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Ask a Vet: Annual pet checkups can prevent problems later in life
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Twice. Twice in the last week I’ve seen an animal come in for a problem that could have been treated six months before.

Both animals were euthanized.

The first case was a 4-year-old cat, who came in for itching on his face. But he hated the car ride and became very distressed in the carrier before arriving at the hospital.

When I first saw him, he was drooling and breathing with his mouth opened and having to work to get any air in. I could hear the fluid in his lungs. Not with my stethoscope, but from across the room.

Before I could recommend testing to his owner, he collapsed. Due to financial constrictions, his owner elected to euthanize him.

In retrospect, she had been watching his “shortness of breath” at home for two years and was treating it with air conditioning. He likely had cardiac disease, which is shockingly prevalent in our feline friends.

The second case was a fat dog.

Well, he was fat, but his stomach was mainly full of fluid. The fluid had built up because his heart wasn’t working correctly. He was so tightly distended in his belly that he was in tremendous pain and couldn’t get comfortable to even lay down and sleep.

Due to his poor prognosis at the time, his owner elected euthanasia as well.

Both of these cases are most likely the result of rotten luck genetically, but neither animal had been to a veterinarian for an examination in more than two years. Who knows what could have been done if the conditions had been caught earlier?

You can buy vaccines at the feed store, although their efficacy may be questionable. You can’t buy the exam without someone trained to do it. And, like most problems in life, addressing the issue early and aggressively is often best.

Treating these two patients six months ago may or may not have made a difference. I’ll never know. But I prefer to try putting out fires when they’re small. If you can, get your pet checked by a vet. It may make all the difference.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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