Regular health exams allow us to evaluate your pet’s general health and become aware of any health problems before they become serious illnesses. Since your pet cannot vocalize their feelings, we must rely on regular physical examinations and your at-home observations to assess your pet’s health. To add to the information gathered on a health exam other diagnostic tests may be needed.
While routine blood testing, urinalysis (urine testing) and other tests are recommended for all pets in their “senior years” (over 7 years of age). Our doctors may recommend routine blood testing and urinalysis for your younger pets to establish baseline values, which can be used for comparison as pets age.
How often does my pet need a health exam?
Every year for a dog or cat is equivalent to five to seven human years. So it is optimal to have a health exam every 6 months, but it is important that your pet receives a health exam at least every year. Many aspects of your pet’s health can change in a short amount of time, we want to ensure we catch problems early.
Similar to people, our pets need to visit the veterinarian more often as they get older in order to prevent and treat illnesses that come with age (visit our Senior Pet Page for more information). Healthy senior dogs and cats should receive a wellness exam and lab testing every six months. Depending on your pet’s age and health, we will work with you and your family’s schedule to plan an appropriate physical examination program to help keep your pet in tip-top shape.
What can I expect during my pet’s wellness examination?
To start, the health examination is not just about physical findings on your pet. We get a lot of very valuable information from just talking to you about your pet. Don’t forget to mention any unusual behavior that you have noticed, including:
We will also want to know about your pet’s daily behavior, including diet, how much water they drink and their exercise routine. We may ask:
Depending on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and age, and other factors, we will also ask about your pet’s exposure to fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites. We will develop an individualized treatment and/or preventative plan to address these issues.
Usually at the beginning of the exam, your nurse will take your pet’s temperature, pulse, respiration (breathing) rate and body weight. If your pet has lost weight since their last physical exam, they may be experiencing the early stages of metabolic disease, such as kidney disease or diabetes. If your pet has gained weight since their last exam, we will work with you to develop an appropriate diet and exercise plan to return your pet to a healthier weight. Weight is an important consideration in your pet’s health — an extra two or three pounds could mean the difference between your pet being fit and healthy or obese and can take years off their life.
Has your pet has been shaking his head or scratching at his ears? Have you have noticed an odor coming from your pet’s ears? Your pet’s ear canals protect their inner ear, but can also become a home for parasites and other foreign objects. Your veterinarian will closely examine your pet’s ears to make sure they are healthy.
Eye examinations often reveal many health issues, including anemia, infections, glaucoma, cataracts, high blood pressure, jaundice, kidney problems and allergies, in addition to eye injuries and ulcers. Observation of the inner structures and outward appearances of the eyes will be included in an eye examination.
Your veterinarian will inspect your pet’s gums, teeth, tongue and palate (roof of the mouth) for tartar buildup, dental abnormalities, fractures, loose teeth, tumors, infection and other problems. For example, similar to people, a lack of red or pink color in your pet’s gums or lining of his lips could signal anemia. We can discuss the importance of regular at-home and professional teeth cleaning to prevent periodontal disease, which can cause bad breath and tooth loss.
Heart and Lungs
Your veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart and lungs for early signs of heart and respiratory disease. This is such a simple way to catch some very serious health issues.
If your pet has not been spayed or neutered, your veterinarian may discuss with you the many health benefits of spaying/neutering beyond just birth control. Your veterinarian will check your pet’s reproductive system for swellings, discharges and breast lumps.
Your pet’s skin is his largest organ and a good gauge of their health. Your veterinarian will check your pet’s skin and hair for fleas, ticks, other external parasites, tumors and wounds, as well as signs of allergies, infection, warts and tumors.
Total Body Massage
Your veterinarian will feel your pet’s abdomen for abnormalities, including enlarged organs, masses or painful areas, to detect problems with the stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver and other organs. Your veterinarian will also examine your pet’s legs and feet and the condition of your pet’s joints, muscles and lymph nodes.
Vaccinations are one of the most important preventive measure you can take for the health of your pet.
Dogs can be immunized against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, coronavirus, Bordetella, rabies, and Lyme disease.
Cats can be immunized against feline panleukopenia (distemper), rabies, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, chlamydia, feline leukemia, and FIP.
How frequently you should have your pet vaccinated against certain diseases depends on you and your pet’s lifestyle and risk of being exposed to those diseases. So we will talk to you to understand what is needed for your pet’s unique environment and lifestyle.
Do not underestimate the importance of taking your pet to the veterinarian for regular health examinations. These regular examinations will help your pet live a longer and healthier life, so do your part to care for your furry friend!