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Published: Oct 19, 2012

While it's easy to fall in love with an animal, pet health experts are urging all pet owners to take their animals' health into account, especially during National Pet Wellness Month, which takes place each October. The special designation is made to remind people that preventive care is the best way to help their animals to live longer, healthier lives.

"Yearly visits to your veterinarian are an essential part of keeping your pet healthy," said Dr. Barry Kellogg, senior veterinary advisor for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Preventative care allows for early detection of problems and often saves money on overall veterinary costs by treating problems before they become serious."

The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend that cats and dogs should have an annual check-up with a vet. However, it's important to note that kittens and puppies as well as senior pets will likely need more frequent veterinary visits. In addition, more frequent appointments with a pet health expert are advised based on illnesses, behavior changes and other factors. Talk to your veterinarian about how often you should bring your cat or dog in for an exam.

A yearly trip to the vet will ensure your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date and help detect any problems, illnesses or diseases. Additionally, as your pet ages, your vet will help you determine the best course of action regarding his daily care and routine.

Managing your pet's weight in between visits to the vet is another crucial part of keeping him healthy. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians.

Obesity in dogs and obesity in cats is a serious issue that can affect the long term health of your pet. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, an obese pet is at an increased risk for a variety of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and certain forms of cancer.

One of the best ways to help maintain your pet's weight is to feed him a balanced, nutritious diet. Commercial dog and cat foods make it easy for your pet to get all of the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. It's important to remember that while some pet owners like feeding their pets human foods, some table food can be dangerous if ingested by animals.

Another important part of preventative care for your pet involves his teeth. Your vet will evaluate his dental health during routine visits. However, it's also important for pet owners to monitor changes in their dog's or cat's teeth, gums or breath. Keeping your pet's teeth clean by feeding him special treats or by brushing them is also recommended.

National Pet Wellness Month isn't the only special designation this month. October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Star Exponent, both dogs and cats can get breast cancer, although canines are particularly prone to the disease. One of the best ways to help cut down on the risk of your pet developing breast cancer is to have him or her neutered or spayed.

Neutering or spaying a cat or dog also provides additional benefits such as reducing the risk of uterine infections, improving behavior and preventing pet overpopulation.