Preventive Care

We all know that pets should see the veterinarian when they are sick, but did you know that pets should be seen on at least an annual basis? Routine physical exams, vaccinations, and parasite screenings are an integral part of keeping your pet in the best health possible.


Dental care is an often-overlooked aspect of preventive care. As pets age, tartar can begin to accumulate on their teeth, necessitating professional cleaning under anesthesia. We also offer digital dental radiography, which allows us to visualize the entire tooth from root to tip. 50-60% of each tooth isn't visible without radiography, meaning that a cleaning without radiographs may miss disease below the gum line - leading to worsening periodontal disease, and possible infection and pain. 


At Ringgold Animal Hospital, we offer dietary and behavioral counseling as part of our preventive care visits. Diet is an important part of your pet's well being, for obvious reasons, and behavioral issues are one of the most common reasons pets are surrendered to shelters.


Should your pet ever get lost, a microchip is a valuable way to permanently identify them, and can allow the finder to reunite you with your wayward friend. Many shelters across the country routinely scan all inbound pets for the presence of a microchip, and most veterinary clinics have scanners on hand as well.


Surgical sterilization (commonly called spaying and neutering) is the best way to prevent unwanted litters and decrease or eliminate the instance of certain cancers and conditions. We are happy to discuss the pros and cons, answer any questions you may have, and recommend the best timing for your pet's spay or neuter. 

Annual Examinations

As we all know, pets age faster than humans. This makes annual physical examinations equivalent to seeing your doctor only every few years. Pets are masters at hiding illness, so a routine examination by the veterinarian may reveal a concern that wasn't previously recognized. 


During a physical examination, the veterinarian will check your dog or cat from nose to tail. Eyes, ears, mouth and nose are examined for irritation, discharge, and foul odors. Lymph nodes are assessed for swelling, which could indicate infection. The veterinarian will feel of your pet's abdomen, checking the size and location of your pets internal organs (liver, spleen, intestines, bladder, kidneys, and stomach) and feeling for any abnormalities that could indicate an issue. Skin and hair coat are examined, looking for the presence of external parasites, growths, infections, or hair loss. The veterinarian will also listen to your pet's heart and lungs for a murmur, arrhythmia, or any crackles, wheezes, or other unusual sounds. 


Should the veterinarian find anything amiss, additional diagnostics may be recommended. Labwork, radiographs, or referral for advanced testing may be indicated. 


Routine physical examinations can help detect problems before they become major issues. Many diseases can be more effectively managed when caught early, and early detection of some cancerous tumors may prevent their spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). We recommend yearly physical examinations for all pets, plus appropriate vaccinations and parasite screenings. We also recommend all pets be on a lifestyle-appropriate parasite control regimen - which means year-round heartworm prevention for dogs and cats, and ideally, year-round flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats. Our climate is hospitable to parasites 12 months a year, so protection is necessary year-round as well!


Vaccinations play a critical role in every pet's life - from six weeks to 16 years old (and beyond). Vaccinations lend protection from numerous diseases, some of which are life-threatening.


Just like in children, puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations spaced at regular intervals in order to be fully protected. Older pets need vaccinations on a regular basis, too. Depending on your veterinarian's and the manufacturer's recommendations, it can vary from every six months to every three years. 


Vaccinations are divided into two categories: core and non-core. Core vaccinations are ones that all pets should have, regardless of their life style. Non-core vaccinations are given on a case-by-case basis, depending on where you live and what the risk factors are for your pet.

For dogs:

Core vaccinations                                                  





Non-core vaccinations                                     Rattlesnake

Bordetella (Kennel cough)



Canine Influenza

Lyme disease

Coronavirus (not COVID-19)

Non-core vaccinations

Feline Leukemia

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Coronavirus (not COVID-19)

For cats:

Core vaccinations                                                  

Feline viral rhinotracheitis

Calici virus  



Puppies and kittens typically receive a transient immunity from their mothers via nursing. This immunity begins to disappear sometime between six and 12 weeks - since we can't know exactly when the immunity lapses for a particular pet, we begin vaccinations at six weeks. This ensures that the pet is protected from the earliest age the maternal immunity might begin to wane. Vaccinations are continued at regular intervals until the pet reaches 16 weeks, which helps make certain that an adequate immune response is generated by the pet once the maternal antibody fades. This immune response is critical to protecting the pet from disease.


Just like people, adult dogs and cats need periodic booster vaccinations througout their lifetime. Some vaccinations are boostered every six months while others can last up to three years. Your veterinarian can offer guidance based on your pet's age and the vaccine manufacturer's recommendations, as well as any local ordinances.


Rabies vaccination intervals are usually determined by law. Rabies virus is transmittable to humans, as well as being fatal, making vaccination of pets a public health issue. In Catoosa County (which includes Ringgold, GA), all dogs and cats older than 12 weeks must be vaccinated for Rabies, as well as registered with county animal control. Frequency of booster vaccinations is determined by the veterinarian and vaccine manufacturer's recommendations, though the county registration must be renewed annually. You should always discuss Rabies vaccination requirements with your veterinarian, as laws can differ greatly from one jurisdiction to another.

Parasite Screening

Parasites come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are internal (intestinal worms, heartworms, etc.) and some are external (fleas, ticks, ear mites, etc.). They can be obvious to the naked eye or impossible to see without the aid of a microscope.


We can screen your pet for a variety of parasites, including:


All of our canine patients are screened yearly for heartworms, per the recommendations of The American Heartworm Society and the veterinary universities. They are also screened for intestinal parasites and the presence of fleas and ticks.


Feline patients are screened yearly for intestinal parasites and the presence of fleas and ticks, as well as ear mites if suspected. Cats that spend time outside - especially if they are intact or prone to fighting - should be tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus yearly (our tests include heartworms as well).  

Dietary Consultation

Pet obesity is a growing trend. 56-60% of all pets in America are overweight or obese. Greater than 89 million dogs and cats in the United States are classified as overweight or obese by standard body condition scores (BCS). 


We all love our pets. We all want them to be healthy. But extra weight can sabotage their health in more ways than one. Dogs and cats that are overweight are more susceptible to things like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, and some forms of cancer. Overweight pets live, on average, 2 years less than their healthy-weight counterparts. And it’s not just pets that are 5, 10 or even 30 pounds overweight. One pound on a 30 pound dog is like 5 pounds on a person. One pound on an average-sized cat is like 15 pounds on a person! It only gets worse as the number of extra pounds goes up - 5 extra pounds on a 30 pound dog is the equivalent of a person being 25 pounds overweight. Your cat is 5 pounds overweight? Try putting on 75 pounds and you’ll know how they feel! 


So what can be done? Diet and exercise are just as important for our pets as they are for us. Pets prone to being overweight should be eating a good quality, low calorie food. They should be fed on a schedule, and the quantity should be limited. Treats should make up less than 10% of their diet, and adjustments to their overall intake should be made as needed. Table food is out, too - it’s loaded with fat and calories that can sabotage all of your hard work. Low impact exercise is a must for any weight loss plan, and should include at least 30 minutes of activity every day. A brisk walk around the neighborhood can do wonders for the waistline! Cats can be engaged in play with a feather on a string, a laser pointer, or even a mechanical mouse.


So, how much is too much? Your veterinary team is able calculate an appropriate amount of food and treats for your dog or cat. By using your pet’s current body weight as well as a target weight, we can tailor a feeding plan specifically for you and your dog or cat. We are happy to do the leg work for you - simply tell us what kinds of foods you are feeding (brand, variety, flavors) as well as any treats you are currently offering and we will custom make a diet plan. We know feeding and treats are often an important part of the human-animal bond, so we do our best to provide a diet plan that allows for the treats you are used to - just in healthier portions.


Sticking to the plan can be difficult, but it will be worth it when the weight starts coming off. Remember, don’t get discouraged if your pet only loses a few ounces or pounds at a time - every loss is a victory!



Choosing a food for your pet

Raw Diets

Grain-free Diets

Home-cooked Diets


Pet Food Ingredients

Behavior Consultation

Hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters every year, many of them because of behavioral problems. Excessive barking, house soiling, and destructive behaviors are all potential reasons for a pet to wind up in a shelter - but they don't have to be. 


Proper training and socialization can prevent a lot of behavioral problems from ever occurring. We recommend all of our puppy patients go through at least a basic puppy kindergarten class. We highly recommend the Obedience Club of Chattanooga for dogs of all ages, but especially puppies. They limit access to their facility to only well-vaccinated dogs, so puppies can begin attending classes at a younger age without a significantly increased risk of contracting a contagious disease such as parvovirus. 


The old saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is only that - an old saying. Training classes can be very beneficial to older dogs as well. Whether it's his first time in class or his skills are just a bit rusty, an older dog will benefit from the socialization of a class as well as the training. We are always happy to offer suggestions regarding specific behaviors, as well as guidance (and possibly medications) for dogs that exhibit separation anxiety, noise phobias, situation anxiety, car sickness, and more.


While cats don't typically enroll in training classes, it doesn't mean they can't be trained. Many cats enjoy learning and performing tricks - for the proper motivation. Even if your cat doesn't yearn for the spotlight, proper socialization and teaching appropriate behaviors is important for all cats. They should be given proper outlets for their instinctual behaviors (tolieting practices, scratching, hunting, etc.). Cats crave vertical space - they love to look down over their domain from a high perch such as the top of a cat tree or a tall shelf. They are naturally inquisitive, and will often investigate a paper bag or cardboard box left laying around. You can help satisfy their need to hunt by utilizing a feather on a string, a laser pointer, or a treat dispensing toy. Ohio State University has done extensive research on the lives of indoor cats and how to provide enrichment for them. It is called The Indoor Pet Initiative, and is a valuable resource for all pet owners.


Dogs and cats aren't born knowing how to behave according to our rules. It is up to us to teach them how to interact with our world, and to guide them into becoming the loyal companions we hope for. With dedication, consistency, love, and a lot of patience, we can help them reach their full potential as four-legged members of the family.

Permanent Identification

We offer microchip implantation as a way of permanently identifying your pet. Microchips utilize Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.


A microchip is implanted under your pet's skin, between the shoulder blades. The chip is slightly larger than a grain of rice and contains an unique alpha-numeric code that can be read via scanner. It is NOT a GPS tracking device. It can be implanted during an anesthetic procedure (preferred) or during any routine office visit. It is a safe, effective way of permanently identifying your pet.


Should your pet become lost, a microchip relies on your pet being presented to a veterinarian or shelter for scanning with a microchip reader. Once scanned, the reader will display your pet's unique ID number. That number can be called into the registry service, who will pass along your contact information. Some registries also keep basic medical information on file, such as any medical conditions your pet may have or medications it takes on a regular basis.


A microchip is only as good as the contact information the registry service has; therefore, it is crucial to keep your information (especially your primary and secondary contact numbers) up to date. Many registries allow you to set up an online profile, which can be easily updated as needed.


We carry HomeAgain microchips at Ringgold Animal Hospital. Our microchip fee includes the chip, implantation, registration with HomeAgain, and a year of membership in their proactive recovery services. You are under no obligation to continue membership in the recovery services after the first year; they will still hold your contact information in their registry in case it is needed. 


A tag or collar can be removed, fall off, or simply be unreadable (but microchipping should not take the place of a sturdy collar and readable, up-to-date tags - if your pet is found, no special equipment is needed when your phone number is listed on a tag). ​While microchipping is not a guarantee you will be reunited with a lost pet, many pets DO make it home because of their permanent identification. Many shelters in the United States routinely scan all incoming pets, and most veterinary clinics have microchip readers on-hand to scan pets found by Good Samaritans.

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