Wellness exams for your pets are important, just as are regular check-ups with your dentist or doctor. During a dog exam, your veterinarian can do a thorough physical examination of your pet and can detect any health problems before they get worse.
An Ounce of Prevention
Prevention is the main reason why wellness exams are important for your pet. When it comes to the health of your pet, it’s critical to make sure that your best friend is up to date on vaccines, heartworm prevention, and flea/tick prevention. Regular dog exams at GreenTree Animal Hospital in Libertyville, IL can prevent certain diseases and health problems from developing into life-threatening issues down the road. Whether you’re a cat or dog owner, or both, your veterinarian can recommend a wellness program based on your pet’s breed, lifestyle, and age. Studies conducted by the AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association), and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) revealed that regular visits to veterinarians are on the decline, and as a result, preventable diseases in pets are on the increase (1).
What is a Wellness Exam?
A dog exam is a thorough physical done by your veterinarian. First, a history is taken about how your pet is doing, then vitals are taken (temperature, pulse, respiration, weight), and then your veterinarian will perform a complete head-to-tail exam. Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth, ears, nose, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, stomach, and musculoskeletal system. Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning if there is a lot of tartar or gingivitis around your pet’s teeth. If your pet needs vaccines, your veterinarian will recommend vaccinating. If your older dog or cat has joint issues or arthritis, your veterinarian may recommend joint supplements or anti-inflammatories. Also, many veterinarians recommend heartworm testing for dogs and screening for intestinal parasites, and in older pets or pets that are on medications, blood work may be recommended to assess overall organ function and health. The purpose of the dog exam is to evaluate the health of your pet and to act as a way to prevent serious health problems in the future. For example, if your older cat is obese, and drinking and urinating excessively, he/she may be showing signs of diabetes. The sooner you get your cat seen by a veterinarian, the better chance you have of managing your cat’s diabetes, and ensuring a better quality of life.
How Often Does My Pet Need a Wellness Exam in Libertyville, IL?
This depends on whether you have a cat or a dog, the breed of your pet, the history of your pet, and the age and lifestyle of your pet. Most veterinarians recommend that younger pets less than seven years of age get yearly exams, and older pets over seven years receive an exam every six months. Pets with health issues or diseases may need more frequent exams, laboratory testing, and other diagnostics. Unlike us, pets age at a more rapid rate than we do, so even if seven years doesn’t sound old, that’s middle age in many breeds, and in some, considered geriatric. Of course, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian for recommendations.
What Does the Veterinarian Look for During a Wellness Exam?
During a dog exam, your veterinarian will consider the following conditions and issues:
- Weight. This a good measure of nutritional health.
- Skin condition/allergies/infections/tumors. Your veterinarian can conduct a thorough exam of your pet’s skin and fur.
- Teeth and dental disease. Your veterinarian will do a thorough exam of your pet’s teeth and mouth and may recommend a dental if needed.
- Eyes, cataracts, glaucoma. Your veterinarian will be able to detect any issues with your pet’s vision, and if necessary prescribe medications or further tests.
- Heart health/murmurs. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope and will be able to detect any heart murmurs (irregular heartbeats), or possible lung issues.
- Musculoskeletal system/ arthritis/ligaments. Your veterinarian will be able to assess limb, back, and joint function, and if necessary, prescribe joint supplements or anti-inflammatories if your pet suffers from arthritis or inflammation.
- Parasites such as fleas, ticks, roundworms, and tapeworms. Fleas and ticks can be carriers of serious diseases such a Lyme disease or bubonic plague which can be transmitted to humans, so it’s important to discuss anti-parasitics with your veterinarian during an exam.
- Behavior. During a wellness exam, you can discuss any behavioral issues you may be experiencing so that any medical illnesses can be ruled out. If your pet is healthy, you can ask your veterinarian about behavioral modification and/or medication for your pet’s behavioral problem.
Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, additional screening diagnostics and lab work may be recommended. Some of the more common diagnostics include:
- Blood work/CBC (complete blood count)/blood chemistries to measure organ function, thyroid function, and electrolytes.
- Urinalysis to assess kidney and bladder function.
- Heartworm tests.
- FeLV/FIV (Feline Leukemia Virus/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) screening in cats.
- Blood pressure screening in older cats and pets with renal disease.
- Cytology of any cysts, tumors, or growths.
- Radiographs to look for joint issues, and heart and lung function.
- Fecal tests to screen for intestinal parasites.
- Screening for skin issues and ear mites.
- Ultrasound to assess cardiac, liver, kidney, prostate, and bladder health.
After the dog exam, and if any diagnostics are run, your veterinarian will discuss the next steps in the care of your pet. For example, if your pet has a food allergy, your veterinarian may suggest changes in diet, or if your pet’s blood work reveals liver issues, your veterinarian may suggest starting your pet on medications and liver support supplements. If abnormalities are found on routine blood work, more advanced tests may be recommended.
Regular wellness exams for your pet are always a good practice at GreenTree in Libertyville, IL and can help you and your pet avoid possible serious health problems down the road.
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