Your veterinarian may send you out reminders informing you that it’s time for your dog’s annual exam. These reminders shouldn’t be underestimated. Annual physical exams are just as in important as the ones made for humans, if not more. Fact is, dogs cannot speak to us to let us know something is amiss in the health department. By taking your dog to the vet once a year, you can prevent issues from becoming problematic. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Annual physical exams are not set up so your vet can contemplate how cute your dog is, or in the case of a puppy, how big he is growing. And if you think they are mainly set up to make your vet make money, think again. Of course, annual vet visits make your vet earn more money, but in the long run, they may greatly benefit your dog and your pocket by catching health problems early. Following are 10 reasons why your dog should see the vet every year.
Dogs Age Quickly
More than just Shots
Looking at the Coat
A Mouth of Truth
The Eyes of the Soul
What Big Ears you Have
Muscles, Bones and Joints
Other Important Body Parts
When we think about yearly physical exams, we think of them from a human perspective, Truth is, things are very different from a dog’s perspective. What to us appears like a year, in dog’s years it could be as much as 5 to 10 years in comparison to your pet’s life, explains veterinarian Dawn Ruben. In such a time frame, many significant changes can take place and these changes can have a major impact on the dog’s health status.
Many dog owners think that yearly exams are done only for the purpose of administering vaccines. Yes, there are still vets who may push yearly vaccinations, but more and more vets are now trying to reduce their frequency. The rabies vaccination for instance can now be administered every 3 years in many States, and whether the other vaccinations are given or not should be based on an individual basis by looking at the dog’s lifestyle and overall level of exposure.
One of the first things vet staff do when your dog comes in for a physical is weigh your dog. It is often challenging for dog owners to notice weight gain in their dogs. Seeing your dog on a day-to-day basis makes noticing weight gain less apparent as it happens gradually. You may therefore be surprised when your aunt comes to visit and makes a remark how Rover appears on the heavier size. Your vet keeps track of your dog’s weight and keeps it recorded in a chart. Even if you use a scale at home, your vet can tell you if your dog may benefit from shedding a few pounds by looking at your dog and palpating the rib area. Additionally, your vet can further help you determine how much your dog should lose and how.
Dogs can be subtle in letting their owners know something is not right when it comes to health. Some dogs are particularly stoic, while others may give out subtle cues that owners do not recognize. There are also some conditions that do not cause any visible symptoms. By taking your dog’s temperature, your vet can identify the presence of a fever or thyroid problems. Listening to the heart may reveal troubling murmurs. The breathing rate and sounds in the lungs may reveal respiratory issues.
By looking at your dog’s coat, your vet can determine your dog’s overall health status. A rough, dull coat may indicative of disease or nutritional deficiencies. Skin conditions can often be also readily recognized. Your vet may recognize skin allergies, presence of parasites or skin infections. By touching your dog’s coat all over your vet can detect the presence of suspicious lumps and bumps that needs to be further evaluated.
A thorough vet physical exam will often involve a mouth inspection. Your vet will look at your dog’s teeth to see its overall status. Problems of the bite such as malocclusions may be identified early before it’s too late in puppies. Retained baby teeth in puppies may require extractions to prevent future bite problems. Your vet may also notice growths in the mouth or the presence of tartar which may require a dental cleaning. It may not seem like an issue, but an unhealthy mouth can lead to serious repercussions such as problems of the heart, liver and kidneys.
They say the eyes are the windows of the soul, and to a vet they are ultimately the windows of their health. Looking at your dog’s eyes indeed can detect many problems. In a healthy dog, the eyes are vibrant and shiny. The third eyelid should not be showing. Red eyes or the presence of discharge may suggest allergies or some local irritation. In older dogs, your vet may notice the early signs of cataracts or glaucoma.
Your dog’s ears offer the ideal environment for bacteria or fungi to thrive. They are deep, dark and warm. By looking into your dog’s ears your vet can acknowledge the presence of dirt, parasites or discharge suggesting an infection. Sometimes dogs may have an ear infection which at its early stages may not produce any visible symptoms, or the symptoms may be mild and consist of an occasional head shake or scratching.
Your vet may look at the way your dog moves to determine if there are any problems with his gait suggesting an underlying orthopedic issue. Puppies may be prone to growth abnormalities which put strain on the joints, and older dogs may be getting a touch of arthritis. The vet may manipulate the front and back legs in such a way to check the range of motion and any underlying problems that may interfere with your dog’s movement.
To a vet each part of your dog’s body are like important puzzle pieces that give him the whole picture of your dog’s health. From the tip of the nose to the tail, your vet can find anything from big to small issues. Palpating the abdomen helps your vet feel interior organs and recognize any abnormal swellings. Even your dog’s rear can reveal problems. The anal glands may need emptying which may explain why Rover is dragging his rear on the carpet or the tail may be limp from swimming in cold water.
The Bottom Line
As seen, physical exams play an important role in your dog’s health and well-being. For senior dogs, twice-a-year exams may be helpful. Don’t forget to bring in a fecal sample for your vet’s exam to rule out pesky parasites which can also pose problems to people.