By Dr. Gary Borgman, DVM
The “Wellness” veterinary health visit, also known as the annual vaccination visit is so much more than just boosting any vaccinations that are due. The annual visit is an opportunity to review the past medical history, including previous illnesses, injuries, surgeries, current medications and diet issues and a review of the environmental risk factors for the individual patient. So much can change in 12 months or even just a few months. I have previously written about the relatively rapid maturing and eventual aging of dogs and cats, compared to human life stages. The old adage that one year in a dog or cat’s life is like seven years is not very appropriate in today’s thinking. Dogs and cats are fully grown and sexual mature at one year of age, corresponding to about 18 years for humans. After that we generally add 5 years for each additional calendar year. Large canine breeds take longer to reach their full size, sometimes as long as 24 months.
When dogs and cats are presented to our offices for the annual visit, we ask a lot of questions. We check the patient’s weight and record vital signs and physical exam findings. For many years, it has been standard protocol to test dogs for heartworms at least once a year but now we also perform an age appropriate blood screen for unseen internal conditions and, we check for internal and external parasites. This visit is also an opportunity for pet owners to address their concerns and questions. We recommend making a list prior to the visit.
The physical examination comes next and we utilize a check list to facilitate a complete exam and medical record with normal and abnormal findings. The vaccination status of the patient is addressed, and we recommend/administer the appropriate immunizations for the patient, depending upon such things as indoors vs. outdoors, and any planned visits to a kennel, groomer, or dog park. Any planned trip to states north of Florida may indicate a need for a Lyme Disease vaccine for dogs, depending upon the time of year and possible exposure to ticks.
Laboratory results are usually available within 24 hours and a follow up telephone call gives us an opportunity to report our findings and discuss our recommendations. The more common problems we detect with blood testing involve the kidneys, the liver, the thyroid gland, the pancreas and the adrenal glands. In recent months we have diagnosed relatively rare but treatable conditions involving the thyroid gland and parathyroid glands in two separate cases. I have previously written about many of these issues and the articles can be found at www.osceolawoman.com
The annual wellness visit for dogs and cats is often routine and uneventful, but sooner or later, abnormalities can and will show up. Early detection and treatment/management give us the best chance for favorable outcomes and longer, healthier life.
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel: 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel: 407-518-0880) are available to answer your questions concerning annual wellness visits or any other dog and cat health issues. We are here to help and to serve.