Annual Health Exams
A complete physical examination is recommended on a yearly basis for all cats (indoor and outdoor) and dogs. Examinations are tailored to the individual pet’s breed, age, lifestyle and previous medical problems.
Before coming to the veterinary hospital for your pets annual health exam it is recommended that you bring in a stool sample from your pet that is not more than 1 day old to check for parasites. In addition it is recommended that your cat or dog be fasted if possible 8 hours previous to your pet’s annual health exam visit.
An annual exam starts with the veterinarian asking the you the owner about your pet’s health history and recording the information in your pet’s medical file. The history involves questions such as; is your pet drinking more, how is your pets apetite, are there any weight changes, does your pet have changes or discomfort in bowl movements, is your pet coughing or vomiting? Other questions will address unusual behaviour( for example, ear scratching, weaknesses or being unbalanced), changes in behaviour ( for example, unwilling to exercise), and your pets’ daily behaviour pattern (for example, does your pet go outdoors). Questions on where you live and where your pet has visited will help your veterinarian determine your pets’ risk for exposure to fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites, and the appropriate vaccine protocal.
The veterinarian will discuss various topics with you. Some points of discussions may include previous or future medical or surgical procedures, urinary tract health, elimination habits, reviewing medications and supplements. Other discussion topics will include dental health, dental disease and preventative care. Discussions on home and professional teeth cleaning are to help the pet owner understand periodontal disease, which can cause tooth loss and bad breath. Zoonotic risks, heartworm prevention, vaccinations and micro chipping are other important topics to be discussed. Topics discussed are tailored to the specific species (dog or cat) age of the pet, breed of the pet and the pets individual health issues. Spaying or neutering is discussed for younger pets including the health benefits of.
The veterinarian will perform a physical exam. The pet’s temperature, weight, breathing rate, and pulse rate will be taken. These vital statistics could point to problems such as diabetes or kidney disease. The veterinarian will examine the pet from head to toes for anything that sounds, smells or feels abnormal.
The veterinarian starts with the nose and mouth and eyes. The nose is checked for discharges and symmetrical air flow. Dental abnormalities, tartar build up, gingivitis, loose teeth, fractures, your pet’s gums, tongue, tumours, ulcerations and infections are included in the dental part of the exam. The condition of the ears including wax, hair, masses, redness, bad odour and possible parasites in the ears are looked at. Examination of the eyes including looking at eyelid structure, pupil size and presence of ocular discharge are performed. Eye examinations can reveal anemia, infections, cataracts, jaundice, allergies, glaucoma, high blood pressure, kidney problems, eye injuries or ulcers. The eyes can give an indication of the nutritional health of your pet.
Neurological function of the cranial nerves is looked at. Examination of the animal walking and paying attention to overall balance, foot placement, posture is observed.
Along the neck the veterinarian will palpate for abnormalities associated with the thyroid gland and lymph nodes, which can indicate a nearby infection or other disease. Lymph nodes are checked for size and symmetry.
Throughout the examination your veterinarian will also palpate muscles and bones for symmetry and tone and squeeze joints, looking for range of motion, swelling abnormalities and testing for reflexes and pain. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart for murmurs or irregular beats and lungs for abnormal sounds, fluid, harshness or breathing patterns which could indicate early signs of respiratory disease.
Your veterinarian will palpate abdominal organs to determine the size and texture of the kidneys, the bladder condition and possible stones within the bladder, any liver and intestines abnormalities such as enlarged organs, masses or tenderness and painful areas.
Rectal exams are often performed on older dogs and unneutered dogs, to rule out prostate disease in males and rectal disease in both sexes. Your veterinarian will check your pet’s reproductive system for swellings (for example, enlarged uterus), discharges, breast lumps and testicle size.
Your veterinarian will check your pet’s skin and hair for fleas, ticks, other external parasites, tumours and wounds, bruising, lesions, thickening as well as signs of allergies, infection, warts and tumours.
Following the physical exam, your veterinarian may order a laboratory evaluation, which may include tests such as a fecal exam, urinalysis, a complete blood cell count, and biochemical blood tests.
If your veterinarian finds abnormalities or signs of disease, further investigating using diagnostic tests such as X-rays and specific blood tests may be recommended. If the condition is serious or very specific, a veterinary specialist such as a dermatologist, internist, ophthalmologist, or cardiologist could be consulted.
“Shots” are just one part of your pet’s annual exam. Vaccinations should be given if the physical exam indicates the pet is healthy. Visits with the veterinarian are important to prevent disease, to catch disease early, and to educate you on current veterinary knowledge and to promote healthy habits for your pet.
Dr. Kathryn Hahn at the Animal Hospital