WHAT IS A WELLNESS EXAM?
A wellness examination is a routine medical examination of a patient that is apparently healthy, as opposed to an examination of a patient that is ill. A wellness examination may also be called a ‘check-up’ or a ‘physical examination’. The focus of a wellness visit is the maintenance of optimal health.
What we will be checking during a wellness examination:
During a routine wellness examination, we will ask you questions about your pets diet, exercise, thirst, breathing, behavior, habits, elimination patterns (i.e., bowel movements and urination), lifestyle, and general health. We will also perform a physical examination of your pet. Based on your pet’s history and physical examination, we will then make recommendations for specific preventive medicine treatments such as vaccination, parasite control (including preventive treatments for fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites and heartworms), nutrition, skin and coat care, weight management or dental care. In addition, we will discuss your pet’s individual circumstances and decide whether any other life-stage or lifestyle recommendations would be appropriate.
We will observe or inspect:
- How your pet walks and stands
- Whether your pet is bright and alert
- Your pet’s general body condition – whether your pet has an appropriate body weight and body condition (neither too fat nor too thin)
- The haircoat – looking for excessive dryness, excessive oiliness, evidence of dandruff, excessive shedding, or abnormal hair loss
- The skin – looking for oiliness, dryness, dandruff, lumps or bumps, areas of abnormal thickening, etc.
- The eyes – looking for redness, discharge, evidence of excessive tearing, abnormal lumps or bumps on the eyelids, how well the eyelids close, cloudiness, or any other abnormalities.
- The ears – looking for discharges, thickening, hair loss, or any other signs of problems.
- The nose and face – looking for symmetry, discharges, how well the pet breathes, whether there are any problems related to skin folds or other apparent problems.
- Mouth and teeth – looking for tartar build-up, periodontal disease, retained baby teeth, broken teeth, excessive salivation, staining around the lips, ulcers in or around the mouth, etc.
We will auscultate:
- The heart – listening for abnormal heart rate, heart rhythm (“skipped beats” or “extra beats”), or heart murmurs
- The lungs – listening for evidence of increased or decreased breath sounds
We will palpate:
- The pulse – depending on the results of auscultation, your veterinarian may simultaneously listen to the chest and palpate the pulse in the hind legs
- The lymph nodes in the region of the head, neck and hind legs – looking for swelling or pain
- The legs – looking for evidence of lameness, muscle problems, nerve problems, problems with the paws or toenails, etc.
- The abdomen – feeling in the areas of the bladder, kidneys, liver, intestines, spleen and stomach in order to assess whether these organs appear to be normal or abnormal, and whether there is any subtle evidence of discomfort.
We recommend that a fresh sample of your pet’s feces (bowel movement) is examined as part of every wellness examination. This sample will be processed and microscopically evaluated for the presence of parasite eggs. In puppies and kittens, monthly fecal examinations are extremely important since many will have intestinal parasites. We also recommend heartworm testing yearly as recommended by the American Heartworm Society.
As part of a complete wellness examination, we recommend “wellness screening tests”. There are four main categories of wellness testing recommended for pets: complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Within each category, we will advise you about how extensive the testing should be.