I having been banging the drum of the importance of the yearly well visit for dogs and cats since I graduated veterinary school. It has always been less about the vaccines for me and more about parasite screening and early disease detection via physical examination and after the age of 8, taking blood pressure and sending out routine blood profiles. Are the vaccines important for infectious disease prevention? Of course they are, but I am so much more interested in health screening side of the yearly veterinary well visit that if owners opt in for my exam and screening recommendations, I give them the vaccines for free.
In the spirit of promoting veterinary well visit compliance, I have a list of some of the most common health conditions I find in dogs and cats in yearly well visits.
This is probably number one on my list and one that should not be taken lightly. Dental disease causes pain, immune suppression, predisposes to oral cancer, and if ignored long enough can erode jaw bone and cause pathological factors.
Pet owners would be amazed how many positive stool tests we get per day in asymptomatic animals in routine visits. One may ask, well if they are not showing any symptoms, what is the big deal? Make no mistake, it is a very big deal. Chronic parasitism predisposes pets to autoimmune disease, cancer and causes immune suppression. Some types of intestinal worm parasites can pose a danger young children under 5 years of age.
We diagnose about 1-3 cases of heartworm in dogs on routine screening per doctor per month. In my 3 doctor practice, that translates to 3-9 cases per month in usually asymptomatic dogs. Heartworms over time damage the heart muscle and heart valves and leads to heart failure and dangerous and painful clot formations.
This is most commonly seen in senior well visit in cats. Kidney failure is the number one cause of death in cats and our ability to manage the disease is largely dependent on early detection.
Part of the physical examination is abdominal palpation. In the process of feeling the abdomen I commonly detect tumors of the spleen, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Early intervention for surgical removal before tumors spread to other parts of the body give the pet his/her best chance for long term survival. Again, many of these cases are asymptomatic.
Liver and spleen enlargement are the most common that I come across on routine palpation. Organ enlargement is usually a sign of disease of that organ.
Heart murmurs are abnormal heart sounds produced when there are one or more leaky heart valves that create a backward jet of blood when the heart pumps. Leaky heart valves cause heart enlargement over time and can lead to congestive heart failure. Early intervention gives us our best opportunity to maintain quality of life and provide longevity for patients with heart murmurs.
As I state, this is just SOME of the most common health issues I see on routine well visits. I would have to type for a week if I were to attempt to write about every health concern I have com across during routine yearly pet well visits. Please take these seriously and bring your pet in when you get reminders from your veterinarian.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.