Cancer rates are soaring, afflicting 46% of dogs and 39% of cats. All of us have, or know friends who have, a pet with diabetes, severe allergies, skin problems, liver or kidney disease or a heart problem. Obviously, something has gone terribly wrong with pet care. It's time to pull back the curtain and take a look at outdated, and profit-driven, ideas and methods of care destroying pet health.

What separates competent, up-to-date vets from their lesser colleagues? In my opinion, and the opinion of more and more veterinarians unhappy about the current state of pet care, the best vets:

* Recommend against highly-processed pet foods. Think about it: would you live on nothing but fast food just because your doctor recommended it or sold it? For animals as for people, a diet of highly processed foods is the fastest route to poor health.

* Never prescribe toxic or dangerous medications and "preventatives." Whenever good vets do prescribe a pharmaceutical, they give you written warnings about potential adverse reactions and offer safer, natural alternatives if any exist. Note: many conventional vets aren't even aware of safer options. It's up to you to do research!

* Vaccinate only as absolutely necessary given a cat's or dog's age, health, locale and lifestyle. They inform you about the most recent recommendations of veterinary organizations and schools, and tell you about titer testing, an alternative to repeat parvovirus and distemper vaccinations for adult dogs.

* Never vaccinate without fully informing you about possible adverse reactions.

* Never vaccinate adult pets with multiple vaccines at one time. One nationwide practice brags they give more shots than other practices, ignoring all studies showing health risks associated with repeated assaults to the immune system. These polyvalent shots are given for convenience despite the possible negative health consequences.

* Never vaccinate unnecessarily against diseases your dog will likely never encounter (like Coronavirus) or use vaccines (like Giardia) that have been on the "not recommended" list of all veterinary organizations for years. If you don't know what's in that syringe, and know your dog really needs it, don't let that needle near your pet!

* Never leave critically-ill cats or dogs alone or with untrained "sitters" when clinics close at night or over the weekend. Note: this practice is the norm, not the exception, except at 24-hour emergency clinics.

* Never recommend foods, procedures or meds simply because the head of the practice demands compliance -- even when they disagree. In general, the bigger the practice, the more likely profits trump caregiving.

* Never promote fear of disease or parasites to sell products. One chain operation promotes heartworm meds with a big sign warning that California had 2000 heartworm cases last year, never mentioning that that's a tiny fraction of the state's 8-10 million dogs.

* Refer critically-ill dogs to specialists. They encourage second opinions and never imply you need their permission to go elsewhere -- which you don't.

* Don't promote "wellness programs" that revolve around yearly vaccinations and toxic "preventative" drugs. Good vets promote thorough physical exams and blood tests. Some so-called "wellness" programs are major profit makers that could actually shorten your dog's life.

* Never vaccinate sick dogs, aging housebound dogs or dogs undergoing surgery, radiation or chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressive drugs.

* Never vaccinate or perform any procedure without your explicit permission. Good vets don't take your dog into their back room without explaining exactly what they'll be doing and why they need to do it out of your sight.

So, is your vet a good vet? If not, take action now. Become an informed consumer. Express your concerns and expect real answers, not condescension and platitudes. If necessary, switch vets. Learn more about how to find a new vet, communicate better with the one you have or report a bad one at my "vet" web page.

Author's Bio: 

Jan Rasmusen authored Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care, a comprehensive, fun-to-read book on holistic dog health and safety. Jan's book won national awards for the Best Health Care Book (of any kind) and Best Pet Care Book. Find free dog care videos, audios, and articles at Jan's Dogs4Dogs.com website, and more about veterinarians at Dogs4Dogs.com/vet. Sign up for her popular free e-newsletter and her information-packed blogs.