By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
A recent survey of both pet owners and veterinarians examined the pet health issues each group thought were most important. In this blog I will write from the veterinarian’s point of view and in next week’s post, the issues from the pet owner’s point of view.
In an exam room with a pet owner and a furry, feathery, or scaly patient, veterinarians are focused on performing a complete physical examination, a pet’s need for routine blood testing, intestinal parasite control, and issues related to senior pets and pain management.
Starting with an exam
Physical examination detects abnormalities in your pet’s body that veterinarians follow up on using blood tests, x-rays, and other specialized tests. For example, brown discharge in the ears will provoke an ear swab and a microscopic examination of the discharge to determine the best medication to clear it up. Crusty eyes will be tested for tear production.
If your cat is losing weight or your dog has a bad haircoat, thyroid testing might be indicated.
A complete physical examination is just one component of assessing a pet’s health. Veterinarians use blood tests to monitor organ function, monitor drug therapy, and discover disease. Without them, we can only guess about your pet’s health. You shouldn’t be surprised blood tests are high on our list.
Intestinal parasite control
The Companion Animal Parasite Council, a group of parasite experts, recommends all pets be treated with monthly antiparasite agents. The recommendation stems from the need to keep your pet healthy and also protect humans against infection. Tummy upset is a common reason for urgent visits to veterinarians. Parasite control helps keep these visits less frequent and keep you and your pet happier.
A pet lifetime is compressed into 10-15 years. Once your pet reaches 8-10 years of age, she is considered a senior pet, where one year of life represents multiple years of aging. To detect age-related conditions, experts have recently increased the recommended frequency of visits for senior pets to a minimum of twice a year. When we see your senior pet, we will worry about age-related changes such as pain from arthritis.
Veterinarians know pain from arthritis is an important issue for their patients and their families, but families and veterinarians alike struggle with how best to diagnose pain and measure response to treatment in pets who cannot talk. Watching them engage or not engage in their normal daily activities provides the best clue. Sometimes a hunch leads us to try pain medications and when we see a positive response, know we have made the correct diagnosis.
Now that you know what’s on your veterinarian’s mind you will be better able to understand how we can collaborate to keep your pet in perfect health. Be sure to take a list of what’s on your mind when you visit your pet’s veterinarian to promote this collaboration.