by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
Alright, let's say your new little pet - a cute little kitten or precocious puppy - has just celebrated its first birthday. It now can be considered an adult. Bone growth and development should now have been completed. It may still have some growing to do - filling in and fleshing out a bit more - but it won't grow taller or become bigger in that way. The year of new pet health care is over. It has received examinations to make sure it was healthy when acquired, then to be sure it was growing and developing properly. It has received a series of vaccines to be sure it has developed a safe level of protection against the bacterial and viral diseases that, depending on its lifestyle, it may contact. Treatment may have been given to get rid of parasites and measures begun to prevent future problems with them. Yessir, sure has been a busy year.
What's up next? What do you need to supply for your pet to keep it happy and healthy for many years to come? Well, of course, it needs to be fed well, housed comfortably, groomed appropriately, receive lots of love and kept healthy to enjoy life to the fullest. Certainly, in a number of ways, your veterinary team should be able to assist with a number of these requirements.
Regular visits to the veterinarian should be scheduled. You should not wait until your pet is ill or you notice something unusual in your pet's behaviour to have them get a check-up.
Sometimes called wellness visits, these visits will address a number of issues important to keep your pet healthy. They primarily evaluate the pet's physical condition. A complete physical examination is performed. The pet's body weight is recorded and its body condition score assessed. The teeth are examined and the mouth, gums and throat checked. An examination of the eyes and ears occurs. The chest is auscultated and an evaluation of the heart and lungs is made. The abdomen will be palpated in order to assess internal organ size and position. The external lymph nodes are palpated. The skin and haircoat is examined. The animal's gait and posture may be assessed. Such a thorough exam allows for quite an accurate assessment of an animal's health.
More and more frequently these days, just as it is in human medicine, some further laboratory testing may be recommended to further augment the assessment of the physical health of the patient. Most commonly these tests would include blood tests, urine analysis and testing on a fecal sample.
Blood and urine tests become increasingly important as animals age. They can allow for the early detection of a number of medical problems including diabetes, anemia, thyroid disorders, kidney and liver problems. If detected early many of these problems are able to be helped with diet adjustments and other measures that make their management easier and more successful. Fecal tests provide assurance that parasite control measures are being effective.
Therapeutic drug monitoring for pets receiving certain medications these days also commonly occurs. Monitoring a pet's medications and their effect on the pet's body is important in maintaining their overall health. Medications are used for animals by veterinarians in the management of many diseases. Examples of this would include drugs to control seizure disorders, treat thyroid imbalances, control diabetes, treat cancer, suppress immune disorders and relieve the pain and disability caused by arthritis. The use of such drugs represents a tremendous advancement in the quality of care our companion pets receive and is one of the reasons our pets are living longer and healthier lives. However, along with their use, comes the responsibility to carefully monitor patients receiving such care.
At the same visit to the veterinary hospital, advice on vaccinations necessary to maintain a pet's immunity against a number of contagious diseases can be sought. Requirements will be determined by a pet's species, age, life style and travel. Appropriate medication to prevent internal and external body parasites can be determined. Additionally, such times allow an opportunity to discuss diet, behaviour or any other pet related questions with a veterinarian.