The cornerstone of the veterinary visit is the exam. Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us when they are feeling uncomfortable or in pain. The “tip to toe” exam by the doctor will help uncover hidden causes of discomfort or signs of illness that may have gone unnoticed. When your pet presents for his annual or semiannual health check in our Lexington, KY clinic, he be will given a complete examination by the veterinarian. The typical exam includes:
Distant observation: You may not notice, but when the doctor first comes into the room and talks to you, he is also observing your pet. Part of the exam is noticing how your pet looks as a whole. Are they over or underweight? Do they look bright and alert or depressed or lethargic? Are they nervous or calm? Are they standing and moving normally? Does their coat look healthy?
Eyes: The doctor is looking at the eyes to see if the eyes are symmetrical, if the eyelids and surrounding tissue blink normally and are free of tumors or masses, if the cornea (the outer clear covering of the eye) is clear, if the blink reflexes are normal, the eyes look red or irritated, the iris (colored part of the eye) smooth, the eyelashes look normal, and then with the ophthalmoscope if the lens and retina appear normal. If any abnormalities are detected, further tests (such as intraoccular pressure test for glaucoma or a test to quantify tear production) may be recommended.
Ears: Ears are checked for any excess debris, redness, or irritation in the ear canal and an otoscope is used to make sure the ear drum is normal.
Mouth: The tongue, cheeks and lips are checked for any masses, wounds or ulcerations. The teeth and gums are checked for any tartar, gingivitis or broken or diseased teeth. On most animals, the gums are the best place to evaluate mucus membrane color, too. We always check the gum color for signs of anemia (pale pink or white), jaundice (yellow), or infection (bright red.) You will also see the doctor press on the gums and see how long it takes the color to come back. This is called “capillary refill time” and is an estimation of blood circulation.
Neck: The doctor will be examining your dog’s neck to check the size and consistency of the lymph nodes, the salivary glands, and the thyroid gland.
Bones and joints: If your pet has been limping, slower to get up, or having trouble on walks, the veterinarian will do an orthopedic exam, examining the bones and joints (including those in the spine) for pain, swelling, and abnormal laxity or movement.
Abdomen: The abdomen will be palpated (meaning “examined by feeling”) for masses and abdominal pain.
Skin and Coat: The skin and coat will be examined for signs of dryness or flakiness, fleas or flea dirt, dullness, rashes, hives and infections, and any lumps or bumps.
The above is a typical wellness exam. If your animal is showing any signs of illness, a specialized exam will be performed in that area (special eye staining for eye problems and a neurological exam for certain musculoskeletal problems, for example.)
Clays Mill Vet Clinic has a fully stocked pharmacy for your pet’s medical needs. Almost all of your pet’s medications can be picked up at the clinic during your appointment. For authorized refills, you can just call the clinic ahead of time and we will have your pet’s medication ready for you that same day.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is never more true than with your pet’s vaccines. Vaccines have stopped some of our dogs’ and cats’ deadliest diseases in their tracks and we are profoundly grateful. However, we have to remember that vaccines aren’t entirely harmless, either, and it is important to find the balance between protecting our pet’s health but avoiding over-vaccinating and exposing them unnecessarily to vaccine side effects.
One thing to note: One vaccine isn’t enough. Puppies and kittens must have a series of vaccines to be protected. Because of interference of maternal antibodies, baby animals have be vaccinated starting at weaning and every three weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Click here for more information.
Some vaccines are called “core” vaccines, meaning that with few exceptions, it is best for all dogs and cats to receive these vaccines. In dogs, the DA2PP (distemper/parvo vaccine) and the rabies vaccine are core vaccines. In cats, the FVRCPC (feline distemper) and rabies are core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are vaccines that may or may not be necessary depending on your pet’s lifestyle and other habits. Examples of non-core vaccines for dogs include vaccines for bordetella (kennel cough), Lepto, and Lyme disease. For cats, they include Feline Leukemia and the FIV vaccines. Some non-core vaccines are highly recommended for some pets, some are not. We will be happy to answer any questions you have concerning vaccines.
Clays Mill Veterinary Clinic follows the most up-to-date protocols for vaccines provided by AAHA (the American Animal Hospital Association) and AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners.) We also take into consideration the lifestyle of your pet. Dogs that are frequently boarded or groomed need different vaccines from ones who aren’t, for example.