Comprehensive physical exams are an important part of your pet’s overall health care because they aid in the early detection of problems and help to prevent illness and disease. Your pet ages more rapidly than you do; one year in your pet’s life equals five to seven human years. A lot can change with your pet’s health in that time, especially as your pet reaches the senior years.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), a leader in the industry which establishes standards for pet health care and veterinary facilities, recommends these guidelines for comprehensive physical exams and laboratory testing:
- Puppies & kittens (up to 1 year) – two to four wellness visits within the first year
- Adults (1-7 years) – one to two wellness visits annually
- Seniors (7+ years) – one wellness visit every six months
Sick Visits are Not the Same as Well Visits
The comprehensive physical exam and consultation allows you and your veterinarian to focus on your pet’s overall health and wellness. During a “sick visit” the focus is treating the current problem and addressing immediate concerns. A wellness visit is a more thorough evaluation of your pet’s health and any changes in body and behaviors.
Often a pet may be experiencing the pain associated with an ear infection or Lyme disease but the symptoms are not visible until a thorough exam or blood testing uncovers the problem.
An illness or disease, without treatment, could progress to a more serious stage in a matter of weeks or months.
The best treatment for any illness or disease is always prevention. The immediate costs associated with preventive care are less expensive than managing a disease state.
Here’s a detailed look at what is covered during a comprehensive physical exam and consultation:
HEALTH HISTORY & VITAL STATISTICS
A review of the medical history and discussion of any changes in health, diet, and behaviors; weight, pulse, temperature and respiration rate are recorded.
EVALUATION OF EARS & EYES
Examination of your pet’s ears ensure they are healthy and free of infections, parasites and foreign objects; questions about odor or shaking the head or excessive scratching of the ears may reveal allergies or secondary complications.
A full eye exam can reveal issues such as allergies, kidney problems and high blood pressure, in addition to infections and problems with the eye itself such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Dental health is essential to overall wellness; studies have shown that dental disease can lead to other health concerns. An examination of the mouth looks at gums, teeth, tongue and palate for tartar, loose teeth and fractures, infection and abnormalities. The veterinarian will review at-home dental care and discuss making a dental appointment for professional teeth cleaning and a detailed dental evaluation if needed.
The coat and skin are the most visible indicators of health. A thorough examination looks for ticks, fleas, wounds, infection, allergies, warts and tumors, and indicators of diseases such as low thyroid hormone levels.
ABDOMINAL, MUSCULOSKELETAL & NEUROLOGICAL EVALUATIONS
Your veterinarian examines your pet’s body from nose to tail, feeling the neck and spine, framework of muscles and bones, and abdomen to reveal sensitivities, muscle loss, masses, joint inflammation, enlarged organs, digestive concerns, and abnormalities with lymph nodes, posture and balance.
A neurological examination can reveal both age-associated changes as well as abnormalities associated with other processes.
This portion of the exam involves listening to the heart and lungs for early signs of cardiac and respiratory diseases, evaluating pulse quality and checking for signs that could indicate infection, abnormalities with the heartbeat.
UROGENTIAL & REPRODUCTIVE EVALUATIONS
This exam begins with an overview of the urinary system, looking for indicators of conditions such as infection, kidney disease, diabetes or Cushing’s disease.
The reproductive exam covers the benefits of spaying and neutering, includes an exam of the prostate, or looks for mammary abnormalities and problems with the organs of reproduction.
Examination of each paw, pads and nail trimming.
WEIGHT & NUTRITIONAL COUNSELING
Proper nutrition helps with weight management as well as conditions like allergies, dental health, urinary health and arthritis. Maintaining an optimal weight and keeping your pet fit improves longevity and reduces the occurrence of diabetes, cancer, kidney and liver disease, heart disease and joint inflammation and pain.
VACCINATIONS & TREATMENTS
Vaccinations protect your pet from serious infections and diseases. Essential vaccines cover the most prevalent and highly-infectious conditions like bordetella, distemper and rabies. Lifestyle vaccines, for conditions such as Lyme disease and canine influenza, are not required but highly recommended depending on your pet’s lifestyle.
Ongoing treatments provide protection from heartworm, ticks and fleas.
Routine blood work provides a baseline for comparing results to manage various medical concerns and provide early identification of serious infections and diseases like:
- Tick-borne diseases
- Feline leukemia & FIV
- Hormone level abnormalities
- Organ system insufficiency or abnormalities
Talk with your veterinarian about the benefits of a comprehensive physical exam and consultation based on the breed, age and lifestyle of your pet. Preventive care offers optimal, cost-effective health care for the life of your pet—beginning with the recommended number of wellness visits for each stage of life.