There are more than 300,000 pet dogs and cats in Washington, D.C. The good news is that most of these pets see the veterinarian on a regular basis, which leads to better pet health and longer, happier lives with their owners. The bad news is that more than 100,000 of them don’t.

"Too many veterinarians are seeing increases in pet obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis and heart disease in their patients."

A growing epidemic

This is reflective of a disturbing national trend: Too many veterinarians are seeing increases in pet obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis and heart disease in their patients. These conditions can become increasingly expensive to manage and treat, and they can shorten a pet’s life. What’s most concerning of all is that most of them are preventable.

According to a 2013 industry report, weight issues have reached epidemic proportions in dogs and cats, with one in five being overweight or obese, even though a majority of dog and cat owners believe their pet is just the right weight. Arthritis has increased 38 percent in dogs and 67 percent in cats, yet most pet owners are unaware that weight gain and arthritis in pets are linked.

There’s most certainly a disconnect here. Too many pet owners aren’t going to the veterinarian for the care their pets deserve, even though surveys indicate that two-thirds of pet owners consider their pets to be family members and believe that visits to the veterinarian are very important for their pet’s health.

The importance of preventive care

That’s why the American Veterinary Medical Association and many others in the veterinary profession are trying to change things. Veterinarians across the country are joining forces and mobilizing behind Partners for Healthy Pets, a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to make sure that pets get the proper preventive care they need and deserve through regular checkups.

"A yearly health checkup is the best way to keep your pet as healthy as possible, because it’s much easier to prevent diseases than to treat them."

A yearly health checkup is the best way to keep your pet as healthy as possible, because it’s much easier to prevent diseases than to treat them. With regular checkups, your veterinarian can spot problems at their earliest stages, when issues can often be addressed simply and cost effectively. A new Partners website (www.healthypetcheckup.org) contains helpful information on why regular veterinary visits are so important.

Taking your pet for a checkup at least once a year is the right thing to do, just like a regular dental checkup is the right thing for you. Veterinarians are your advocate when it comes to your pet, and they are committed to working with you to help your pet live the longest, healthiest life possible. So visit a veterinarian today. Don’t miss the opportunity to do one of the most important things you can do – for your pet and for your family.

How do you keep your pet healthy? Let us know in the comments below.