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Preventive Healthcare for Dogs and Cats

Preventive health care for dogs and cats extends far beyond vaccinations and heartworm disease prevention. A comprehensive physical examination is essential for early identification of health problems. A thorough examination by your veterinarian should include an evaluation of all body systems. You should expect the doctor to: visually examine your pet, feel for abnormalities, listen to the heart and lungs, and perform an eye and ear exam. Male dogs should also have their prostate gland examined. Some veterinarians will also offer additional screening tests (such as glaucoma testing and electrocardiography) with their physical exam. These tests do not replace a physical examination. They should be used as an adjunct to detect hidden problems.

The pediatric exam: Your veterinarian should design a deworming and vaccination protocol for your new puppy or kitten. In addition, the doctor will check your puppy or kitten for detectable congenital defects such as: hernias, heart murmurs, cleft palate, skeletal conditions, skull abnormalities, and testicles which have not descended.

Breed specific problems: Some breeds of cats and dogs are prone to develop certain breed specific problems. Knowing this, your veterinarian may make recommendations to screen for these conditions. Examples of tests that may be suggested include: measurement of tear production, electrocardiography (ECG), ultrasonography, X-rays, bloodwork, and urine analysis. Ask your veterinarian about conditions that may afflict your dog or cat.

Geriatric examination: Unfortunately, as our pets age, they are more likely to develop health problems. Fortunately, by practicing preventive medicine, many conditions can be detected and treated early. Older pets can benefit from more frequent examinations by a veterinarian. In addition to a thorough physical examination, screening tests may uncover hidden problems. Ask your veterinarian about: X-rays or ultrasonograms (to detect tumors), bloodwork (to uncover metabolic or hematologic abnormalities), thyroid gland function tests, urine analysis (to identify kidney or other metabolic problems), and glaucoma screening. Keep your veterinarian informed of any changes in your pet, including:
• Decreased activity
• Behavior changes
• Increased or decreased appetite
• Changes in urination habits, including increased frequency of urination or incontinence
• Increased water consumption
• New or growing lumps or bumps
These can be symptoms of underlying disease.

Through preventive health care, many diseases and problems can be avoided. Other conditions are inevitable, but early detection means early treatment. By working with your veterinarian, you can increase the quality and longevity of your pet’s life.

Ellen Matheson, D.V.M.
Graduate of University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine
Animal Medical Center of Brandon, Florida, 813-654-6222.


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