What to Expect at Your Pet’s Upcoming Primary Care Appointment:
Having your pet examined regularly is an important part of caring for your dog or cat. We are looking forward to helping you keep your pet healthy.
During your pet’s upcoming wellness appointment you can expect to spend a few minutes talking about your pet’s habits at home including: appetite, thirst, eliminations, activities and travel as well as reviewing any preventatives, supplements and/or medications you are giving to your pet. These observations give us important insights into how your pet is doing at home and may alert us to possible medical concerns. Your primary care veterinarians will then spend a few minutes examining your pet – auscultating his or her heart and lungs, checking the eyes and ears and oral cavity, palpating his or her abdomen, and looking at the skin and coat and limbs. The information you give us along with our physical examination of your pet will allow us to make the most appropriate medical recommendations for your pet, including vaccinations, diet and supplements, preventatives and if indicated- diagnostic tests.
Preventative healthcare is truly important. All pets should be examined at least annually by your veterinarian. Pets age about seven times as fast as we do, so older pets should be examined even more often. Examinations are critical to help veterinarians find disease early—the best time for them to be treated. Early detection screening may include blood tests, urine tests, stool tests or other diagnostics, and may be recommended for your pet. Vaccination, parasite prevention, and nutrition assessment are key components of a wellness check-up. At Friendship, we do not believe in over-vaccinating dogs and cats. While vaccines have proven life-saving benefits, vaccination programs must be tailored to the patient and the risk of exposure.
Before Your Appointment
To best prepare for your upcoming wellness appointment, please visit friendshiphospital.com/appointmentprep
A wellness plan can cover the cost of your pet’s annual care for a one-time discounted fee. Friendship’s wellness plans have been uniquely created for our primary care patients and are managed by our in-house administrative staff. Our plan options include, puppy, kitten, adult, and mature. Use our interactive comparison tool to determine if a plan is right for you. You may also view our plans here (pdf).
Early Detection Screening
Regular examinations are an important part of keeping all pets healthy. But even pets that appear completely healthy can have hidden health problems. Early detection screening consists of blood and urine diagnostics that allow us to intervene earlier in a disease process, before pets become ill, for a more successful outcome. When performed early in life, these tests also provide a baseline for interpretation of data and may identify trends in clinical or laboratory parameters that may be of concern. Screening tests also help us make sure your pet is healthy enough to take certain medications.
For every pet:
Diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry profile, urinalysis and urine protein to creatinine ratio are helpful for the wellness evaluation of any age pet. At minimum, we recommend all pets have early disease screening to establish a baseline in early adulthood.
For the older pet:
The CBC, chemistry profile, urinalysis and urine protein to creatinine ratio are particularly important for the mature, senior, and geriatric patient. These values will be compared to your pet’s young adult early detection tests to evaluate trends. Mature patients should also have their thyroid levels and blood pressure monitored. The age at which your pet becomes mature varies with species and size.
Some common blood tests include:
A Complete Blood Count (CBC) – provides important information about the types and numbers of blood cells in your pet’s blood. A low number of red blood cells, for example, indicates anemia, while a high number of white blood cells can indicate an infection, inflammation, or other disease process.
A Blood Chemistry Profile – provides basic information on liver and kidney function, electrolytes, blood sugar, and screening for clues that an endocrine disorder may be present. If abnormalities are found further diagnostic tests may be necessary.
A T4 – measures the level of a thyroid hormone and helps to screen for hypothyroidism (low) and hyperthyroidism (too high) diseases
A urinalysis – is a test to assess your pet’s kidneys and bladder health and provides information on glucose regulation and liver function. Whenever blood is collected for a chemistry profile, a urine sample should be obtained if possible.
A urine protein: creatinine ratio – is a test that measures how much protein is being lost through the kidneys. The results may be elevated in kidney disease, bladder disease and some systemic disease. The ratio helps to establish the fact that a problem exists and further testing is usually required.
Sick Pet Care
Your primary care veterinarian is the first contact for a pet with an undiagnosed health concern and will also work with you to provide your pet with continuing care of varied medical conditions. Continuous care is important for patients with medical conditions that require long term treatment and monitoring.
When your pet has been with you for many years—not only do they become irreplaceable members of the family, they also need a little extra care. As your pet grows older we recommend that wellness visits become more frequent and that we see your pet at least twice a year (every 6 months). These exams, along with early detection screening, are the key to detecting health problems that could endanger your pet. Our pets are susceptible to same ailments that aging humans face, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney complications, liver and intestinal disorders, arthritis, dental disease, and vision impairment. Keep a watchful eye for anything unusual or out of character for your dog or cat. Some warning signs to watch out for include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Excessive drinking or urination
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioral changes
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Skin lumps, growths, or irritation
- Bad breath, plaque on teeth or bleeding gums
- Ear odors, ear redness, or scratching at the ears
- Lameness or changes in mobility
What will my veterinarian look for during a physical examination?
Before even touching your pet, your veterinarian has already started their examination. While chatting with you and introducing ourselves to your furry family member, we’re assessing your pet’s visual and auditory responses to the environment, symmetry of the head and body, body posture and mobility.
- Mouth: Your veterinarian will check for tartar, tooth damage, inflammation, foreign material, masses and infections that can make your pet sick. Bad breath can be more than just unpleasant, it can be a sign of both oral and systemic disease.
- Eyes: The eyes are the window to the soul, and also to the body. Your veterinarian looks for inflammation, discharge and clearness of the cornea and lens.
- Ears: Inflammation, infection and other ear problems can be an unrecognized area of discomfort for your pet.
- Abdomen: Your veterinarian is trained to feel for tumors, signs of pain and enlarged organs. A belly rub may be an added bonus.
- Body: It’s like a massage, but it isn’t. We’re checking muscle tone, body condition, and for enlarged lymph nodes that can be a sign of infection or disease.
- Skin and Coat: Your veterinarian will look for fleas, ticks, mites, skin infections, and lumps and bumps. If your pet’s coat is thick, we’ll want your help. Feel free to point out anything that has you concerned.
- Under the tail: It’s not pretty, but your veterinarian checks under the tail for anal gland issues, tapeworms, and tumors.
- Heart and Lungs: When your veterinarian gets out the stethoscope, they’re listening for heart murmurs, irregular beats, and also making sure the lungs are clear.
- Joints and Spine: Problems with the joints and spine can cause discomfort. Your veterinarian will check the joints and spine for signs of pain and tenderness.
Heartworm and Parasite Prevention
All dogs in this area should be on an effective heartworm preventive year round. Administration is easier than ever with once-a-month chewable tablets. Cats, too, should be treated for parasites on a regular basis. Heartworm medication recommended at Friendship is also effective in preventing numerous other parasites.
Choosing a diet for your pet
Good nutrition is an essential part of optimal pet care. But, choosing a diet for your pet may feel daunting, with so many choices and so many different opinions on pet foods. The information below can help guide you in your selection:
- Check the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the label. Is it complete and balanced? If so, for what life stages?
- Complete and balanced products will have a nutritional adequacy or “AAFCO statement.” The food is either formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles or will have undergone feeding tests to prove nutritional adequacy.
- Pet foods that have undergone feeding trials utilizing AAFCO protocols are preferred as they are evaluated for nutrient bioavailability and palatability.
- Contact the pet food company and ask:
- Is there a veterinary nutritionist or another expert in pet nutrition on staff? Is she or he available for questions?
- Who formulates the diets and what are their credentials?
- What specific quality control measures are used to guarantee consistency and quality of the food?
- Where are the diets produced and manufactured?
- Can a complete product nutrient analysis of the best-selling dog and cat food be provided?
- What is the caloric value per can or cup of the diets?
- What kind of research has been conducted? Are the results published in any peer-reviewed journals?
- Does the company have a tracking system for recalls?
For more information on our Primary Care Services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.