We always encourage pet owners to keep a written account of any changes they observe in their pet’s health or behavior, as these can be indicative of disease or major body changes. If you have any concerns, please express them to us at the beginning of your appointment, so that we can properly investigate and address them. Videotaping strange behaviors (put those smart phones to use!) allows the doctor to see exactly what you are witnessing at home.
The importance of a physical exam cannot be stressed enough- many diseases can be discovered early or a diagnosis pursued based upon the doctor’s findings during a physical exam. In many cases, when treatment is started early in the disease process your pet has a much better prognosis and a better chance of living a long and healthy life.
At every physical exam, your veterinarian reviews your pet’s recent history, thoroughly assesses major body systems from nose to tail, and is there to explain any abnormal findings and answer any questions you may have. A physical exam, recommended regularly in young animals, yearly in healthy adults, and at least twice a year in geriatric pets, is a quick way to methodically check your pet for the signs and symptoms of many diseases. It is the starting point of diagnostics for any sick pet. If you have any concerns or there are any unusual findings, a more in-depth workup is then performed.
During the exam, the doctor will check the ears, skin, and hair coat for any signs of allergic disease, infection, parasites, or other diseases. They will listen for any changes in your pet’s heart, like a developing murmur or arrhythmia. Any signs of respiratory disease, including a cough or increased respiratory effort, are noted at this time as well. Your pet’s teeth and gums will be checked for signs of dental disease and any obvious growths or changes, and the mucous membranes will be assessed. The external structures of the eyes are examined and any development of cataracts or lenticular sclerosis will be mentioned to you. If the doctor has any concerns, they will perform a more in-depth exam of the interior of the eye.
At a physical exam, your pet’s entire body is palpated- the doctor uses their hands to feel tissues and internal organs, looking for any abnormalities. The doctor will feel for any changes in lymph nodes, which can be a sign of infection or cancer, as well as for any change in muscle tone. Many of the organs in the abdomen can be felt at this time, giving the doctor an idea of their size and shape- and often of the presence of large organ masses or even stones within the bladder! The GI tract and urogenital systems are also checked at this time, and your doctor will assess the anal glands and check for any signs of growth or change in these areas.
Once your pet is determined to be healthy, your vet may administer any vaccinations they are due for or perform common diagnostic tests, like a heartworm or lyme disease test. We are always happy to perform a courtesy toe nail trim, at your request.
We always recommend that a pet receives regular physical exams. The majority of the diseases that we diagnose leave tell-tale marks upon your pet, many of which are found incidentally during a routine physical exam before an owner realizes anything is wrong. Catching diseases early is one of the best ways to keep your pet healthy.