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Preventative vs Restorative Pet Care

Which approach does YOUR pet need?

Last Updated 19 FEB 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc (Hons)

Your pet is part of your family - so their health is no doubt a top priorty for you. But it's important to know what type of health care plan your pet needs. When it comes to looking after your pet's health, should you choose a 'preventative' or 'restorative' approach?

Read our guide to ensure you're choosing the right approach for your pet.

Skip to a Section:

Preventative vs Restorative - what's the difference?

Skin Care and Allergies

Stress & Anxiety

Dental Disease

Joint Care and Arthritis

Weight Control

Further reading

What is the difference between 'Preventative' and 'Restorative'?

Preventative care involves the use of a product or regime that will help prevent a condition from developing. This approach may be suitable if your pet is healthy but likely to develop certain health conditions, for reasons such as a previous injury, family history, or breed predisposition. Preventative care tends to include natural regimes such as nutritional changes, supplements, or topical product.

Restorative care is more about employing a 'treatment' or 'cure' for an established condition. This approach may be needed if your pet is already suffering from a medical issue. Restorative care may involve veterinary prescribed drugs, prescription diets, or stronger supplements.

We've delved into some common health conditions below, and discussed the difference between 'prevention' and 'restorative' approaches for each.

1. Skin Care and Allergies

Itchy skin allergies among pets are incredibly common in Australia. Parasites, food allergies, flowering plants, grasses, pollens, and weeds may all cause your pet to itch, scratch, and develop a range of skin conditions. 'Atopy' is the general term used to describe an allergy to things in the environment like pollen, dustmites, grasses, etc.

Prevention of Skin Allergies

Preventative skin care is suitable for pets who have suffered from allergies in the past, but have undergone treatment and symptoms are now under control. Skin care regimes are particularly important in breeds prone to skin allergies, including Staffies, French Bulldogs, Cavoodles, Pugs, and German Shepherds.

The best ways to prevent itchy skin include:

1. Omega Fatty Acid Oral Supplements such as Paw Blackmores Fish Oil, Natural Animal Solutions Omega Oil, or Hemp Pet Hoki and MCT Oil Blend are highly beneficial as they strengthen the junction between skin cells and promote a strong skin barrier. Omega Oils are affordable and can be placed directly onto your pet's food for daily consumption.

2. A Skin Care Diet - nutrition is an easy and convenient way to improve your pet's skin. You can either swap over to a skin care diet or a fish-based pet food for the prevention of itchy flare-ups. These retail diets don't require a veterinary recommendation and may be ideal for pets that are prone to seasonal allergies. Examples for dogs include Hills Science Diet Sensitive Skin and Stomach, Advance Sensitive Skin, and Royal Canin Dermacomfort. To manage severe skin conditions, your vet may recommend a prescribed veterinary diet (which we discuss in our 'restorative' section below). Read more in our article What is the Best Dog Food for Skin Allergies?

3. Ongoing Flea Control - because fleas are a major cause of itchy skin in dogs and cats, it's vital to maintain flea prevention all year round. Parasite Prevention forms an important part of gold standard healthy skin maintenance. Rather than reaching for a flea shampoo or powder, we recommend a newer generation product which treats mites, fleas, and ticks in one - like Nexgard, Bravecto, or Simparica. For cats, we recommend Bravecto / Bravecto Plus, or Revolution / Revolution Plus.

4. Antibacterial shampoos - may be required if your pet suffers from a bacterial or yeast infection in their skin (however, this needs to be diagnosed properly first!) Your vet may recommend a product like Malaseb or PAW Blackmores Mediderm Medicated Shampoo.

5. Restorative lotions and oils - veterinary dermal creams can help soothe the skin and create a strong skin barrier. Examples include Natural Animal Solutions Dermal Cream, Dermoscent Biobalm, or PAW Essential 6 Spot Ons for Dogs.

Restorative Care for Skin Allergies

Restorative skin care is required for pets who are currently suffering from active allergies or dermatitis. Restorative care aims to treat any infections, reduce the itch, relieve pain, and promote a healthy skin barrier free from infections. Restorative care generally involves a proper diagnosis and medication from your vet, as your pet may require antibiotics or anti-itch medication. It's important to note that pets often change from 'restorative' back to 'preventative' as their condition improves in response to proper treatment. Read more about the skin allergy workup process here.

Best preventative and restorative products for treating skin allergies:

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2. Stress and Anxiety

A serious condition and more common than you might think, anxiety affects pet dogs and cats of all breeds and sizes. One out of every six dogs may suffer from canine anxiety, which may present in the form of separation anxiety, noise and storm phobias, or other problem behaviours such as hyperactivity or destructive habits. Cats are very prone to anxiety and it can present in a number of different ways, particularly urinary issues such as cystitis or urine spraying, aggression, excessive vocalising, over-grooming and hair loss, humping, and reduced appetite.

How to manage anxiety in pets

The treatment of anxiety in both cats and dogs often requires a multimodal approach. Because preventative and restorative measures often go hand in hand alongside proper training and environmental changes, we have included a discussion on general anxiety management here.

The first and foremost treatment for most forms of anxiety is proper training. This may vary depending on your pet and their specific form of anxiety, so we highly recommend consulting with your vet for advice on training. Severe cases may not be able to be left alone without injuring themselves and may require medication from your veterinarian.

Anxiety aids can benefit your pet in conjunction with proper training. For dogs, calming supplements such as Zylkene or PAW Blackmores Complete Calm can be incredibly effective, and environmental pheromone products like Adaptil may also help. For cats, products containing L-tryptophan such as Hills Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Stress food or Vetalogica Tranquil treats can work wonders for long term management. Feline pheromone diffuser Feliway is notoriously effective, often used in vet clinics and cat hospitals all over the world.

Zylkene is a great natural anxiety supplement available for both cats and dogs. This easy-to-give capsule contains a natural product derived from casein, a protein found in milk. Casein is a molecule known for calming newborns during breastfeeding. Zylkene can help reduce anxiety in any stressful situation, including kennel and cattery stays, moving house, the arrival of a new pet or baby, sudden noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms, traveling, or festivities.

Best Anxiety Management Products

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3. Dental Disease

Dental disease is the most common cause of offensive breath odour in dogs and cats. In fact, for a preventative illness, dental disease is far too common. Many pet parents might be surprised to learn that around 80% of dogs and cats over the age of three years have some degree of dental disease. Left untreated, dental disease remains a constant source of pain and inflammation, which can impact on your cat's overall health and wellbeing and may impact other organs in the body such as kidney, heart and liver. So what can you do at home to prevent or treat it?

Management of Dental Disease

Restorative or Preventative Care? Dental disease is a completely preventable issue and prevention can be managed completely at home in the early stages. However, if your pet already has established dental disease with gingivitis present, a veterinary scale and polish is required under anaesthesia. Extractions may also be required in severe cases. Therefore, 'preventative' dental disease has been discussed here, but for 'restorative' treatment you'll need to head to your vet.

Ways to improve your pet's dentition include:

1. Regular tooth brushing

2. Feeding a vet-recommended dental diet

3. Dental treats (in moderation!) such as Greenies or Whimzees

4. Raw bones* and other natural firm chews.

* raw bones are not recommended for every dog. Find out more information in our article Are Raw Bones Safe for Dogs?

Best Dental Care Products

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4. Joint Care and Osteoarthritis

Arthritis, scientifically referred to as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is a degenerative, progressive, and irreversible condition of the joints. While some degree of inflammation does occur, arthritis in dogs is also characterised by a loss of the cartilage (the soft structural component that overlies and protects the bone) and the formation of 'osteophytes' which are new pieces of bone laid down in an effort to protect the joint surface.

Prevention of Arthritis

Preventative joint care is ideal in dogs who may not currently be showing signs of arthritis, but are likely to develop it. Dogs who are likely to develop arthritis include: dogs with a previous injury (particularly cruciate ligament rupture, hip injuries, or spinal problems), dogs with an existing congenital condition such as patella luxation, and dogs with a breed predisposition such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.

The best ways to prevent joint disease include:

1. Daily joint maintenance supplements such as Sasha's Blend, Joint Guard, or Paw Blackmores Osteosupport.

2. Weight management - Keeping your pet slim with a controlled diet and regular exercise is vital for preventing the signs of arthritis. Extra body weight imposes extra strain on the joint cartilage, which can lead to a quicker development of inflammation and arthritis. Read more about Weight Loss Tips for Dogs or Weight Loss Tips for Cats.

3. A preventative diet - to prevent arthritis, your vet may recommend a prescribed veterinary diet (which we discuss in our 'restorative' section below). However, there are a number of retail / non-veterinary diets which are less concentrated in active ingredients than veterinary diet, and therefore more affordable. These retail diets don't require a veterinary recommendation and may be ideal for pets that are currently in great shape but at a risk of developing arthritis. Examples for dogs include Hills Science Diet Mobility and Royal Canin Joint Care.

4. Restricted jumping and agility exercises - if your pet is at a risk of developing arthritis or joint disease, it may be ideal for you to restrict them from jumping off high surfaces. This may include jumping up and down off furniture, out of the car, or cat trees and windowsills.

Best preventative products for arthritis:

Restorative Care for Arthritis

Restorative joint care is required for pets who are currently showing signs of arthritis. Restorative care aims to treat the pain and reduce the existing symptoms or arthritis. It's important to note that pets often move from requiring 'restorative' back to 'preventative' as their condition improves - particularly if they lose weight!

The best ways to treat joint disease include:

1. Veterinary-strength joint supplements such as 4cyte, Glyde, or Paw Blackmores Cosequin. Compared to gentler 'prevention' supplements, these products are considered 'stronger' or 'more potent', and are often sold in vet clinics.

2. Weight loss - As we discussed earlier, slimmer pets are far less likely to develop osteoarthritis, and if your pet is currently suffering from arthritis, losing unnecessary body weight is extra important. Read more about Weight Loss Tips for Dogs or Weight Loss Tips for Cats.

3. A veterinary prescribed joint care diet - if your dog or cat is currently showing signs of arthritis, they may benefit from a therapeutic veterinary diet. These are specifically formulated with more potent levels of beneficial ingredients such as omega fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin. Therapeutic diets do need a recommendation from your vet prior to ordering. Examples of veterinary joint care diets for dogs include Hills Prescription Diet j/d and Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic and Mobility and Royal Canin Joint Care.

4. Medication - Of course, many cases of osteoarthritis require proper medication from your vet. There are a number of therapies and medications your vet may choose to employ based on your pet's individual case. Popular medications for arthritis pain include non-steroidal antiinflammatories (eg. Meloxicam or Carprofen), corticosteroids (eg. Prednisone), and Gabapentin. Monthly injections with disease modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOADs) such as Catrophen or Zydax are also common.

5. Physiotherapy - altered non-weightbearing excercise regimes are required for many pets with joint issues. Swimming and water therapy is particularly beneficial if your pet needs to lose weight or build up muscle mass around problem joints. Read more about Arthritis Physio for Dogs.

Best restorative products for treating arthritis:

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5. Weight Control

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Fact: Slim pets live longer. As adorable as pudgy pets may be, obesity is no laughing matter. Being overweight can have serious health consequences for your pet including increased risk of osteoarthritis, diabetes, respiratory problems and anal gland issues. In addition, obese and overweight dogs can suffer from heat intolerance, constant discomfort, and are likely to have a reduced lifespan compared with their lean counterparts.

Preventative Measures for Weight Control

Preventative weight management is ideal in dogs who may not currently be obese, but have either recently lost weight and need to maintain their ideal weight, or prone to obesity due to a number of reasons such as a new injury, dogs who have recently been desexed, and dogs with a breed predisposition such as Pugs, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Bulldogs.

Retail weight management diets, as opposed to veterinary-prescribed weight loss diets (discussed below), are suitable for weight maintenance. Retail weight management diets are perfect for maintaining a healthy weight and are generally much more affordable than veterinary diets. Our top retail weight management diets include Hills Perfect Weight, Royal Canin Light Care, Advance Weight Control, and Ivory Coat Fat Reduced Turkey.

Restorative Measures for Active Weight Loss

Restorative weight loss is required for pets who are currently overweight or obese. Generally, obese or overweight pets start on a 'restorative' weight loss regime and can transition to a 'preventative' management diet once they have reached their ideal weight.

Veterinary grade weight loss diets generally contain fewer calories and higher fibre content than a retail diet. Some manufacturers advise that 'veterinary diets are for treating a disease, whereas retail diets are for preventing a disease' (however there are exceptions to this, as most weight control veterinary diets are appropriate for weight management as well as weight loss).

Our Top Weight Control Diets:

Royal Canin Satiety

Royal Canin Satiety is formulated specifically to 'satiate' your dog's appetite. With varieties including small breed, all breed, and wet cans, it's the perfect option if your dog never seems to feel full.

Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic

Available in varieties with extra joint care, extra urinary care, wet cans, and even treats, Hills Metabolic is formulated to speed up your pet's metabolism and is highly palatable.

Advance Weight Control

One of the only 'super premium' weight control diets which is Made in Australia, Advance's weight control lines has varieties for all breed, large breed, and small breed.

Savourlife Lite

A great option if you're after something grain-free, Savourlife Lite is natural, Australian-made, and highly palatable. Plus, Savourlife donates 50% of their profits to support shelter dogs!

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Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Games to play with your cat in isolation

Premium pet food: is it worth it?

Dental care for dogs

Dental care for cats

What is the best dog food?

What is the best flea and tick treatment?

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