Vet Column

Prevention is Better Than Cure: Mastering Pet Health Checks Strategy for Optimal Preventative Pet Health and Minimizing Pet Illness Risks

     This article was written by Dr. Shang-Hsiu Chung, a veterinarian at Always Care Veterinary Hospital
     Ensuring the well-being of our pets is a top concern for all pet owners. Since cats and dogs cannot express if they are feeling unwell, it is imperative for owners to schedule regular visits to the vet for comprehensive health checks with medical equipment. This proactive approach is essential to identify the cause of any discomfort. Therefore, consistently taking your beloved furry companion for routine pet health checks is a vital responsibility for pet owners. This article, based on a veterinarian's clinical expertise, will emphasize the significance of regular pet wellness examinations, introduce various key health check items, and collaborate with owners to safeguard the overall health of their pets.

The First Step in Pet Health Checks: Physical Examination

     Dog physical examination and cat physical examination serves as the initial phase in ensuring preventive pet health. Utilizing the veterinarian's sensory diagnosis and instrumental assessments, an initial evaluation of the pet's health status is established. The examination encompasses various crucial steps, including consultation, visual inspection, palpation, auscultation, and olfaction. In the following section, we will explore the five essential aspects of a thorough pet physical examination:
  1. Consultation: As soon as the owner steps into the examination room with their pet, the health assessment begins. Engaging in detailed communication with the owner, veterinarians gather essential information about the pet's medical history, mood, appetite, and bowel and urinary conditions.
  2. Visual Inspection: After having a basic grasp of the pet's condition, veterinarians assess the pet’s appearance, walking posture, and physique to judge their mental state and activity level. Additionally, they observe and ensure the pet's breathing and oral condition are within normal parameters.
  3. Palpation: The veterinarian will palpate the pet’s body to detect any abnormalities, focusing on potential swelling in lymph nodes, irregularities in limbs, joints, spine, skin, abdomen, and internal organs. They will also be vigilant for indications of pain or evasion exhibited by the pet during the examination.
  4. Auscultation: Utilizing a stethoscope, veterinarians assess the pet's heartbeats, breathing sounds, lung sounds, and digestive tract movements to identify any abnormalities.
  5. Olfaction: When pets experience oral inflammation or kidney diseases (uremia), there can be noticeable changes in the odor emanating from their mouth. Additionally, distinctive smells may arise from ear infections. Veterinarians utilize their sense of smell as a diagnostic tool to assess the overall health condition of the pet.
welpet- Five Key Components of a Pet Physical Examination

Communicating Pet Health with Veterinarians, Arranging Pet Wellness Examination Procedures

     There is no universally standardized protocol for pet health checks, and the services and fees may vary among veterinary clinics. Nevertheless, fundamental checks typically include hematology and imaging studies, supplemented by various specialized examinations.
  1. Hematology: Most veterinarians recommend hematological examinations as an essential diagnostic step. By analyzing the indices of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and serum biochemistry, veterinarians can gain initial insights into the overall health condition of the pet. This helps in identifying potential issues such as anemia, inflammation, clotting abnormalities, and the health status of vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and heart.
  2. Imaging Studies: Physical and hematological examinations may not suffice for diagnosing many diseases. Imaging studies, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, play a crucial role in allowing veterinarians to assess the shape and structure of a pet's organs, enabling the early detection of abnormalities and pathological changes. For more complex cases, advanced imaging options like C-arm fluoroscopy, CT scans, and MRI are selected based on the specific medical conditions.
  3. Specialized Examinations: Specialized examinations include ophthalmology, cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, and endocrinology. Following the preliminary diagnosis derived from the physical examination and taking into account specific concerns raised by the pet owner—such as issues related to the heart, kidneys, eyes, joints, or other systemic diseases—veterinarians develop a customized health check plan tailored to the unique needs of each pet.

Frequency of Pet Health Checks

     Upon grasping the significance of comprehensive pet health checks, owners frequently inquire, 'How frequently should my pet undergo a health check?' Clinically, it is recommended that dogs and cats reach maturity at seven years and should undergo a health check annually; for those under seven years, a check every one to two years is advisable. Regular monitoring of health check results allows owners to observe year-to-year changes in their pet’s health, enabling the early detection and prevention of chronic diseases.
Dr. Zhong highlights an actual case: During a routine health check for a six-year-old Poodle, a physical examination revealed a sub-centimeter mass on its back. Following sampling, it was diagnosed as a malignant tumor, prompting the recommendation for early treatment to mitigate the risk of future metastasis.

Safeguarding Your Pet's Well-being with Routine Health Checks

     In addition to preventing serious diseases in pets, health check reports provide valuable insights into their specific health needs, enabling adjustments to their regular diet and the incorporation of appropriate health supplements. While heart diseases in cats may progress rapidly without obvious symptoms, certain breeds like Ragdolls, Persians, and Shorthairs are advised to undergo blood screening and ultrasound as part of routine health checks. Regular supplementation with cardiovascular health products is also recommended.
Small dogs commonly experience knee joint issues, whereas large breeds often encounter hip problems. Health checks for pets should include imaging studies of joints and bones, coupled with early supplementation of joint health products.
welpet- Safeguarding Your Pet's Well-being with Routine Health Checks
     Emphasizing the importance of prevention over treatment is crucial. Since dogs and cats cannot verbally express discomfort, many diseases can be detected early and treated at a lower medical cost through regular health checks. Cultivating the habit of scheduling routine health checks for your furry companions is paramount to their overall well-being.

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