Annual Health Assessments
Bringing your pet in for their annual visit is still one of the most important things you can do for his or her preventative healthcare. You can bring any questions or concerns about your pet for the veterinarian to answer. The veterinarian will ask you several questions to find out how your pet is doing, behaviour issues, and about your pet’s lifestyle. Since he or she can’t talk, this questionnaire is the only way for the veterinarian to find out about any changes or signs of a health or behaviour issues, and to determine the kinds of health problems that your pet may be at risk for.
Your pet will receive a thorough physical examination, from nose to tail. This includes checking your pet’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth. Their skin will be checked for lumps or growths, overall health and quality as well as any lesions. The heart and lungs are auscultated to check for heart rate, heart murmur or abnormal lung sounds. The abdomen is palpated to feel the major organs like kidneys, liver, spleen, intestines and bladder, and evaluate for any pain, mass, or fluid accumulation. Your pet’s lymph nodes will be checked for enlargement that could indicate infection or cancer. The anus and external urogenital organs will be checked. An orthopedic exam is often done to check for abnormalities of the joints and limbs. A rectal exam may be done if your dog is a senior, to evaluate the prostate (males) and anal glands. Your pet’s weight and body condition will be assessed. Any specific areas of concern will be evaluated in more detail.
A lot of information can be gleaned from the physical examination, and veterinarians often discover minor or sometimes major problems or changes that pet owners were not aware of. This way, the problem can be dealt with earlier than it otherwise would have, which usually means a better outcome for your pet.
Usually this is a fun process and your pet will receive lots of petting, reassurance and treats! If you have a nervous pet, we will do our best to make him or her feel comfortable (ie extra treats, doing your pet’s exam on the floor instead of the table, etc.). Often for cats, this means letting him hide under a towel, taking the ‘roof’ off the carrier and letting him stay in the bottom part, and completing the examination and any procedures as quickly as possible. The veterinarian will highlight any concerns they have about your pet’s health and explain what you might need to do (grooming needs, medication, vaccination, diagnostic tests, a change in diet or lifestyle). Even if your pet has an A+ health report, the veterinarian can give you some information about health conditions to watch for or things you can do to help keep your pet healthy such as oral care, nutrition or exercise.
What if my Pet is afraid to go to the Vet?
If your pet is nervous at the veterinary clinic, there are a variety of things we can do to make it easier on him or her:
For dogs, bring them hungry and bring along a supply of their favourite treats (if they don’t like our treats). Food works well for many dogs to distract them and give them some positive associations about the vet visit. Bring him/her to the clinic at times when they do not have an appointment so that they can just have treats and not have treatments.
When scheduling an appointment, let the staff know your pet is nervous, and also any special accommodations that make them more relaxed such as using a certain exam room, staying on the floor rather than on the examination table. In some cases we can have your help us with the examination and in other situations it can be bests for your pet if you are not with the pet during the examination. We will work with you and your pet to find the best approach to make the visit as comfortable as possible while allowing the veterinarian to get the information that is needed to advise on medical care.
Bring your dog in several times before their appointment for ‘happy visits’. Have him or her weighed and give them lots of treats and praise for calm behaviour. If available, go into the examination room with your pet and reward him or her for just being there. This way your dog will begin to expect positive things about the vet clinic, and visits will become more routine.
You can also do mock physical examinations at home, running your hands over every inch of your pet to get them used to this in a trusted environment.
Ask us about safe natural remedies to help reduce anxiety – there are herbal supplements as well as pheromone collars and sprays that can be helpful in reducing stress during the car ride, confinement and the visit in the hospital.