REGULAR CHECK UPS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU MAY THINK
I've often heard the alarming phrase: "My dog or cat doesn't need a check-up, he's always been healthy". Didn't you know that an annual veterinary exam is the key to a long-lived, healthy pet?
The annual exam is much more than just a cursory check-up. It is most often during these exams that a veterinarian can pick up the early warning signs of a serious problem that will affect your pet in the future. Serious problems can often be corrected or at least slowed in progress when they are detected early.
The Nose to Tail Exam
Just like it sounds, the vet will start at the nose, and work all the way down to the tail.
The first stop is, of course, the nose. Checking your pet's nose for nasal discharge, your vet is looking for more than just a cold. Rhinitis is a symptom of many possible diseases. Distemper or a respiratory infection are just two of many possible causes.
Checking your pet's eyes are a vital part of the exam,. An animal with dull, lifeless eyes is giving off warning signals of internal parasites, stress, or something even more serious. Dull eyes can indicate that a pet has a serious illness. Whoever said that eyes are windows to the soul was absolutely correct. If your pet's soul is dull, your pet needs help. The eyes should also be clear of debris and discharge. Eye infections often start as just a little bit of ooze coming from the corners of the eyes. Eye infections are contagious to other pets as well as humans. It is important to catch these and clear them up early.
The pet's mouth is inspected for lumps, cuts, scrapes and the condition of his teeth. A mouthful of healthy teeth should look clean, and white, and your vet can indicate if your dog is in need of a scaling. A scaling is when the dog or cat has his teeth scraped free of cavity-causing tartar. Lumps on the outside of your pet's jaws can indicate swelling from an abcessed tooth, oral tumours, or an allergic reaction to a bug bite. Lack of healthy in the gums would alert your vet to anemia.
Ears are notorious for harbouring bacterias that cause foul odours, and ear infections. A clean ear is a good ear, and it is a very good idea to keep alert for ear mites, a pesky inhabitant of ears that are highly contagious to other pets in the household. Moving onward from the head, the next stop on the Nose to Tail exam is the chest.
Using a stethoscope, a vet will check your pets lungs for any sounds of congestion, cough, or abnormal breathing patterns. This is extremely important, as a congested chest can lead to many health hazards. Bordatella, Distemper, or even Heartworm are just a few of the problems that can cause congestion.
Listening to your pet's heart is an important step in the exam. Any abnormality is cause for concern. Early detection of heart disease can help your friend live a longer, more comfortable life.
The Skin and Coat
The largest organ of the body, the skin can tell you many things about your pet's health. Your vet will check for fleas, ticks, and other external parasites, as well as swelling, cuts, scrapes, lumps, and condition of the coat. A dull coat on the outside means an ill pet on the inside.
Source of many woes, the abdomen is next. By palpating your dog's stomach and groin area, a vet will feel for any lumps, abnormal distending, and possible infections. She is also watching for signs of pain from your dog, indicating further problems.
Back and Tail
A trip down your pets spine and tail tells if their are any spinal problems that may need correcting. The last stop is the paws, as your vet looks for cuts or swelling, and muscle damage along your pet's legs.
There is quite a bit more to an annual exam than most people think. Without regular check-ups, some animals will not display any symptoms, and owners will oftimes find themselves with an extremely sick dog on their hands, and sometimes it is too late to save them. Please make sure YOUR pet gets in to see a vet at least once a year, even if she always been healthy, after all, prevention is so much better than cure, and less expensive in the long run.
What Are the Signs of Heartworm Disease?
For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated mosquito bites.
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.
Cats may exhibit clinical signs that are very non-specific, mimicking many other feline diseases. Chronic clinical signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss. Signs associated with the first stage of heartworm disease, when the heartworms enter a blood vessel and are carried to the pulmonary arteries, are often mistaken for feline asthma or allergic bronchitis, when in fact they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).
How Do You Detect Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm infection in apparently healthy animals is usually detected with blood tests for a heartworm substance called an “antigen” or microfilariae, although neither test is consistently positive until about seven months after infection has occurred.
Heartworm infection may also occasionally be detected through ultrasound and/or x-ray images of the heart and lungs, although these tests are usually used in animals already known to be infected.
Because heartworm disease is preventable, it is recommended that pet owners take steps now to talk to their veterinarian about how to best protect their pets from this dangerous disease. Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive. While treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is possible, it is a complicated and expensive process, taking weeks for infected animals to recover. There is no effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats, so it is imperative that disease prevention measures be taken for cats.
There are a variety of options for preventing heartworm infection in both dogs and cats, including daily and monthly tablets and chewables, monthly topicals and a six-month injectable product available only for dogs. All of these methods are extremely effective, and when administered properly on a timely schedule, heartworm infection can be completely prevented. These medications interrupt heartworm development before adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease.
It is your responsibility to faithfully maintain the prevention program you have selected in consultation with your veterinarian.