“Why does my pet need a physical exam every year?”
Detecting disease early is key to helping our pets live longer, healthier, and more comfortable lives. The health of your pet can change rapidly as he or she ages, and changes often go unnoticed. A pet that visits the veterinarian once a year is comparable to a person who sees their doctor once every seven years. That is why the American Veterinary Medical Association promotes twice-a-year physical exams for dogs and cats. If symptoms of disease are already present, your veterinarian can help improve the quality and length of your pet’s life. The most dangerous health statement: “Maybe it will go away.” If you have any question about a possible problem with your pet, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.
During a pet’s physical exam, the doctor will ask questions about your pet’s physical and mental behavior. It is important to be aware of how your pet normally behaves, eats, and eliminates. Any small change could be a sign of a problem. A physical exam consists of an examination of your pet’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth, and skin and rectal area. The veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs and feel the abdomen for tumors or organ enlargement, as well as lumps and bumps on the body. Your pet is weighed and its temperature is taken. A stool sample test is also part of the yearly checkup, so be sure to bring a sample with you at the time of your visit.
The information gained from the physical exam and answers to the veterinarian’s questions can determine whether your pet has early signs of a disease or other problem. Lab tests may be recommended at this time to further evaluate the health of your pet. When problems are detected early, lifestyle adjustments can often be made to slow the process of and/or prevent disease.
Good health is essential for a happy, comfortable, long life. Early detection of disease through wellness visits to your veterinarian help prevent disease. If symptoms of disease are already present, your veterinarian can help improve the quality and length of your pet’s life.
As for vaccinations, the individual risk factors of each pet should be taken into account when determining what vaccines each pet should have. Your veterinarian will create a program for your pet based on his or her lifestyle, age, and potential exposure risk to infectious diseases. There are situations in which vaccines should not be given.
Rabies is a virus of the central nervous system. Rabies, once symptoms are present, is highly contagious to mammals and has a high mortality rate.
Basic dog vaccines are distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Lyme, leptospirosis, and canine influenza are optional based on your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Distemper is a virus that affects the respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems. Distemper affects young dogs severely and is often fatal.
Hepatitis is a liver disease caused by a virus with a high mortality rate.
Parainfluenza is a disease in the kennel-cough complex, primarily a respiratory disease.
Parvovirus is a very serious viral infection that causes deadly diarrhea and vomiting. Dehydration is the primary cause of death. Damage to growing tissue, such as the intestinal wall, is severe and usually permanent.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks, causing debilitating joint disease and a high fever. If left untreated, Lyme disease can also affect the kidneys and central nervous system.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a family of bacteria that cause potentially fatal kidney disease. Spread of this disease is generally through contaminated environment, such as standing water.
Canine influenza is a virus that affects the respiratory system, causing a persistent cough, and as with human flu, secondary infections are a risk.
Basic feline vaccines are panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and feline leukemia virus.
Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, causes vomiting and diarrhea, and is often fatal, especially in very young or very old cats.
Rhinotracheitis is the most widespread upper respiratory virus to which cats are susceptible. Symptoms include tearing, discharge from nose, and yes, mouth breathing, coughing, and salivation.
Calicivirus is another major respiratory virus. Severity of infection varies with the strain of virus present. Symptoms include fever, pneumonia, and ulcers on the tongue.
Feline leukemia virus is a leading cause of disease and death in cats. In addition to being fatal by itself, it also breaks down the cat’s immune system response such that the cat is unable to fight off infections it would normally be able to resist.
Many cats who survive these diseases become carriers and will have recurring outbreaks, during which the virus can spread. Regular vaccination of your cat is needed to protect them against these diseases.
Since your pet’s vaccine protocol is individual to him or her, it is important that pets have a physical exam every year. A yearly exam helps maintain your pet’s health and the doctor-patient relationship should health issues or emergencies arise.
By sharing life and love with you, your pet has given you a precious gift. We hope this article will help you to help your pet live a long, happy life.