Exactly What the Doctor Is Checking During Your Pet's Exam

Dr. Ruch-Gallie likes to give a patient a good scratch all over his head and body. It calms your pet and gives Dr. Ruch-Gallie a chance to feel for skin growths and watch for any spots of particular itchiness, which might mark problems. Staining between pads on the feet often comes from licking, which can indicate allergies or irritation.

Painful areas. With major joints, the spine, and the tail, your veterinarian watches for any signs of pain upon being touched. “Sometimes pets are not comfortable with us handling them in a particular spot,” says Dr. Ruch-Gallie. “If I notice that consistently, I mark it in my chart so I know it’s not necessarily a pain response, but rather, a normal behavior for this particular animal.”

How Often Are Exams Needed?

Animals age at various rates, depending on species and breed. The old idea that every human year equals seven for pets isn’t quite true. To help identify any potentially life-threatening medical conditions as early as possible, your veterinarian will usually recommend your pet visit her at least once a year for a routine wellness exam, and more often as he enters his senior years.

Your pet's health conditions dictate exam frequency, as well. A checkup might be needed every week or two following a new diagnosis, then less frequently depending on the condition being monitored.

Is It Time for an Exam?

As the person who spends the most time with your pet, you need to know what’s normal for him. That way, if something changes, you’ll notice and can let your veterinarian know. When you first get a new pet, examine him from nose to tail, and make a point of periodically re-examining him. Below are some possible signs that something isn’t right.

Mental State and Behavior

  • Abnormal sleep patterns
  • Aggression
  • Loss of balance
  • Seizures
  • Sluggishness

Lungs and Heart

  • Coughing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Fainting
  • Nasal discharge
  • Shortness of breath

Digestive System

  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite or increased appetite
  • Scooting his rear across the floor
  • Vomiting

Muscles and Bones

  • Difficulty rising or using stairs
  • Limping or lameness
  • Swollen limbs

Urinary and Reproductive Tracts

  • Difficult, painful or bloody urination
  • Excessive drinking and/or urination
  • Spraying or not using his litterbox
  • Unusual genital discharge

Skin and Haircoat

  • Excessive scratching or licking at his skin
  • Lumps and bumps that last more than a few days or get bigger
  • Skin lesions
  • Unusual hair loss

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