One year of a dog’s or a cat’s life is equivalent to 5-7 years of a person’s life. Consider all of things that could go wrong with humans within a 5-7 year period, combined with the fact that our pet’s cannot articulate how they are feeling and instinctively hide signs of pain or illness; it should be clear how important yearly examination are, even for young pets.
Just this month alone, the majority of procedures I performed were the result of disease that I found on incidentally physical examination in a yearly visit, including:
– 6 dentistry procedures where I found painful and health compromising stages of periodontal disease.
– 1 echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) because I heard a high intensity heart murmur with my stethoscope during the yearly examination of a 4 year old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. Because we discovered the murmur was the result of heart valve defect, we now have him on a dietary and medical a lifestyle regimen that will extend his life and stave off heart failure.
– 1 class 4 laser therapy induction in a case of degenerative joint disease in the elbow discovered on routine yearly examination of a 9 year old Bichon. I first noticed that something was odd about his gait as he entered the room, then palpated thickness and popping in the elbow. The aforementioned laser therapy and joint chew regimen that I subsequently recommended for him is already improving his quality of life, and will help to keep him in less pain long term, while optimizing the longevity of that leg.
The mother of all incidental findings I detected on routine yearly visits in the month of October, however, was on a 10 year old pit bull, whose owner’s had not observed anything wrong with their dog leading up to the visit. On routine abdominal palpation that is part of the yearly physical examination, I palpated an enlarged spleen, which I confirmed with abdominal x-rays. One week later, I performed an abdominal exploratory surgical to remove the spleen, as x-rays revealed that the dog had developed a dangerous vascular accident within the spleen called a splenic hematoma. This condition is a silent killer, as splenic hematomas do not typically show outward signs. They rupture unbeknownst to the owner, and the dog goes to sleep one day, never to wake up as they bleed to death internally. In this dog’s case, the hematoma was so large that this would likely have happened within 30-60 days.
Instead, because of the owners’ commitment to having the yearly preventative health care visit, she came in 2 days ago for suture removal, fully recovered from surgery with a new lease on life and crisis averted. The owners were so moved by what had transpired that they plan to tell as many pet owners whose ear they can bend their story, and shout from the roof tops about how important preventative pet well visits are.
Bear in mind, that I only listed procedures that came about as the result of incidental findings on physical examinations this past month. Other ailments I discovered and initiated treatment for included KCS (dry eye), ear infections, fleas, ticks, skin infections, inflammatory airway disease, and hypertension to name a few. Had I not seen these pets as well, they would still be living with the painful and health compromising consequences of these diseases. I started this preventative pet health care series with the yearly examination because it is the single most important aspect of the preventative veterinary care visit.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.