Despite advancements in veterinary medicine, basic physical exams remain a mainstay because they allow us to establish baselines, catch health changes early, and monitor treatment effectiveness. Many of our clients at Citrus Animal Clinic have asked us what we’re looking for during these exams, and why it’s so important to keep up on them, even if a pet seems perfectly healthy.
When you bring your pet in for a routine examination, we check him system by system while moving geographically across the body. We start by observing his mental state and behavior – he should be happy and alert, not anxious, lethargic, or stumbling. Next, we check some vitals: are his lung sounds, heart sounds, and weight normal? We’ll check his eyes for clarity and his ears for debris or odor. We examine his mouth for signs of dental disease such as tarter or inflamed gums, as well as for oral masses, broken teeth, or other injuries.
Pets age at various rates depending on species and breed. The old idea of every human year equaling seven for pets isn’t quite true because a stable period gets sandwiched between a quick growth spurt in youth and a faster aging later in life. To help identify any potentially life-threatening medical conditions as early as possible, the AVMA recommends that all dogs and cats visit their veterinarian twice a year for routine wellness exams. We may also recommend basic lab work such as blood, urine, and stool analysis, which can give us an early indication of problems that are not yet manifesting physical symptoms. As we run our hands down the body, we look for swelling in the lymph nodes that can indicate infection or other diseases, like cancer. Palpating the abdomen can give us an indication if there is something abnormal going on in the liver, spleen, or intestinal tract. Finally, a check of the skin will tell us if your pet has unusual masses, fleas or tick infestation, or lesions that may indicate skin allergies. Throughout the duration of the physical exam, we’ll pay close attention to how your pet reacts. If there are signs that your pet feels pronounced pain in particular areas, we’ll investigate further.
Health conditions dictate exam frequency as well. Checkups might be needed every week or two following a new diagnosis, then become less frequent depending on the condition being monitored. Then it’s your job to reexamine your pet at home periodically. If something changes, you’ll notice and can let us know. Early signs that something isn’t right can include coughing, vomiting, blood in the stool or urine, lameness, swelling or inflammation, sudden changes in weight, drinking excessive amounts of water, or frequent urination.
Please call us at 863-465-2176 if you notice any of these symptoms in your pet.