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The Ever-Important Dog Physical Exam

What to Expect From Your Dog’s Wellness Visit

By March 13, 2014 | See Comments

A Veterinarian Holding A Yorkshire Terrier

We and our dogs aren't so different. They require yearly check-ups and preventative care. Give your dog the best chance to live a long, healthy and happy life with you by staying current on their physical exams.

Is it really necessary to take your dog for regular check-ups at the vet? You bet it is! These routine examinations are an important part of maintaining your dog’s overall health and preventing any medical conditions that could land you in the vet’s office with a steep bill, or worse.

It is recommended that all dogs under the age of 10 see the vet once a year, while dogs 10 years or older should see the vet every six months. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an appropriate exam schedule for your dog.

What Happens During The Physical Exam?

Unlike a trip to the veterinarian to treat a specific symptom or illness, the routine physical exam serves to keep your dog healthy and catch any undiagnosed health conditions by covering all the bases. A physical examination typically includes:

  • Vet and Owner Conversation: Your veterinarian will ask you a series of questions about your dog’s health and behavior. Expect to discuss your dog’s diet, bathroom habits, eating and drinking habits, past health problems, exercise, and lifestyle.
  • Physical Inspection: Your veterinarian will give your dog’s body a thorough once-over to check for any issues. Weight and general body condition will be checked, as will the coat, skin, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, and face. Your veterinarian will also observe how your dog walks, stands, and sits and check that your dog is alert and responsive.

  • Auscultation: Auscultation is a fancy word for listening to the internal sounds of the body with a stethoscope. Your veterinarian will listen to your dog’s lungs to check their breathing and their heart to check for heart murmurs, abnormal heart rhythm, or abnormal heart rate.
  • Palpation: Another fancy word, palpation simply means an examination that involves feeling with the hands. Your veterinarian will feel your dog’s abdomen to check their internal organs, their legs to check for any muscle or nerve problems, their lymph nodes to check for swelling, and their pulse in the hind legs to further check heart rate and rhythm.

  • Fecal Exam: Fecal exams are performed to check for gastrointestinal parasites, and you will need to bring a sample of your dog’s feces to be tested. Most veterinarians nowadays recommend regular fecal exams, especially for puppies.

  • Vaccination Boosters: Most dogs receive vaccinations when they are puppies, and vaccination boosters are the shots administered after the initial dose to keep the vaccines effective. Not all vaccinations require boosters, but most dogs will need somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-4 boosters a year.

  • Heartworm Testing: This is a blood test to check for heartworm disease, a potentially life threatening disease caused by parasitic worms. How often your dog will need a heartworm test will depend on your geographic location and what your veterinarian recommends.

  • Screening Tests: Complete blood work, urinalysis, thyroid hormone testing, and biochemistry may be recommended for some dogs as part of the physical exam. Your veterinarian will decide which tests -- if any -- are appropriate for your dog. Senior dogs will typically undergo all of these tests as part of geriatric screening, including x-rays.

  • Treatment Recommendations: Depending on what your veterinarian discovers during the examination, additional testing or treatments may be recommended. These may include allergy testing, dental cleaning, suggestions for managing weight and nutrition, and recommendations for flea, tick, and parasite control. Any more serious health conditions discovered during the examination will also be discussed.

Schedule Your Dog’s Physical Exam

As you can see, your dog’s physical exam is incredibly important. Not only do these visits benefit your dog’s health and offer you peace of mind, they can also save you money in the long run by catching any health problems before they become expensive to treat, or even worse, untreatable. Your best friend is definitely worth the relatively low cost of the annual exam. So why wait? Call your veterinarian now to schedule your dog’s next check-up.

More on Preventative Health Care

How Are Prescriptions Plans For Pets Different From Insurance?
6 Simple Tasks That 'll Help Your Pet Live Longer
You Can Start Preventing These 6 Dog Illnesses From Puppyhood

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