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The Routine Wellness Exam:

One of the main goals of Damonte Ranch Animal Hospital is to provide comprehensive preventative medical care to its patients as a way of ensuring and protecting the bond our clients make with their pets.  Annual (and for the old-timers, bi-annual) examinations are essential for the determination of your pet's general health status.  These exams oftentimes help to identify potential problems before they get out of hand - thereby keeping owners and the veterinarian out from behind the eight ball.  Early detection of problems allow for prompt treatment actions which many times help to solve problems before potentially serious consequences have the opportunity to occur. 

The first part of the routine wellness visit is the veteriarian asking a lot of question regarding your pet's medical history.  Be prepared for the quiz.  Since our patients can't talk to us themselves, you are the embassador for providing all the facts and clues necessary to understanding them inside and out.  Furthermore, information gained at past medical visits will be reviewed as another important part of the puzzle.  If your pet has been seen at other veterinary practices, it is ideal to gather all that information together so that there are no gaps in your pet's medical record. 

The physical exam is then performed using a systematic approach assessing your pet from head to tail.  At the onset of the exam, your pet's weight and vital signs (temperature, pulse and respiratory rate) will be assessed.  Here is a glimpse of the thought process when the veterinarian is performing your pet's physical exam ...

1.  The eyes -  A lot of important information comes from a close look at your pet's eyes - Any discoloration (yellow = jaundice, pale = possible anemia)?  Cataracts can sometimes be a clue for diabetes.  Are they clear, symmetrical, visual?  No discharges, no pain, no inflammation?  Pets, like people, can get glaucoma, ulcers, other injuries to the eye, as well as retinal problems that can affect their vision.

2.  The ears -  A source of common and frustrating problems ... Any shaking, scratching or bad odor?  Any discoloration, pain or discharges?  The ears of your pet can harbor parasites, infections and sometimes even foreign bodies (ie. foxtails).

3.  The nose -  What's its shape, color, texture?  Any abnormal discharges?  Sneezing or congestion?  Problems with airflow?

4.  The oral exam - a careful inspection of your pet's gums, teeth, palate and tongue is very important when checking for possible infections, abnormalities and even tumors.  Its also essential for the assessment of your pet's dental health.  Oftentimes, where there are problems noted here, dentistry may be discussed and recommended. 

5.  Lymph nodes - palpation of all peripheral nodes is important.  If they are enlarged, this could be suggestive of serious infections, inflammatory diseases as well as some cancers (ie. lymphoma).

6.  The heart and lungs -  A stethascope is used to listen to your pet's chest.  Careful auscultation is performed in order to assess whether or not there are any abnormally detected heart problems such as a heart murmur, arrthymia, abnormal rate or even possibly muffled sounds.  Also, the lungs are checked to be sure there are no abnormal wheezes, crackles or other worrisome findings such as signs of respiratory distress.

7.  The skin -  Itchy?  Greasy?  Balding?  Crusty / scaly?  Oftentimes, the overall hair coat quality of your pet provides very important information about the overall health of your pet on the whole.  Parasites, infections, tumors, wounds - all of these abnormalities will be checked for on your pet at the time of its examination. 

8.  The muskuloskeletal system - How your pet stands, sits and moves will be assessed during your pet's exam - especially if there are concerns of lameness or pain.  Back problems, osteoarthritis, joint diseases are just a few of the common ailments our pet's chronically can struggle with.  It is important that if you notice your pet having difficulties of this realm that you bring the concerns to the forefront of your veterinarian't attention.  Sometimes, during the visit, your pet might be nervous and will endorphins pumping - might hide things from the vet in a way that can be counter-productive to getting your pet the care it needs.

9.  Abdominal Palpation - An important skill when assessing your pet.  Do any organs feel too big?  Is there something palpable inside that shouldn't be there, like a tumor?  Pain?  That missing tennis ball (a foreign body)?  Pet's don't always enjoy this part of the exam but it can also be an important deciding factor when deciding if radiographs (x-rays) should be performed.

10.  The Reproductive System - Not all of this can be fully examined during a regular physical exam.  But checking for abnormalities with genitalia as well as looking out for mammary masses is very important.  Furthermore, having a discussion regarding the benefits of spaying and neutering intact animals is typically brought up as an important conversation as well at this juncture of the exam.

11.  The Central Nervous System -  Making some assessments regarding your pet's brain and spinal cord health is an important part of your pet's exam.  Unfortunately, your pet's skull and vertebral column make it hard to fully assess when there are problems in these areas.  That is why when a pet is having a neurological problem, oftentimes, there needs to be the discussion of other advanced imaging options such as CT, MRI or myelogram. 

12.  Your pet's body condition -  Is your pet a little overweight or even obese?  Is your pet losing weight and seems to be wasting?  Both possible scenarios are not ideal.  Both warrant serious conversations and potential actions moving forward. 


“A meow massages the heart.” - Stuart McMillan

“My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.” ~Author Unknown