases to us and our pets.

The below diseases, except for Cat Scratch Disease, aren’t spread to us from our pets directly. They happen when we’re bitten by an infected flea that our pet is harboring.

Murine Typhus

This is typically from rat fleas but can be carried in cat and dog fleas, too. Dogs can become ill, but usually humans are affected.

It happens when we’re bitten by a flea. Fleas poop when they feed, and we may rub infected flea feces into the bite (e.g. by scratching).

Murine Typhus can cause a body rash, fever, chills, cough, and stomach pain.


Tapeworms spread when our pet eats a flea infected with tapeworm larvae Tapeworms usually don’t cause significant symptoms unless the infection is severe.

Animals (especially dogs) may “scoot” their anus across the carpet to soothe irritation caused by proglottids – independently functioning segments of the tapeworm.

Tapeworms may also be vomited up.

It’s rare for this type of tapeworm to infect humans, as it requires us to ingest an infected flea.

Most cases are diagnosed in children.

Mycoplasma Haemofelis

There’s a small chance this disease can spread to humans with weakened immune systems

However, it’s primarily a disease that affects cats. It makes a cat’s immune system attack its own red blood cells.

This can cause anemia and the need for a blood transfusion.

Cat Scratch Disease

Cats can become infected with Cat Scratch Disease when they’re bitten by a flea and get flea feces into their bite.

This illness is typically mild in cats, with a fever lasting a few days. For some, it can be serious with symptoms like vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, etc.

The disease is passed to humans when a cat scratches or bites us deep enough to break the skin, or licks us near an open wound.

This can cause fever, swelling at the bite/scratch site, loss of appetite, headache, and exhaustion.


Across North America, the tick population is growing. These parasites, that feed on both animal and human blood, can transmit diseases to their host. In dogs, ticks can cause:

Lyme Disease


  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • May lead to kidney disease

Canine Ehrlichiosis


  • Low blood platelet count
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bruising
  • Anemia

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever


  • Fever
  • Low platelets
  • Joint pain
  • Unsteadiness
  • Low appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

In cats, ticks can primarily spread:



  • Low energy
  • Anemia
  • Low blood count
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pain
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged liver, spleen, and lymph nodes
  • If left untreated, it can lead to hypothermia, seizures, coma, and death

Dental Care

Dental disease in dogs and cats is common. By age three, our pets will have some degree of dental disease.

Without proper care, this can lead to long-term pain and illness. It’s recommended that dental exams be performed during each routine vet visit.

Like our teeth, our pet should have regular cleaning and scaling to remove buildup from beneath the gum line. They may also need diseased or damaged teeth removed.

To properly diagnose and treat dental disease, our vet will need to take x-rays of our pet’s teeth.

The entire process should be done under anesthesia, as it’s the most comfortable and safe for pets.

Pet Wellness Plans

Vet bills can add up, which is why having a financial plan in place is important.

Pet wellness plans, like the one offered by Wagmo, pay for all the routine appointments and preventative care that pets need to stay healthy.

With Wagmo, get up to 100% of vet expenses covered. The fast 24-hr turnaround time means no waiting around for reimbursement.

Get paid directly to Venmo, PayPal, or bank transfer, and avoid lost checks in the mail.

Use the Wagmo app to upload and track claims, and view plan details.

UCA members save 15% on all Wagmo Pet Wellness plans.

Click here to learn more.


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