2001-Fri Dec 09 10:34:31 EST 2016
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
You know what makes me happiest about veterinary medicine? It’s a real hands-on, touchy-feely profession. I’ve loved animals from my earliest years, and I can't help showing it. I’ve been known to scratch, rub, sniff and kiss people's pets during exams. Sometimes a pet’s owner thinks I’ve lost my marbles when I hear some music and take hold of a dog’s paws and do a quick dance with him, but I’ll share a little secret with you: There’s often a method to my madness.
We veterinarians need to use all our senses when we
examine your pets. After all, our patients can’t tell us where it hurts or why they might be feeling a little off. Some of the things we do as we’re examining your pet might seem a little unusual — even just plain weird — but they often tell us important things about what’s going on with your
dog or cat. Here’s some of what we do and why.
We’ve all seen pets go wild when we find their “tickle spot." That’s called the scratch reflex, and you’ll see it when you lightly touch, stroke or scratch your dog’s side, usually at the back of the rib cage or front of the abdomen. The sensation of being tickled there causes
dogs to make a scratching motion, the same movement you might see if they’re trying to remove a flea or other irritant. Your veterinarian takes time during an exam to tickle your pet for a good reason: The reaction shows us that the neural pathways and reflexes are in good working order. Lack of response may indicate spinal damage.
You know how your cat’s rear end goes up into the air when you scratch the base of his tail? I like to call that “elevator butt” — because it gets a rise out of your
cat, in a good way. Cats love that sensation for a couple of reasons. One, it just plain feels good. And two, you’ll see female cats “assume the position” when they are in estrus, or heat. It’s how male cats know females are ready and willing to mate. As a veterinarian, though, I scratch a cat’s butt to get this reaction for a very practical reason: If a
cat tries to raise his rear but can’t, it’s a common sign of
arthritis in the knees or hips.
I’ve written before about how
smell is an important part of a veterinarian’s diagnostic arsenal. Getting a whiff of your pet’s
breath, ears, skin and, yes, even his butt tells us a lot right off the bat. Your pet’s body, not even his hiney, should never smell bad. (Well, his normal butt odor doesn’t smell like a rose, but it shouldn’t be gross.) If I flip up his lip, bury my nose inside his
ears, or lift his tail and give a big sniff, I don’t want to smell anything rotten or nasty. If I do, it could be a clue that an infection or
abscess has set up in that part of the body.
And what about “Frito feet”? You may notice sometimes that your pet’s paw pads smell like popcorn or corn chips. That’s because they’re crawling with billions and billions of microbes. If the smell becomes overwhelming, though, your pet’s yeast organisms may be out of control. If I give your pet’s paws a sniff, it’s not just because I love that smell — though I do — but also because I want to make sure no yeast infections are brewing.
When I hear a favorite snippet of music during an exam, even if it’s just from the ringtone on a client’s phone, it’s not unusual for me to pick up a pet’s front paws and do a little two-step with him. Sure, it’s fun, but it also tells me about his mobility. If he seems reluctant or stiff, I’m going to check him over more closely for signs of
arthritis or maybe an injury that went unnoticed.
And last but not least: Why do we
kiss your pets during exams? That’s easy. We just love ’em.
More on Vetstreet.com:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
Christmas trees, fatty foods and other
seasonal items may bring cheer to your
home, but they'll cause harm to your…
Dr. Sarah Wooten takes a closer look at
this curious sleeping habit and what it has
to do with canines’ ancestry.
The Kromfohrlander is said to be
descended from a mixed-breed dog
who was a mascot for American troops.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.