Scheduling regular exams for your pets with your family veterinarian is critical in keeping them happy and healthy, no matter the species. Regular exams for your pets are probably even more critical than regular exams are for you, with your physician. Remember that unlike your pets, if you feel ill you can communicate verbally with your physician.
In addition to not being able to communicate verbally, your pet will often hide illness as long as they can. In the wild, sick or injured animals make enticing targets for predators as they are easier to hunt and kill1. For instance wolves will seek out sick or injured animals by observing posture or gait2. Once identified, the pack tries to isolate these animals from the herd and pursue it until they can bring it down for the kill. Pets, whether wild or domestic, still harbor the instinct to hide their illness to avoid becoming the target of predators.
Yearly vaccination appointments are convenient times to have your family veterinarian examine your pets. He or she will complete a full examination including every major body system. I usually began my examinations by starting at the nose and working my way back over the animal until I have reached the tail. A systematic approach helps ensure that all systems are examined.
Common areas that I detect hidden problems include the ears, mouth and cardiovascular system.
It is impossible to diagnose diseases of the ear without an otoscope. An otoscope enables your veterinarian to find problems such as grass seeds, ear mites, and wax plugs. All of these cause significant discomfort. Many pets will put up with this discomfort for an extended period without showing any clinical signs.
Most of the animals I examine have some form of oral disease. Broken, loose, or painful teeth, tumors, retained baby teeth, or even foreign objects, are all examples of pathology I often diagnose in the mouths of animals. Even though we would be loudly complaining, our animal friends usually suffer in silence until diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.
Our family has a history of a congenital heart defect involving the mitral valve. My father’s heart murmur was detected very early by a physician. His condition didn’t require any treatment for years, but because it was diagnosed early he and his physician was able to monitor his condition closely until he required treatment. The same is true of your pets; the earlier a heart murmur is diagnosed the more closely you and your veterinarian can discuss signs and symptoms of heart disease. Earlier diagnosis means earlier treatment and a longer and happier life.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the ailments that your pets may be hiding from you, but I think that it will give you a taste of what our pet may be enduring. Do all that you can to increase their comfort and wellbeing by scheduling regular health examinations. It will give you peace of mind and allow you to spend more quality time with them through earlier intervention and treatment.