It is that time of year again when your pet is due for their annual physical exam. You may be thinking you might skip it this year since your pet is not sick and you have not noticed any changes. No harm in pushing it off until next year right?
In fact, missing your pet’s annual physical exam may be harmful. A physical examination is a very important part of your pet’s overall health care. Our pets have very strong natural instincts and in the wild showing signs of weakness make them vulnerable. Thus our pets will try to hide when they are not feeling well and often only show signs when they are unable to mask them any longer. So do not feel bad if you do not notice your pet is sick, that is the job of your veterinarian. Your pets also age much faster than we do, 1 year in their life can be 7 years in ours. A lot can happen in that time.
Your veterinarian is trained to pick up subtle changes in your pet’s physical exam. Examination of their eyes can show early cataracts, inflammation, or degenerative changes. Dental exams are very important to catch painful or infected teeth. Listening to their heart can detect heart murmurs or arrhythmias. Listening to their lungs can pick up wheezing or crackles. Abdominal palpation is important to evaluate kidney and liver size, pick up masses or discover painful areas. Range of motion of their legs can pick up signs of arthritis or hip dysplasia. Examination of their skin can help diagnose allergies or masses. Evaluation of their lymph nodes can tell you about systemic infection, inflammation and even cancer. Monitoring weight is also important to ensure your pet is not on the track to obesity or slowly losing weight because of an underlying disease.
The annual physical exam becomes even more important as your pet becomes a senior. We so commonly hear owners attribute certain problems to “getting older” but in fact these may be signs of an underlying disease, which may be treatable. Your veterinarian may recommend further testing to determine overall health based on their exam or ways to improve your pet’s quality of life. The primary goal of your veterinarian is to keep your pets happy and healthy. By finding, diagnosing, and treating these potential problems early, your pet will live a much longer and healthier life.
Dr. Monica Marshman, DVM