What is a vet check up?

A vet check up is a comprehensive nose to tail physical examination of your pet. This can be either when they are sick or as part of a preventative routine to detect problems early. When a vet check up is done solely for prevention, it is often called a wellness exam.

mobile vet check consultation
mobile vet check up consultation

How often should my dog have a vet check up?

Your pet should always have a vet check up whenever they are ill or you notice an abnormality in their normal behaviour, activity or appearance. Otherwise, as a general rule, pets should have twice yearly exams at a minimum. The reason for this is that pets age a lot quicker than people do. By having a check up, your vet may pick up problems early so that they can be dealt with before they get out of hand. The frequency of check ups should increase as your pet ages. By the time they are 6-7 years of age, they are considered senior and should be more closely monitored.

What does a vet consultation include?

Your vet will firstly review your pet’s history so they can decide what is needed and monitor any ongoing problems. They will then ask you questions about your pet’s behaviour, attitude, elimination patterns (toileting), lifestyle and overall health. Since you are the one most often in contact with your pet, a vet will rely on you to relay any changes you have noticed.

Following this, a thorough physical examination is performed. By following a methodical nose to tail approach, we may pick up any issues within your pets body. The main areas we examine are:

pet central nervous system

Behaviour & Attitude

Deviations from your pet’s normal behaviour can indicate potential illness. For instance, slowness to get up from a laying down position, having difficulties jumping into the car or going up stairs can all be signs of musculoskeletal disease, such as osteoarthritis.

If your pet winces or yelps when touched in certain areas this can also indicate pain somewhere that needs to be investigated.

Central Nervous System

It is important to assess your pet’s central nervous system as part of their overall health. Common problems may include seizures, issues with posturing deficits (where the brain doesn’t communicate with the limbs properly), delayed reflexes (eg like when the doctor taps on your knee to make it kick) etc.

Old dogs can commonly get a condition called geriatric vestibular disease where their eyes flicker, the head tilts, and they fall over or circle. All of these central nervous signs need to be investigated to work out what is truly going on with your pet.

Temperature & Vital Signs

A baseline of your pet’s vital signs is always a good starting point for a vet exam. For instance, your pet’s heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse rate, gum colour, capillary refill time (CRT – pressing the gum to blanch it and counting how long till colour returns) and temperature are all vital signs that should exist within a certain range. When one or more of these subjective measurements is outside of the normal range, it can indicate that a problem may exist.

Some of the normal vital signs of pets include:

DOG

CRT

Less than 2 seconds

Respiratory

15-30 breaths per minute

Temperature

38-39.2 degrees Celsius

Heart Rate

80-160 beats per minute

CAT

CRT

Less than 2 seconds

Respiratory

20-40 breaths per minute

Temperature

38-39.2 degrees Celsius

Heart Rate

110-200 beats per minute
vet check up teeth

Mouth & Teeth

The lips, teeth, gums, hard and soft palate, tongue, pharynx and tonsils are all things that will be examined on a thorough vet check.

Dental disease is a common problem caused by the build up of plaque and tartar on your pet’s teeth. This can lead to bad breath (halitosis), rotten tooth roots and even a tooth root abscess.

Pale gums can be a sign of anaemia. Spotted gums can indicate a bleeding or platelet disorder.

Short faced breeds can often have problems with elongated soft palates that can cause airway obstruction and excessive snoring.

It’s also not uncommon on a routine physical exam to find a stick or bone stuck in between the teeth at the roof of the mouth.

Eyes

Your pet’s eyes will be assessed for size, position, symmetry, discolouration and discharge.

Your vet will be able to spot any inflammation, redness, abnormal pupil size, clouding of the cornea, cataracts, squinting, dry eyes or eyelid masses.

Given the eye is such a sensitive and essential organ, spotting problems early in this area can save a lot of trouble later on.

vet ear check model

Ears

Carriage and position of the ears, thickness of the ear tips, smell and cleanliness of the ear canals and shaking of the head are all things to be examined by your vet.

Ear infections are very common and can cause redness, a foul odour and a discharge from the ears. Your pet may take a swab of your pet’s ears to check to see if bacteria, yeast or mites may be present causing problems.

Foreign bodies like grass seeds commonly find their way into a pet’s ear canals and need to be removed.

Shaking of the head can cause small blood vessels in your pet’s ears to rupture leading to a pocket of blood to form between the skin of your pet’s ear. This is known as an aural haematoma. If found on a physical examination your vet can address this problem early because it usually causes a pet discomfort.

Skin & Coat

Pets that are in good healthy should have glossy, healthy coats. Itchiness, hair loss, redness, excessive oil or flakiness should all be examined during a vet check.

Common causes of skin & coat issues include allergies (grass and food allergies),  parasites (such as fleas, ticks and lice) including mange mites, seborrhoea and even some skin cancers.

Part of this exam is also the vet running their hands over your pet’s body to check for any abnormal lumps, bumps and masses.

vet skin check

Cardiovascular System

Your vet will listen to your pet’s heart to check for murmurs, arrhythmias (changes in the rhythm of your pet’s heart beat) or other abnormal heart sounds.

They will also check other parts of the circulatory system such as the colour of the gums and other mucous membranes, as well as feeling your pet’s femoral pulse. If there the heart beat and the pulse in the leg is out of sync, this can indicate cardiovascular problems.

Respiratory System

Listening to your pet’s respiration can give an insight into whats happening within the chest cavity of your pet. Your vet will usually listen to at least four different areas of your pet’s lungs, including on both sides of the chest.

Normal breathing sounds are soft and breezy. If any wheezing, coughing, crackling or dull sounds are heard then a problem may be present that requires further investigation.

Laboured breathing, shortness of breath, blue gum colour can all indicate a pet in respiratory distress.

Common reasons for respiratory abnormalities can include heart failure (where fluid backs up onto the lungs), pneumonia or infection, pneumothorax (collapsed lung), bronchitis, asthma and more.

As part of a respiratory system assesment, your vet will also examine your pet’s nose, opening of the nares, the back of the throat and the neck or upper airway.

Coughing and laboured breathing are obvious signs. Other respiratory abnormalities can be more subtle. This is where a comprehensive vet exam comes into play.

Gastrointestinal System

Diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, excessive flatulence or stomach noise (also called borborygmi) are obvious gastrointestinal reasons for a vet check.

A palpation of your pet’s abdomen on a routine exam may also pick up masses, foreign bodies or abdominal fluid. These are all findings that should be investigated further.

urinary

Urogenital System

The urogenital system is made up of the urinary tract and the reproductive tract, including the external genitalia.

A vet will check your pet’s kidney shape and size, palpate their prostate (for boys) and bladder. They will also check the penis, prepuce or vulva areas for inflammation, discolouration, discharge or foreign bodies.

Common abnormal findings can include bladder stones, shrunken or enlarged kidneys (indicating possible kidney failure), a distended utereus (pregnancy or an infection called pyometra), or enlarged prostate.

It is important to let your vet know if you notice blood in your pet’s urine, that they are drinking or urinating excessively, urinating less or licking their genitals excessively etc.

Musculoskeletal System

A thorough vet consultation will involve checking your pet’s bones and muscles. This includes those of your pet’s head, neck, spine, ribs, pelivs, tail and limbs.

Any lameness, reluctance to jump or go up stairs, or pain you have noticed when handling your pet at home should be brought to the vet’s attention for particular examination.

Common ailments include sprains, broken bones, cancers, inflamed or herniated discs within the spine, dislocated hip joints, osteoarthritis, elbow and hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture (within the knee joint).

Problems in this system often involve x-rays to better assess the problem.

Lymph Nodes

Examining the lymph nodes for size, shape and texture is an important part of a vet check. Lymph nodes can be found all over your pet’s body, as well as internally.

Enlarged lymph nodes can be due to a reaction to an infection nearby. They can also be enlarged due to certain cancers such as lymphoma.

A Comprehensive Vet Exam

It may seem like your vet can only tell so much from a veterinary exam, but as you can see above, a lot of information is to be gathered. By finding any problems early, many of them can be dealt with before they become much bigger. That mass for instance can be removed when it is the size of the pea, rather than when it has grown to where removal is difficult or it could have potentially spread internally.

Pet health problems can progress at a rapid rate, which is why regular, comprehensive vet exams at least twice a year are essential.

Be sure to let your vet know if you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour, attitude or regular routine. It may just save their life!

Book A Mobile Vet Check Up Now

If you live in Perth, why not make use of our mobile vet service for your pet’s next vet check up. We offer consultations in the comfort of your own home.

Book online below using our easy appointment scheduler.

We also offer wide range of other mobile vet services including vaccinations, microchipping, pet euthanasia at home and lots more.

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