At your pet’s wellness visit, you may wonder why we perform so many different tests and exams when your pet appears perfectly healthy. But, pets are excellent at hiding disease, making wellness screening tests essential for a comprehensive evaluation of your pet’s health.
What does your veterinarian look for during your pet’s physical exam?
When our Island Animal Hospital veterinarian physically examines your pet during a routine wellness visit, they are doing much more than performing a full-body massage—they are checking each visible body system for subtle changes that may indicate an underlying health problem. This “petting” can reveal a wealth of information about your furry pal’s health status, and is an essential component of regular wellness screening.
Here is what we check for when we physically examine your pet:
- Eyes — Pets can develop a variety of ocular conditions that can lead to significant pain, permanent damage, or vision loss. Flat-faced pets, in particular, are prone to eye issues, including corneal ulcers, entropion, cherry eye, and dry eye. Pets can also form cataracts that can lead to painful glaucoma, so regularly examining their eyes for changes is extremely important.
- Ears — Ear infections are common in pets, and identifying mite, yeast, or bacterial infections early on will avoid unnecessary pain in your pet. When examining the ears, we also look for polyps or masses that need removing before they cause issues.
- Mouth — Almost all pets have some dental disease by age 3, which can damage the heart, kidneys, and other organs. We will look for signs of gingivitis, tartar accumulation, loose or diseased teeth, oral masses, and other oral abnormalities that require treatment to keep your pet comfortable and healthy. Based on your pet’s dental disease stage, we will recommend a scheduling time-frame for their next dental cleaning, and explain at-home oral health management.
- Skin — Your pet’s skin can tell us a great deal about their overall health. Dry skin and brittle fur can indicate poor nutrition, while hair loss and itchy skin may indicate allergies, fleas, mange, a skin infection, or an endocrine disorder.
- Heart and lungs — Heart problems often do not make themselves apparent to pet owners until the disease is advanced and causing exercise intolerance, coughing, or abdominal distension. To detect heart rate and rhythm issues, we listen to your pet’s heart with a stethoscope, and we may recommend additional diagnostic testing, like an electrocardiogram, if we note abnormalities. Heart disease can also affect your pet’s lungs, creating wheezing and crackling sounds from fluid build-up. We can detect respiratory disorders and breathing difficulties when we listen to your pet’s lungs.
- Abdomen — A thorough abdominal palpation may seem like a pet belly rub, but our veterinarian is checking for abnormalities. Kidney enlargement can indicate renal failure, while a thickened bladder may indicate a chronic urinary tract infection. If your pet has an enlarged spleen, cancer may be hiding inside.
- Muscles, joints, and bones — As your pet walks around the exam room, we will evaluate their gait for limping or lameness. Many pets suffer from orthopedic issues, such as osteoarthritis or cranial cruciate ligament tears, that can be managed to alleviate their pain and restore mobility.
A thorough physical exam is the first step in detecting hidden illness in your pet. If we spot an abnormality, we will recommend additional diagnostic testing to accurately diagnose the cause.
Why are regular wellness tests important for your pet’s health?
While a physical exam will reveal a lot about your pet’s health, an internal look achieved through regular screening tests will tell us much more. Regular wellness tests not only provide a baseline of your pet’s normal values over the course of their lifetime, but also clue us in to early disease indicators, long before clinical signs become apparent.
Depending on your pet’s age, breed, lifestyle, and health status, we may recommend the following regular screening tests:
- Heartworm and tick-borne disease testing — Many diseases transmitted by parasites can cause serious health issues, or prove fatal. To detect diseases like heartworm and Lyme disease in their earliest stages and provide the most effective treatment, we recommend annual testing.
- Fecal exam — Your pet can easily pick up intestinal parasites on their daily neighborhood walk, which can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and other health problems. We examine a stool sample under the microscope to detect common parasite eggs and provide the appropriate treatment.
- Urinalysis — Pets with certain health conditions, like diabetes and kidney failure, are more prone to urinary issues. However, any pet can develop urinary problems, which we can diagnose through a urinalysis that will reveal inflammation, infection, urinary crystal development, or kidney dysfunction.
- Blood work — A complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry panel will tell us a great deal of information, including whether your pet has anemia, infection, inflammation, electrolyte imbalances, or organ dysfunction.
Regular wellness screening for your pet is crucial for spotting disease in its earliest, most treatable stages. Don’t skip your pet’s next wellness visit—give our Island Animal Hospital team a call to schedule their appointment.