Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dr. Tracey Hlede & Partners for Healthy Pets

      If you know me (or my writing) you know that I'm dedicated to the Human-Animal Bond, to Education and to Wellness. (I wrote The Angell Memorial Animal Hospital Book of Wellness and Preventive Care for Dogs). I believe a Wellness Program is imperative for every pet, every species. It's much easier to prevent an illness than to treat it, and much easier to treat if it's caught early. Keeping our pets healthy is our responsibility. It's part and parcel of having companions. 

      I recently had the opportunity to do a Q & A interview with Dr. Tracey Hlede of Chicago who is the spokesperson for Partners for Healthy PetsPartners for Healthy Pets is a committee of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation created to ensure pets receive the preventive healthcare they deserve through regular veterinary visits. Led by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association, this is an unprecedented collaborative alliance of over 100 veterinary associations, colleges of veterinary medicine and animal health companies all committed to a vision of improved overall health for pets.   
      Pet health and Wellness is an important topic for every pet owner.  My questions are in black, Dr. Hlede's  answers are in my usual brown type. 

Dr. Tracey Hlede and friends

.       What do you see as the major factors in the decline of pet health today?

In my practice there are two issues that come to mind quickly that I see as big problems on a daily basis.  The first being a reactive attitude to health care.  I am often treating illnesses in my patients that could have been preventable or more easily manageable had we caught the problem sooner.  The decline in preventive healthcare is directly correlated to the decline in pet health.  Having regular wellness exams allows me to assess the real state of health of my patients, make a preventive health plan for my patients, and catch health issues sooner instead of reacting to a crisis or advanced stage of the disease.  Unfortunately when I’m reacting to a health crisis the prognosis tends to worsen as well as the comfort level of my patient.

The other problem I see is an epidemic of pet obesity.  There seems to be a misconception of what a pet’s ideal weight should be as well as the impact being overweight has on the health of our furry companions.  Being overweight is associated with a host of health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, respiratory problems, etc. 

2.     Many owners attribute diet to today’s major healthy problems. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

For the most part a diet consisting of an AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) regulated diet which should be on the label of any pet food sold is not going to be detrimental to the health of pets.  There is evidence that speaks to the opposite that as pets are fed carefully balanced diets life spans increase.

I do believe diet is a fundamental part of the Wellness Exam and it is vital to discuss diet with your veterinarian since every pet is different and there is a wide variety of diets available.  There are some conditions that may be created by diets such as dietary intolerances to certain ingredients or diseases in which a medicated diet may be warranted.  One large problem I see is people over feeding their pets leading to obesity which then leads to a host of complications.  As there is no evidence that in general a balanced commercial pet food causes diseases but to the contrary prevents many diseases, I believe a well-balanced nutritional plan overseen by a veterinarian based on the individual pet’s needs is vital to longevity and good health.

3.     Why aren’t pet owners taking their pets to the veterinarian at least once per year?

Most of us lead really busy lives and sometimes veterinary visits just skip the to-do list so it’s forgotten.  Some owners are just not aware of how vitally important an annual check-up can be.  Others may be intimidated by the cost of healthcare.  I have some owners that don’t want to bring their pet regularly because they get very stressed coming to my office.

The statistics show since 2001 dog visits have dropped 21% and cat visits have dropped 30%!  These slips are correlated with a steady increase in preventable diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, obesity, fleas, etc.

These reasons do have solutions for the educated pet owner.  Many pet owners believe that they know their pets better than anyone else, and while that’s true, there are conditions that only your veterinarian can spot.  Veterinarians are trained to detect preventable conditions at the earliest stages so knowing this helps owners prioritize check-ups.  Most clinics offer payment plans and accept pet insurance. is a source of information, and is another.  Finally, there are solutions to help the stressed patients make it in from calming supplements, to tips for travelling to the vet, to actual anxiety medications to ease the visit.

4.     How do you think these problems can be resolved for pets and their people?

A minimum of a yearly check-up is the best way to keep your pet as healthy as possible- it’s just as important to your pet as food and love.  It’s easier to prevent disease than treat it.  More so it costs less in the long-run to prevent rather than treat.  Pets age faster than we do so missing even one yearly check-up can be like us not visiting a doctor for over five years.  There is often a solution for those concerned about bringing their pet in and anyone who has not taken their pet to a vet within the past year should call their vet’s office and ask for help in ensuring that this important check-up gets scheduled as soon as possible!

Thank you, Dr. Hlede!

To visit the Partners for Healthy Pets website, point your browser to:


rescuegal said...

Good interview Darlene Arden had with Dr. Tracey Hlede of Partners for Healthy Pets. Important topic for all our pet companions. Stressing the benefit of yearly wellness exams which help prevent many illnesses, is a reminder we all need.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much, rescue gal. I'm so glad you liked the interview and found it interesting and useful.

Gordon Brice said...

Thank you Darlene for a very interesting interview. Your questions and Dr. Tracy Hlede's responses were very enlightening. Whilst the reasons specified for people cutting back on vet check ups for their pets are very relevant, I do believe that the current economic situation has a lot to answer for......not good news for pets, as they are missing out on vital check ups and being fed cheaper types of food than is less good for them.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much for your cogent and insightful comment, Gordon. With an eye towards wellness we are doing our companions and our pocketbooks a favor. I hope readers will take Dr. Hlede's advice seriously and consider the ramifications.

Liama Jhons said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Images of Butterflies said...

I agree with her on prevention. There are so many illnesses that can be prevented if the owners only have the knowledge. I have lost so many pets and I still blame myself when it happens.

Liama Jhons said...

i really love it.. you are doing it in awesome way Lost and found