Open Wide and Say, “Arf!” Yearly Wellness Checks for Your Pet

Far too often, we are presented with pets that have a disease that is so entrenched in each animal that there is little we can do. Far too often, we are presented with ill pets that, if they had been brought in for an exam, would have had their problem diagnosed and treated much earlier in the course of the disease process.

This is a situation that is easily remedied by bringing your pet in for a yearly wellness check, also known as a preventive exam. For elderly pets or those with a chronic disease, this exam should be performed at least every six months.

Our wellness exam starts with a thorough history of your pet’s diet, lifestyle, and any potential symptoms of disease. We have a checklist of questions to review to make sure we do not miss anything of importance. Any medications your pet might be on, along with its vaccine history and prior medical issues, are part of this history.

After the history, we complete a thorough physical exam. We note your pet’s weight and temperature and then go through a checklist of physical parameters. We examine areas that pet owners do not routinely look at. Examples include the following:

  • oral exam
  • peripheral lymph node exam
  • abdominal palpation
  • thorax auscultation

This exam is modified depending on the species. For example, birds and reptiles have no peripheral lymph nodes. Taking the body temperature on these two species yields little information because of the tremendous variation in what is considered normal. One bird with a body temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit might be normal, while the next bird with a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit might have a fever.

After this exam, one of our doctors can show you how to do a partial exam at home. This is called our in-home exam, and you can learn about it from the Learning Center on our web site. This is a tremendous complement to the yearly preventive exam.

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You can conduct a simple wellness check at home. Courtesy lbah.com

After the physical exam, we perform a blood panel and urinalysis. This blood panel is comprehensive; in addition to checking the red and white blood cells, it checks major internal organs, protein levels, electrolytes, heartworm status, thyroid status, and FeLV and FIV status. The type of blood panel we submit depends on age and species, but in general, pets under 8 years old get a less thorough blood panel as compared to pets over 8 years of age. We also like to check for internal parasites (worms) on all pets and check a urine sample and blood pressure on the pets over 8.

The two most common areas for problems to occur as your pet ages are gingivitis and obesity. These are both easily prevented and treated, and the preventive exam will address these problems if needed

The test results are usually available within one to two days. One of our doctors will call you with the report. We will also send you a report card with the results of the diagnostic tests. Some of our blood panels are available online within 72 hours. If the blood panel and physical exam are normal, the preventive exam is complete.

This wellness exam is also a good time to update your pet on vaccines and to go over nutritional information along with flea and heartworm control. Your doctor will send you home with a discharge sheet reviewing all of our findings and recommendations up to that point.

Remember that good health begins at home. Watch your pet’s diet, coat, eyes, teeth and demeanor overall, and perform the in-home exam weekly. And, as you would yourself, bring him or her in for an annual checkup.



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