I have had this question come up recently, and it is a good one. I will try to be as honest as possible, and if you notice something that I missed please let me know. Here we go...
I think the most important thing that an animal needs is a really good food. If corn is on your current label lets talk. I see many dogs with recurrent ear infections & anal gland issues (to name a few), and when we get the animal on an appropriate food things typically get better. Even if you are purchasing your food from a pet health food store there is a chance that something may need tweaked. If you know me you know that I took a food therapy course from the Chi Institute. You can use food as medicine.
Dogs (and rarely cats) can get heartworm. We have it in Iowa. Even if your animal 'doesn't go out much' they can contract this severe illness. For <$10/mo you can prevent heartworm infection. Many vets are recommending year around meds based on the American Heartworm Society recommendations (https://www.heartwormsociety.org/). If you are giving meds at least May/June to Nov that is pretty good for Iowa. The one benefit I really see for year around meds is to prevent intestinal parasites. Humans can get roundworms from pets (rare...but it can happen).
What vaccines are needed? First off...I am not the vaccine police. I am willing to review your wishes & what your animal likely needs. I do not see dogs & cats as 'cookie cutters' when it comes to vaccine plans. If you want a refresher please check out the vaccine blog in the veterinary care section. By law dogs and cats are required to have rabies. Cats in my practice receive the 1yr purevax rabies vaccine. I can use the 3yr Imrab product if requested. It does carry a 1-10/20,000 risk for a vaccine associated cancer. Cats should likely receive a 'distemper' vaccination as a kitten. Boosters are based on their environment. I do not give cats feline leukemia vaccines unless they are indoor/outdoor cats. FIV - 'feline aids' - I do not recommend this vaccine. You can find great information on all vaccines at www.VeterinaryPartner.com. I recommend dogs receive at least 1-2 distemper/parvo boosters as puppies. After that we either check a titer or vaccinate every three years until 8yrs of age. Leptospirosis? Do your homework - www.VeterinaryPartner.com. I could go on and on, but it is easier if you do a little reading on your own. Lyme? I think your money is better spent on topical preventative. Ticks also carry a million co-infections that there are no vaccines for.
Other things that are important:
-behavior...if you are having issues let me know. You are not alone if you are having issues with your furry friend.
-a loving home (very important) :)
-lots of attention & exercise (have you tried a laser pointer for your cat?)
-enriched environment (especially for indoor cats): treat balls, automated feeders to spice up their diet life, perches to look outside, etc etc etc...
-natural therapies as needed: ie: acupuncture, VOM - Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation, food therapy, & herbal supplementation
I consider myself a holistic veterinarian. I will be honest and open when it comes to your pet's care. My clients are involved in the decision making process when it comes to their pet's care. I see pets in their homes & at Wholesome Pet Essentials in Ankeny.
-Abby Strobbe, DVM