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Your Pet's Family Doctor

All pets are special. Their unique appearances, personalities and roles in the lives of their families guarantee that. There is one area, however, in which it is not good for your pet to be special—health problems.

Miami-Dade and Broward Counties offer a wide range of advanced veterinary medical services to pets with special problems and their owners. Specialists in surgery, internal medicine, dermatology, ophthalmology, cardiology, oncology and neurology are available to help if needed. Diagnostic services such as MRI’s and CAT scans are available to provide a better understanding of complicated cases and the options for treating them.

These specialized services are not available on a “walk-in” basis, however. Just as a referral from your family doctor is required for you to see a specialist, veterinary specialists require a referral from your pet’s regular veterinarian and work with the referring veterinarian as part of your pet’s healthcare team.

Your pet’s veterinarian serves as his or her “family doctor” and as the gatekeeper to specialized veterinary care. You want a competent, conscientious and compassionate doctor to take care of your family’s health. You should also seek those qualities in your pet’s doctor.

Despite the rapid pace of advancements in modern veterinary medicine, the most important diagnostic tool is still a thorough physical examination. Compared to a human, a cat or dog ages five to 10 years for each calendar year. Your veterinarian’s most important job is to assess your pet’s health carefully and completely and communicate those findings to you clearly. Only with the information gained through a thorough physical examination can the veterinarian decide how to manage your pet’s healthcare for the longest, healthiest life possible.

A thorough assessment begins with the history of the pet. Questions are asked about the pet’s age, length of ownership, important health events in the past, diet, exercise, housing, medications, and current problems or changes observed by the owner. You should bring your pet’s old medical records when you are seeing a new veterinarian—this information is very important and may save time and money by avoiding repetition of tests.

Next, the pet is weighed and examined. Heart and lung sounds, pulse strength and mucus membrane color and refill time are used to assess the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The ears are examined with an otoscope—a device that allows the doctor to see the entire ear canal and eardrums. Eyes are examined with a lighted device, the ophthalmoscope, which shows the structures within as well as around the eye. The oral cavity contains many structures requiring close study—to the extent the patient permits! Teeth, gums, palate, tongue, tonsils and throat are evaluated. Next, the patient’s skeletal system is examined. The trunk, spine and limbs are flexed, extended and felt for any lumps, bumps or abnormalities in the joints and bones. The skin and fur are examined. The abdomen is felt to assess the internal structures. The external genitals are examined and the mammary glands are carefully felt for lumps. A complete physical exam will include but may not be limited to the procedures described above as indicated by the patient’s condition.

Armed with the information gathered by a thorough physical examination, your pet’s doctor is able to plan a course of health care and maintenance for your pet. If your pet does have special problems, your veterinarian will either treat the pet or help you get the special care you need. With good luck and good care from you and your veterinary health care team, may your pet only be “special” in all the good ways!

Presented by G. Maureen Bushnell, D.V.M. of Redland Animal Hospital, 305-245-5553.


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