The importance of regular health checks for dogs and cats

It is often said that prevention is better than cure. None of us want to see our furry family members unwell. Effective preventative health care and early detection of illness are essential to keep then happy and healthy. Regular health checks provide the perfect opportunity for your pet to be protected against health risks and assessed for any signs of disease.

Cats and dogs are stoical species, they both hide signs of distress. While dogs are more communicative, it isn’t uncommon for a dog to continue greeting you joyfully when they are under the weather. Meanwhile, cats are experts at hiding ill health.

Being familiar with your pets’ normal demeanour, lifestyle and parameters allows us to manage risk and medical conditions much more effectively.

Preventative health care is most effective when designed specifically for your pet. ‘One size fits all’ veterinary medicine often means unnecessary over-treatment, inappropriate or deficient treatment. For example, vaccination is essential for the prevention of serious infectious disease but not all pets require all vaccines. A single house cat does not need to be vaccinated against illnesses that are only spread by cat to cat contact.

Parasite control needs to be similarly tailored. A cat who enjoys hunting will need more frequent tapeworm treatment than a sedentary feline. Dogs walked on tick infested mountains who also swim daily will need specific parasite treatment. Many topical products would be deactivated by frequent swimming and offer no protection against tick borne Lyme disease. The better we know your animal and their individual needs, the better we can look after them.

Regular physical examinations by a vet or nurse can pick up subtle signs of discomfort or illness. A clinical examination assesses general health with a full nose to tail MOT. Below are some examples of potential problems that can be detected.

Weight and body condition score

A third of dogs in the UK are overweight. Obesity leads to joint problems, heart disease and diabetes in both dogs and cats. We can advise you on the best diet for your pet and discuss weight management. Some active animals are underweight and conceal underlying treatable health conditions. For example, some collie breeds are susceptible to Vitamin B deficiency because of intestinal absorption problems. Coupled with high activity levels this can lead to weight loss.

Behaviour and mood

A subtle change in your dog or cat can be caused by pain or ill health, such as an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. We might easily think our pet is slowing down as they age and therefore miss signs of an illness. Investigations prompted by an examination may reveal readily treatable conditions and return your pet to full health. For example, a cat with diabetes may initially drink a little more and lose weight. If diabetic cats are diagnosed and treated quickly, they can go into remission and avoid a lifetime of insulin injections and complications.

Dental disease 

Some dogs and cats are very resistant to having their teeth cleaned or examined at home. Unfortunately, dental disease is common. Detecting early signs of tooth decay or infection allows timely treatment avoiding dental pain. Dental disease can exacerbate heart and kidney disease if untreated.

Skin and ear disease

Scurf, dry skin and pimples can be early signs of skin disease. Prompt parasite treatment can prevent more serious disease. Ear infections may not be evident until they are serious, so regular ear checks are essential. Red skin, excess wax and inflammation can herald the beginning of an infection.

Lumps and Bumps

Small skin masses are often found on clinical examination. These can easily escape detection if they are covered by hair or in inaccessible areas. Masses can also be detected in the abdomen on examination, as the vet will palpate the abdominal organs. In all cases, treatment is likely to be more effective if undertaken earlier. A small mass is more easily removed surgically. Alternatively, a mass can be sampled to diagnose the cause and direct treatment or give you peace of mind.

Blood Pressure 

Older dogs and cats and those with underlying health problems can suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). This condition can cause organ damage and make them feel very unwell. Blood pressure measurement is a simple, non-invasive test that will aid effective management. 

Joint disease

Arthritis is a common condition in dogs and cats. Early diagnosis of joint disease is essential as the pet’s environment can be altered to reduce pain. Ramps can be used to avoid jumping, floor coverings reduce slipping and appropriate beds minimise discomfort. Supplements and medicines can be used to reduce inflammation and improve joint health.

Eye disease

Dogs and cats manage very well with gradual sight loss, so cataract formation and other causes for blindness may be easily missed. Animals can also develop painful conditions such as glaucoma and uveitis (inflammation inside the eye). Having their eyes checked regularly can ensure non-painful and effective vision.

Heart disease

A large recent study (the EPIC trial) showed that treating heart disease before signs of failure appear means that dogs live longer (on average 2 years). So, regular auscultation (listening to sounds) of the heart is important to detect early disease.

Regular health checks mean that long term medical conditions can be managed optimally. This avoids complications, inappropriate medication and improves the prognosis.

Medications

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons stipulates that vets must prescribe medications responsibly with frequent clinical assessment. This means that pets must have regular check-ups to assess their medical condition and the medications used.

Best care

At Chalklands, we strive to provide the best veterinary care for your pet. We believe regular health checks are important for all the reasons above. Our Elite Membership Club includes the full annual health check at their vaccination AND a 6 monthly nurse health check. In this way, we can continually reassess your pet’s needs and provide everything that they need to keep them well.

The scheme spreads the cost of their preventative health care over the year with a monthly direct debit. Full parasite control is included with flea, tick and worming prevention. These medications are effective, keeping your pet, you and your home free of infection. We also provide free nurse clinics for any concerns that you have. Discounts on treatments that will keep your pet healthy throughout their life. A 10% discount on neutering and preventative dental care. If your pet is unfortunate enough to develop a long-term health condition, you will receive a 10% discount on prescription diets, long term medication and in-house screening blood tests. The Elite scheme is an effective way to have complete peace of mind that your pet has all they need. For further information on joining the club please see https://www.chalklandvets.co.uk/health-care-club.html

Regular health checks are an important part of the complete healthcare that we offer. We look forward to seeing and getting to know all about you and your pet.

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