A thorough annual exam is the key to keeping pets healthy. Although dogs & cats can be surprisingly effective at communicating with their owners that they are not feeling well, they can have many low grade complaints that they cannot tell you about, until they progress to something more serious.
The annual examination at Basic Pet Care begins with the skin. Many older dogs & cats have dry, greasy, itchy or scabby coats, and a prescribed regimen of baths, supplements, medication or a special diet can make a world of difference. The discovery of fleas can be an unwelcome surprise to many pet owners, but modern flea treatments are easy and effective. Ticks can carry several diseases, so it is important to discuss a good strategy for avoiding them. Lumps in the skin are often benign but must be assessed for possible skin cancer.
The eyes and ears receive careful examination for a number of potential problems. Ears that exhibit chronic infections tend to worsen progressively if untreated. Cleansing and medication may prevent more serious problems later.
An oral exam is important; each tooth must be evaluated for soundness and proper dental hygiene techniques demonstrated. Periodontal disease is often present, which can have far reaching detrimental effects to the rest of the body. Cats are susceptible to a type of painful cavity that forms underneath dental plaque. Every year cats have their teeth scraped free of plaque during the office exam, but other problems require dentistry performed under anesthesia. Modern anesthesia is very safe , and if pre-operative tests are satisfactory, can be recommended with confidence.
Next, the throat, chest and abdomen are looked at, palpitated and listened to. Problems in any of these departments require further investigation. For instance, cats over the age of 10 may demonstrate problems related to an enlarged thyroid gland.
A rectal examination is routine for all dogs. The scent glands should be evacuated, since they cause discomfort if they become impacted.
If you have a male dog, the prostrate gland and testes are assessed, whereas if female, mammary glands are inspected for tumors. If she is unsprayed, we’ll talk about what to look for to avoid potential problems later.
Arthritis initially presents as stiffness. Dr. Lugten manipulates each joint and checks for hip dysplasia. In the past, this type of pain had to be endured, but now a number of excellent treatments are available that cause no side effects and are fairly inexpensive.
A nail trimming and grooming of the paw pads round off the exam.
Dr. Lugten recommends yearly testing: routine parasitology (fecal, heartworm test in dogs) should be accompanied by blood work and urinalysis to asses internal organs, thyroid hormone level and blood cell count. By recognizing disease before symptoms appear, therapy can be initiated, often prolonging life considerably. Electrocardiogram and x-rays may also be recommended as part of a full geriatric work-up.
Finally, the immune system also ages, becoming inefficient at remembering the vaccines your pet was given as a youngster. Therefore, it is important to boost them yearly. The entire examination should take at least 30 minutes, even an hour if chronic problems have accumulated. Your attention will be rewarded by a happier, healthier pet.