A thorough and regular physical examination is every bit as important for your pet as it is for you. Because your pets can’t tell you how they really feel, and in many cases will actually hide signs of illness, a complete physical examination at least once a year is a minimum, though more frequent exams are advisable (eg 2-3 times yearly) in the following circumstances:
- The first year of Life (click here for more puppy/kitten info)
- Pets over the age of 7 years
- Pets who have had Cancer diagnosed or treated
- Heart disease
- Intestinal Disease
- Liver Disease
- Pancreatic Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Skin Disease
- Ear Disease
- Dental Disease
In many cases, check-ups are required more frequently in the early stages of managing your pet’s health shortly after diagnosis of an illness. Once any condition has been resolved or has stabilized, and their health is being managed with changes to diet, lifestyle or with medications, we will typically need to see you and your pet much less frequently. These check ups each 4-6 months are vital as they allow any minor changes required to be made, and avoid deterioration in your pets health.
Our consultation and veterinary examination will provide you with a snapshot of your pet’s overall health and give us an opportunity as well as to spot potential medical issues before they become serious health concerns. It’s also a time for you to ask your veterinarian important questions about your pet’s health, habits and daily care. We use this time to inform you about home healthcare for your pet and offer important advice and new information appropriate to the breed and lifestage of your pet.
What happens at a Better Pet Vets consultation – my pet seems healthy so what does an examination involve?
During your pet’s consultation, our veterinarians start by getting to know about you and your pet; listening to any concerns or questions you may have about your pets health – you may have noticed a lump or bump, or seen that they seem more itchy than usual, or have developed a cough. We listen to your input because you know your pet’s normal behaviour and activities better than anyone
Your pet’s medical record will be checked, and we will ask you about any previous medical problems make sure these are all resolved or that you are happy with their progress. We will also ask about your pets current diet and feeding, water consumption, and about other daily behavior patterns that relate to your pet’s health.
We will take note of anything of concern to you, and then conduct our full physical examination to see if there is anything else we need to know or that may be related to that problem.
Heart Rate, Pulse, Respiration rate, Weight and body condition are noted and we will begin the physical examination from nose to tail and toes. A good veterinarian will use almost all of their senses to assess your pets health – vision, smell, touch, and hearing all give us important information. (we try to avoid taste.. but sometimes we don’t see the licky kiss coming!!)
A wet or dry nose doesn’t mean good health…
The nose is not the health barometer that some people might think it is, but it is a good place to start, Your veterinarian will check your pet’s nose for abnormal discharges, and changes in color, texture, moisture, or shape.
Pet’s ears invite infection…
You’ll probably be asked if your dog or cat has been shaking its head or scratching at its ears. Have you noticed any odor from the ears? Your pets deep, curved ear canals provide protection for the inner ear, but these canals also provide a snug home for parasites, infections, and things like grass seeds. A visual check will be made, and a sample of the wax may be assessed. Ear disease is relatively common in many pets. Issues such as low-grade allergies, swimming or bathing, our tropical climate, mites and other parasites can all cause and contribute to ear disease.
Eyes: windows to your pet’s health…
Eye problems such as conjunctivitis and corneal injuries or eyelid lacerations are detected at this stage of the physical examination, and we also evaluate your pet’s vision. We may also examine and assess the inner structures of the eye. Some health conditions, such as anemia and jaundice, are first suspected through eye examinations; and cataracts can be caused by diabetes. Many eye diseases are more prevalent in certain breeds and so will advise you of things to look out for into the future so that you can have any issues detected and treated early.
Your pet will receive an oral exam…
Oral hygiene is extremely important. Did you know good oral care and hygiene adds 2-4 years to your pet’s life? Your veterinarian will check your pet’s gums, teeth, tongue, and palate for abnormalities, tumors, and infections. A dental examination is important for detecting gingivitis, periodontal disease, and infected teeth. Very young animals, such as kittens and puppies, also need to be checked to ensure that their dental anatomy is developing correctly and that they are losing their baby teeth at the right time. We also take the time to discuss proper home dental care, so you can minimize any dental disease your pet will develop through their lifetime.
Listening to the heart and lungs…
We use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. We assess the overall cardiac and pulmonary health of your pet. Early heart disease and respiratory problems are often recognized during a routine health exam. Discovering these initial indicators of trouble ahead can lead to identifying and treating the underlying condition before it becomes a more serious health threat.
If we detect something, we can perform an Electrocardiogram (ECG) or Chest X-ray. The results can be quickly interpreted and any necessary next steps taken.
Health is sometimes skin deep…
The skin is the body’s largest organ, so inflammation or infection of the skin has a significant negative effect on your pet’s health. We will check for fleas, ticks, other external parasites, tumors, and wounds. The skin is also a good indicator of any other problems in your pets overall health. Typically, a flat dull coat and flakey skin means that either your pet’s health or diet is not optimal. Healthy pets should have a soft shiny and lustrous coat. Many owners find our diet and shampoo recommendations make a huge difference to the quality of their pets skin and coat, improve the quality of life for their pet, and mean the dog can come back inside again….
Your veterinarian will use their hands and fingers to carefully feel the abdominal organs. This sense of touch is used to assess the condition of internal organs and to detect tumors or other irregularities. When we feel the skin, we are looking for unusual lumps or swellings as well as evaluating for patterns of hair loss or thinning. These can indicate the presence of more systemic problems, especially metabolic or hormonal diseases, which most commonly occur in middle-aged animals.
Palpate joints and muscles – By examining the joints, legs, back and other areas of the body, we are able to evaluate for swollen joints, decreased muscle tone and variations in muscle size between the legs. We also observe your pet’s gait for movement or mobility issues. In puppies, we look for early indications of hip, knee or elbow problems. In middle aged and older pets, we look for signs of arthritis, which can be readily and successfully treated if found early.
Once the physical examination has been completed and we have addressed any concerns you may have, we will also review vaccination status and preventative care measures like parasite control (heartworm, intestinal worms, fleas and ticks) to ensure that these aspects of your pet’s health are up to date. It’s a lot to cover in this period of time and this is why we ensure our veterinarians have a full 15 minutes with both you and your pet.
Lab work – A complete physical exam for pets sometimes also includes urine testing and blood work to assess underlying organ health which cannot be assessed with just a physical exam – liver and kidney function for example. If this is required we will discuss this with you at the time.