Pet Talk: Schedule your pet’s annual health examination | VailDaily.com

Pet Talk: Schedule your pet’s annual health examination

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
Pet Talk

In my many years of veterinary practice I have seen many trends in veterinary care.

Most recently, I have seen a trend towards vaccine clinics and quick-stop-shopping for cheap veterinary care. I feel as a profession, we are forgetting what is the most important part of our patient's overall health: the annual wellness exam.

By administering vaccines only, we are doing our patients and customers a disservice as we are leading our customers to believe that a vaccine is assuring the pet is healthy, which is so untrue.

The most important component of assuring a pet has the longest, most pain-free and healthiest life as the years progress, your pet should have an annual examination. The annual examination is so important in many ways.

A full history of the pet's background

During the history, your veterinarian is able to learn about what habits in your pet's life may or may not have changed which can indicate early disease. Your veterinarian can also assess your pet's diet, as well as travel plans so that your pet may be protected against diseases prevalent in other parts of the country. Examples where history can be so important are in older pets where perhaps appetite is decreased, or water consumption has increased, or perhaps new lumps have appeared that could be cancerous. All of these are discussed in detail and are so important as your veterinarian tries to assure your pet is receiving the best medical care necessary for their age of life.

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Physical Examination

Temperature: Increases or decreases can indicate infection, cancer, inflammation, hypothermia and more.

Pulse: A pulse will allow us to assess cardiac arrhythmias, anemia potential, dehydration and more.

Respiration: Respirations reflect the breathing pattern in a pet which can be altered due to infections, infiltrative lung disease, asthma and even heart disease.

Head to toe

Eyes: Eyes are examined for evidence of early cataracts, tumors, eyelid masses, as well as neurological diseases in addition to many immune disorders that can alter your pet's vision.

Ears: Ears are examined for evidence of inflammation, infection, "foreign bodies" as well as parasites which can effect your pet's hearing.

Mouth: The mouth is examined for evidence of oral disease, fractured teeth, oral cancers, abscessed teeth and early evidence of cavities.

Lymph nodes: Enlarged lymph nodes can indicate systemic disease and even cancer such as lymphoma.

Heart and lungs: The heart and lungs are examined to determine pulse and respiration as well as heart diseases including heart murmurs, heart failure and arrhythmias.

Abdomen: Organs, tumors and abdominal foreign bodies can all be detected with abdominal palpation.

Joints: Your pet's joints can all be felt for arthritis, congenital abnormalities, sports injuries or other orthopedic conditions that could be causing them pain.

Skin: Underlying diseases can be reflected in your pet's coat, for example lack of grooming can indicate disease. The skin is also checked for lumps which can potentially be cancerous.

A fecal sample may be obtained during the exam to check your pet for parasites and a complete laboratory analysis of your pet's bloodwork may be obtained to give a more complete look at your pet's health.

In conclusion, to provide your pet the healthiest life possible, schedule that annual wellness exam today.