Common Findings on Routine Exams

In veterinary medicine, we emphasize the importance of routine well being exams. It’s no mystery when a pet comes to see me…..I am looking for abnormalities. Most of the things I find are things the pet owner has not observed or did observe and thought was no big deal. While some findings are not common, there are a few problems that I routinely observe on a wellness exam.

One of the most common problems that I discover in pets, especially dogs, is ear issues. In many cases, owners have no idea that their pet is suffering from painful disease in its ear. They can’t talk, so they have no easy way to communicate their discomfort. In some cases, on questioning, the owner remembers the animal shaking its head or scratching its ears more than normal. Occasionally, when I mention the ear problem, the owner will acknowledge it has been there, but they didn’t feel it was bothering the dog. Take my word for it, diseased ears hurt. Not every pet is obviously in pain. One of my own dogs never displayed signs of a problem in her ears. I discovered it on routine examination.

Another common problem I find on a wellness examination is dental disease.  Dental disease causes pain and contributes to problems in major body organs. Many times the issues I find are early in the disease process which makes them easier and more affordable to treat. Other times, the disease is advanced, causing substantial pain and infection. The infection can spread down to the jaw bone as well as other areas of the body.

Skin is another area that I find frequently has issues when I see a pet for its routine checkup. Sometimes, especially the fall or winter, it is as simple as finding fleas that the owner was not aware of. Even if the pet is not scratching excessively, fleas need to be eradicated. They live in the environment and carry disease to people as well as pets. Another abnormality that I often notice is a shin infection. Owners generally do not recognize the signs of an infection and chalk it up to something simple like dry skin. Skin infection can be minor, clearing up with a course of antibiotics, or they can be a sign of underlying disease.

When a pet is in front of me for an examination, I follow the same procedure every time. The reason I do this is so I won’t forget to check something. I look at eyes, teeth, ears, check lymph nodes, listen to the heart, feel the belly, run my hand over the pet, feel joints, and last check the genitals and rectal area. It doesn’t take long in a relaxed animal. In a fearful or anxious animal. It may take a bit longer. I’m honestly hoping I don’t find anything, but if I do, it is my job to inform the pet owner. No one wants to hear their pet has developed a heart murmur or that I palpated an enlarged spleen.

There are some things that I have to depend on the owner to disclose. If the dog or cat has abnormal stools at times at home, if she/he drinks a lot of water, recurrently vomits, or has behavior problems, I can’t help if I don’t know. Your pet’s routine examination is a good time to discuss these issues, whether young, old, or in between. Your pet’s health is my business; I want to do a good job. A big part of doing that job is being able to perform regular wellness examinations.