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Val Caron Animal Hospital

3055 Highway 69 N
Val Caron, ON P3N 1R8


The Importance of the Annual Physical Exam

(Obtained from

Maintaining your pet in top physical shape and optimum health is the goal of every responsible pet owner. It is also your veterinarian's goal. Together, you can ensure that your pet stays healthy for years to come. The routine physical examination that your veterinarian performs on your pet is crucial to maintaining your pet's good health.

Why Are Regular Check-Ups Important?

 There are three reasons: 

1)         Early Disease Detection. ?Check-ups are important because they provide an opportunity to prevent diseases, detect them early, or avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, many pet owners underestimate the value of these visits because their pets appear to be healthy. However, this may be deceiving, since many diseases and ailments, such as dental disease or a heart murmur, are often not evident in the early stages. 

2)        Obesity/Nutritional Counselling. ?As noted earlier, feeding a proper diet rates as one of the most important considerations in health maintenance. Its importance lies not only in optimizing a pet's health, but also in the prevention and management of many diseases. Nutritional counselling is an essential part of the veterinary check-up, and many pet owners use the annual examination as an opportunity to gain valuable advice on what to feed their pets. Your veterinarian also uses the annual examination to determine whether or not your pet has an obesity problem. Obesity affects almost one out of every three pets. It is the most common nutritional disease among dogs and cats. Through visual assessment and palpation, your veterinarian can advise on whether or not your pet would benefit from a weight-reduction program.

 3)        Help with Behavioural Problems. ?The check-up also provides you with the opportunity to ask questions about training and hygiene. Obedience training is important for your pet's health because behavioural problems account for more deaths in dogs than any known disease. In fact, a well-trained and obedient dog is more likely to live to a ripe old age than a poorly trained one

What Happens During A Physical Examination?

Before the physical examination begins, your veterinarian asks you questions concerning your pet's state of health. This is very important for determining whether or not there are problem areas that need to be addressed. For example, a "history" of poor weight gain or weight loss can provide a clue to your veterinarian that a health problem may be starting. Puppies may be showing signs of parasites. Older dogs may be in the early stages of diabetes or kidney disease. With laboratory testing of your dog's stool, blood and/or urine, your veterinarian is able to detect the presence of these ailments. 

After obtaining a history, your veterinarian performs a physical examination of your pet. Your veterinarian will examine your dog's eyes, ears, face, and mouth. Examining the teeth is especially important. As many as 80 percent of all dogs and cats that are more than three years of age have some degree of dental disease.

The veterinarian will also examine your pet's coat, looking for signs of parasites (such as fleas). The veterinarian will ensure that the coat is not too dry or too oily. The veterinarian will also check your pet's weight. If the pet is too heavy, a change in diet may be required to avoid health problems related to obesity. If the pet is losing weight over time, it could be a sign that the pet has a related medical problem that needs further examination.

During the physical examination, your veterinarian listens to the chest with a stethoscope to make sure there are no respiratory or heart problems. Some early warning signs of heart failure can be detected in this way. Approximately 12 percent of the dog population experiences some form of heart problem in their lifetime. These heart problems can lead to heart failure. Consequently, early detection is crucial.

In addition to the physical examination, your veterinarian may also recommend further diagnostic testing, such as a blood test. These tests can often detect hidden disease. Early detection allows for more successful treatment of ailments than would be possible if the treatment did not begin until the dog appears sick. 

How Often Should My Pet Be Examined?

When you don't feel well, you know it, and you seek medical help when appropriate. Unfortunately, since your pet can't talk, you don't always know when it's not feeling well. In fact, because predators in the wild tend to prey on the sick or the infirm, an animal's natural instinct is to try to hide health problems. You should therefore take your pet to your veterinarian at least once a year for a complete physical examination. The average life span of a dog is short (12.5 years) relative to humans. Your pet's health can change a great deal over the course of even a few months. Consequently, many pet owners choose to have a physical examination done every six months. This is highly recommended after your pet has reached seven years of age.

Consult your veterinarian if you notice any significant changes in your pet's health. These changes can include a persistent cough, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, tender spots or a change in behaviour, weight, bladder or bowel habits.

 To learn more about the benefits of the physical examination, talk to your veterinarian.

For more information please refer to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association at