AMY JO HAND
More than likely you visit the doctor and/or dentist at least once a year. Are you doing the same for your pet? Because cats and dogs age quicker than us, taking them to the veterinary hospital once a year is like you going once in five to seven years!
October is National Pet Wellness Month (NPWM); celebrate by committing to your furry friends’ health with annual wellness exams. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends annual wellness exams at a minimum, and as your pet gets older, AAHA suggests that the frequency of visits should be determined on an individual basis, taking into account the pet’s age, species, breed and environment. Talk to your veterinarian about what is right for you and your pet.
So, why take your pet in for a checkup at least once a year; “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” right? Wrong. It’s all about prevention! Why do you take your car in every 3,000 miles for an oil change, get a physical exam each year at your own doctor’s office or visit the dentist to have your teeth cleaned every six months? You do it to check on your overall health, catch issues before they become problems and prevent future catastrophes. Your pet shouldn’t be any different.
Dr. Jeff Chalkley of Westbury Animal Hospital in Houston, TX, shares Jonathan’s story as an example of just how important regular wellness checks can be.
Jonathan, an eight-year-old male, neutered Collie mix came in to Westbury Animal Hospital for a routine senior checkup and blood work. During the exam, the owner happened to mention that Jonathan had not been eating his breakfast very well for the past couple of days but would eat dinner very well. When I examined him, Jonathan expressed pain in his abdomen and had mild tartar on his teeth; otherwise, everything was normal. The blood work showed a few things that made me want to test further.
Further tests showed that Jonathan had Biliary Mucoecele, which is very much like a gallbladder stone in humans. This can cause the gallbladder to fill up with bile, causing severe pain and possible liver damage. This type of problem requires surgery within a few days; otherwise, there can be irreversible liver damage. Jonathan went home that day with medications and came back the following day to have surgery.
Jonathan was able to return home after three days in critical care. The time from the initial appointment to the surgery time was 48 hours. Jonathan had no other symptoms of disease other than not eating his meals. If his owner had not come in for Jonathan’s senior exam, too much time would have passed and the surgery would have been impossible. If the gallbladder had ruptured or the liver had undergone further damage for much longer, Jonathan may not have recovered so well after surgery.
When you go in with your pet for a wellness visit, your veterinarian will request a complete history of your pet’s health. Don’t forget to mention any unusual behavior that you have noticed in your pet, including:
- Eating more or less than usual
- Excessive drinking of water, panting, scratching or urination
- Weight gain or weight loss
Your veterinarian will also want to know about your pet’s daily behavior, including his diet, how much water he drinks and his exercise routine. Your veterinarian may ask:
- Does your pet have trouble getting up in the morning?
- Does your pet show signs of weakness or unbalance?
- Does your pet show an unwillingness to exercise?
Depending on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and age and other factors, your veterinarian may also ask about your pet’s exposure to fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites. He or she will develop an individualized treatment and/or preventive plan to address these issues.
During a wellness exam, your pet will get a complete “tune-up,” just like you would take your car or bike in for, to be examined from head to toe:
- Vital statistics
- Heart and lungs
- Reproductive and other organs
- Joints and muscles
When is the last time you took the four-legged friends in for a checkup? Celebrate NPWM and schedule an exam today!
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter September / October 2010, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2010 AAHA. Find out more.