Why is an Annual (at least!) Physical Exam so important?
One of the greatest challenges we all face in the health and wellness care of our beloved furry friends is knowing when something is wrong with them – and what it is that’s wrong. As we all know, animals communicate with us in very special and unique ways. Sometimes reading their cues can be difficult but what really adds to the challenge is that dogs and cats are built by nature to hide symptoms of unwellness and illness – even when they appear to be “doing fine” a health problem could be brewing. The good news is, despite these challenges, catching (and potentially treating) disease early on in our four legged family members can still be done with regular physical exams.
-FROM THE TIP OF THEIR NOSE TO THE END OF THEIR TAIL!-
Just like it sounds, at Boulder’s Natural Animal Hospital every important part of your pet will be examined by one of our fantastic doctors during each and every exam. For example:
The first stop on our “Tip-to-Tip Exam” journey is at the nose. The doctor will check your pet’s nose for nasal discharge, dry skin, discoloration or a wide variety of other signs that might point to a brewing illness. Given the nose’s link to the respiratory system it can be a good indicator for what’s going on inside. Signs of unwellness at the nose could be a sign of a respiratory infection or one of many other possible diseases or disorders.
The eyes, they say, are the window to the soul – in this case they can also be a window into the current state of your animal’s health. Animals suffering from illness often show us signs in their eyes. The doctor will look for discharge, tear production, signs of what we call a corneal ulcer, the quality of the lens and even what the inside and back of the eye looks like. These signs, amongst others, can be important indicators to help us stave off more serious problems in the future.
Dental and oral health is just as important in our furry family members as it is in ourselves. A healthy mouth goes a long way toward keeping the rest of the body healthy – an unwell mouth can cause problems for the heart, kidneys and liver. The doctor will thoroughly check the teeth, gums and mouth for tartar, gingivitis, broken or worn teeth, discoloration or growths inside the mouth and many other signs of wellness or unwellness. Your pet’s mouth can communicate to us in many ways beyond their bark or meow!
Inside a dog or cat’s ears conditions are dark, warm and sometimes moist - quite the place for tiny little creatures like bacteria, yeast or mites to hang out and party! The doctor will look inside with a special tool called an otoscope and if those little buggers are hiding in there, they will be found! Between swimming, allergies, and the every day activities of our pets many animals can have a lingering, low-grade ear issue they may not be telling us about – a physical exam is a great way to nip such a problem in the bud before it gets worse.
The Heart and Lungs:
The heart and lungs are the engine that allow dogs to chase balls and cats to jump on the counters! The importance of heart and lung health cannot be denied but with those vital organs on the inside it can be very difficult to know if something is wrong. The doctor with use a stethescope to listen to the heart and lungs checking for abnormal rhythms, sounds or pace. A strong, healthy heart and set of lungs are key to a long, healthy life!
Skin and Coat:
Your pet’s skin and coat, their largest body organ, are important for protecting them from infection, keeping their body temperature regulated and a variety of other reasons. The skin and coat can also tell a story about how your furry friend’s health is in the parts we cannot see. The doctor will check for hair and skin condition, hair loss, swelling, cuts or scrapes, lumps and many other possible signs of unwellness. There’s more to that illustrious coat than meets the eye!
Isn’t it cute when a puppy rolls over for a belly rub? Well inside that belly is all sorts of very important organs! Cats and dogs are trained by nature to hide any problems with those organs. The doctor will feel many of the internal organs by palpating the abdomen and looking for signs of swelling, growths or lumps amongst other things. Findings in the adbomenal exam can help us prevent or treat diseases before they get too far along – and what dog doesn’t like a belly rub at the hospital?
Bones and Joints:
Dogs and cats around the world LOVE to run – even if they spend the other 23 hours of the day sleeping! Keeping bones and joints healthy is important to making sure our pets can run and jump and play for many years. The doctor will check bones such as the legs and back for abnormalities that might be causeing discomfort. They will also check the joints like the shoulders, elbows, knees and hips for range of motion and make sure they aren’t painful. Many older pets develop arthritis – finding early signs of this disease can go a long way toward minimizing its effects.
What else might be covered during an Annual Physical Exam?
- Diet, feeding and eating habits
- Behavioral concerns or questions
- Historical habits and changes in the pet’s behavvior
- Disease management and prevention
- And much more!
SOUNDS GREAT! BUT WHY DID YOU SAY “AT LEAST” ANNUAL?
Dogs and cats age significantly faster than people. Because of this, we have a much shorter window of opportunity to find, treat and possibly cure disease and unwellness. For example, depending on the breed and age, waiting for 2 years to have a physical exam done on your pet would be like waiting over 10 years to see a doctor yourself! The older the pet, the bigger that number becomes. Combine that with the fact that our dogs and cats can’t tell us when they don’t feel right and the importance of regular physical exams becomes clear.
We are here to do our best to make sure you and your furry family members have many wonderful years together. To that end, while we only require an Annual Physical Exam, we recommend physical exams every 6 months.
Besides, a healthy pet is a happy pet!