As owners, the health of our pets should be a number one priority. Some problems, like traumatic injuries, are obvious the moment they happen and have no preceding warning signs. Others may be more insidious in onset and not show any clear symptoms until further down the line. Finding a problem early often provides a much greater chance of successful treatment or even a cure and there is one great way to maximise your chances of doing so – the routine health check.
Just like a car gets a service and an MOT, every dog, cat and rabbit should have a veterinary health check at least once a year. However, many clinics will now offer them every six or even every three months. During a routine health check, the vet will give your pet a full physical examination. This will include:
- looking in their ears, eyes and mouth
- feeling all over their body
- palpating all limbs and joints
- listening to the heart and lungs
- feeling the abdomen
- palpating the lymph nodes
- checking the fur and skin
- possibly taking their temperature.
In addition to the physical examination, your pet will also be weighed and there will be the chance to have any discussions about their diet, exercise or behaviour.
With puppies, their growth will be carefully monitored, and examinations will also look for any genetic or developmental problems. Any questions around toilet training, feeding or socialisation can also be covered. For senior pets, in addition to the examination, it can be useful to measure blood pressure, check a urine sample and possibly carry out a routine blood screen too.
Many people will also use the opportunity to have their pet vaccinated and to get flea and worm treatments for the year.
So, what are vets actually looking for when they examine an animal? Well, basically anything that isn’t normal. This could range from poor dental hygiene to a heart murmur, or a limp to a lump. With regular checks, patterns can begin to emerge, such as an increasing respiratory rate or a steady weight loss. For some developing illnesses, the clues may be in the history given by the owner. Old cats with an overactive thyroid gland tend to have an increased appetite but lose weight and can become quite vocal and highly strung. Dogs with kidney trouble will urinate more and drink more and may lose their appetite. Rabbits with dental problems can begin to favour one particular food or stop grooming themselves.
Many animals, particularly species such as cats and small mammals, are very good at hiding when they are unwell and even the most vigilant and careful owner may not be able to tell anything is wrong. But by speaking to a veterinary professional and putting together the history from an owner with a full physical examination, things can begin to become clear. However, there is potentially a fly in the ointment – stress.
Even a pet in good health can get upset when taken to the vet. This can increase the heart rate, temperature and blood pressure and mean that physical examination findings may not be truly representative of the health of the animal. Also, an animal in ‘flight or fight’ mode may hide their symptoms more, for example tensing their body so an abdominal mass may be missed, or a stiff joint not noticed. This is not to mention the mental stress that a visit to the vets can cause.
So how can this issue be resolved? This is where we come in!
Mobile vet clinics are able to provide a service above and beyond what a standard bricks-and-mortar building can do. We can examine patients and talk to owners in a relaxed and familiar environment. No more trapping the cat in its box. No more fooling the dog into thinking you’re going to the park rather than the vets. A relaxed animal is much more likely to be receptive to being examined and therefore any potential problems are much more likely to be picked up. There is nothing that would be done during a routine health check in clinic that can’t be done on a routine health check at home. And with more and more people working from home, there’s no need to take large chunks of time out of your busy day – let us come to you! So be kind to your pet; let’s use our initiative and stay one step ahead to enable us to keep their health on track by making the most of routine health checks.