That old saying that an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure sometimes is overlooked as we get caught up with our busy schedules and active lives. However, there is a lot of truth in that saying and none more important than that involving preventative health care. This is especially true where our pets are involved. Annual vaccines for pets are a very important form of preventative medicine because they prevent disease and suffering for our furry family members.

The most commonly recognized vaccine protects against the rabies virus, which can be fatal in both pets and people. Because of this, it is required by law to be given to your pets every year. There are many diseases that your pets can catch just from walking and sniffing as they explore their surroundings. That is why annual vaccine boosters, such as Distemper and Parvovirus for dogs as well as Feline Leukemia and FIP for cats, are so important.

Another important vaccine is Bordetella, which protects against a highly contagious respiratory disease that is spread through the air. Lyme disease is yet another disease for which your pets should be vaccinated and is a concern especially when and where ticks are present.

Vaccine programs are generally started between 6 and 8 weeks of age, when puppies and kittens come to the veterinarian for their first check-up. These vaccines must be boostered several times in the next few months and then annually, or in some cases every six months, after that.

These annual and semiannual visits to the veterinarian are also an important part of preventative medicine. During these visits, the veterinarian will examine your pet to ensure that he or she is healthy. The vet may find that your pet has dental problems or conditions of the skin or ears that, if caught and treated early, can save your pet unnecessary suffering—and you great expense.

Once a pet is 7 years of age or older, it is a good idea to have yearly blood work completed, which will not only detect problems before they become severe, but will also give you peace of mind that your pet is aging gracefully. Many veterinarians offer this blood work at a reduced price in conjunction with a pet’s annual vaccination visit. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about a wellness or geriatric blood profile while you are at the office with your pet.

Many feline and canine diseases can now be prevented through vaccination, monthly preventatives and regular health examinations. A vaccination and preventative schedule prepared by your veterinarian can thus greatly contribute to good health and a longer life span for your pets.