Wellness and Physical Exams for Dogs, Cats, and Horses

brentWhy do our pets (and horses) need yearly exams? Of course, we all know the answer.  Just like our own doctors advise us to get checked out on a yearly basis, it is equally important for our animals to be examined too.  In fact, it may be more important in our animals since they can not verbally express to us changes in the way they feel.  Exams should be performed at least once a year on younger animals and more frequently on older ones.  The primary goal is to find problems early or prevent them from ever occurring.  The bottom line is we want to maximize length and quality of life.  Pets enhance our lives in so many ways, we want to make sure we return the favor.  Frequent complete check ups with a veterinarian help us accomplish this.

So, what does a complete check up consist of?  The answer is probably as different as the veterinarian doing the examining but the following describes how it is done at Snake River Veterinary Center.  Of course each veterinarian  may perform the individual parts of an exam in a different order, but once completed, all systems should be covered.  The following is how we approach the physical exam at Snake River Veterinary Center.

1.  First, the veterinarian or technician will ask you a variety of questions regarding your pet.  The answers you give will help determine if there are any problems and how we might go about addressing them.  Although this part may seem a bit mundane, it is extremely important.

2.  Second, a TPR is taken.  TPR is short for temperature, pulse and respiration.  Generally, one of our very capable technicians performs this part.

3. The heart is listened to with the aid of a stethoscope (ausculted) to check for murmurs or abnormal rythyms.  The lungs are also listened to make sure they are clear and air moves through them freely.

4.  The abdomen is palpated (felt) to detect any pain, lumps, or other abnormalities.

5.  The skin is checked for redness, hair loss, signs of allergies, lumps, and external parasites such as fleas.

6.  Joints are checked for swelling or pain.

7.  We check the eyes with an ophthalmoscope and look for signs of cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye.

8.  Ears are checked with an otoscope to look for cheat (we all know what a problem that is around here), other foreign bodies, and signs of infection.

9.  We check the mouth and teeth for oral and dental disease.  Did you know that more than half of all pets have dental problems that cause pain and contribute to other health problems?

10.  We recommend a fecal test to check for internal parasites.  This requires a fresh fecal sample that can be checked in our lab.  Don’t worry, we can provide you with a complimentary kit to obtain the sample without too much “grossness”. Of course, we can always take care of this for you.

11.  Finally, we ask you if all of your questions were answered and make sure all of your concerns were addressed.  Even small things can be clues to larger problems, so be sure to bring them up.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Our goal is to be sure you understand everything we talked about during your visit.  We like to send you home with a report card that outlines the exam and any recommendations we make.  Sometimes we cover a lot of things during an exam and it is hard to remember it all so it is nice to have it written down.

Most of what I covered here pertains to our small animal patients.   In general, the same principles apply to horses but the exam may differ a little.

Now that I have given some reasons why frequent exams are important and outlined the parts of the exam, I have some good news.  We have come up with a wellness program to help you provide your pet with a complete exam and check up.  This program will give you the opportunity to provide complete exams at an exceptional value.  Watch our Facebook posts for more information.

Hooray for July 4th!

brent4th of July, fun times and celebration for people, terrifying for pets.  The noise produced by fireworks can cause significant stress to some pets.  Dogs are most commonly frightened but cats and other animals can be too.  Here are some tips to help minimize the stress:

1.  Keep pet inside a confined area.  Garages, laundry rooms, etc. are good places   Provide a pet carrier or crate for them to go into.  Keep the area as dark as possible.  Pets will feel safer in a den like environment.

2.  Don’t let them outside without a leash.   If they become frightened, they may not come back to you when you call them.

3.  Keep a collar on your pet with identification.  If you don’t have a name tag for your pet, write your phone number in permanant ink on the collar.  This will help someone get him or her back to you if your pet gets away.

4.  Avoid fireworks all together.  I know this is easier said than done but maybe instead of lighting them off at your house, go watch the ones put on by the local communities.

5.  There are some homeopathic remedies available at pet stores that may also have  a calming affect.

6.  In severe anxiety cases, there are sedatives that veterinarians can prescribe.  In general, these drugs require and office visit prior to a prescription.

There are a few more precautions worth mentioning.

1.  Fireworks also pose two additional concerns for pet owners.  First, they can produce burns if a pet comes into contact with a lit firework.  Second, they can also be toxic if ingested.

2.  Consider the hot weather.  Make sure your pets have a way out of the heat and provide plenty of water.

3.  We all love 4th of July picnics, barbecued meats, corn on the cob, fruit, chips, etc.  Pets love to get in on some of this great tasting stuff too.   However, many of these things are not good for your pet.  Greasy or rich foods can cause pancreatitis, a serious condition in dogs and cats that is sometimes difficult to treat.  Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure and corn on the cob can cause a choking hazard.  It is best just to keep you pets away from the picnic.

Happy 4th of July everyone!  I hope you and your furry family have a fun and happy celebration.