Importance of the Annual Physical Exam
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
Why Are Regular Check-Ups
There are three
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
more information please refer to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association at