It goes without saying that you know your pets better than anyone else - but that doesn’t mean you’ll pick up on everything. Some common, but serious, diseases have very subtle symptoms in their early stages, and it can take an expert eye to distinguish those signs. In addition, there are some checks that you’re very unlikely to be able to do at home, for example, auscultating a dog’s heart and lungs, palpating a cat’s liver, or checking a rabbit’s back teeth. So why are health checks important? To make sure your pet is healthy, and keep them that way!
So, here are the 5 top reasons for you to arrange an “MoT” for your pet!
1) Detect diseases early, when they’re more easily treatable
Many diseases develop slowly, only progressing slowly. This is particularly true of heart disease, kidney disease, and many tumours. By listening to your pet’s chest for a murmur or their lungs for wheezes; assessing their hydration status; feeling their abdomen for lumps and bumps, and even smelling their breath for signs of uraemia that might suggest kidney problems, we can often pick up on these conditions well before they start causing major problems. Most conditions are more manageable the earlier they are diagnosed, so the sooner we pick up any problems, the more effectively we can treat them.
2) Check your pet’s dental health
One of the commonest health issues in dogs and cats is dental disease - gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (rotting of the ligaments that hold the teeth). If untreated, this can lead to heart and kidney disease, loss of appetite, and even a complete inability to eat or drink. Our vets and nurses are all specially trained to detect it, and advise you on the best course of action - whether that means a different way of brushing their teeth, using mouthwash, cracking off some tartar in the consult room, or arranging a scale and polish to restore their smile.
In rabbits, this is even more important - it is very common for a rabbit to develop uneven wear on their back teeth, but there’s no way to see this from the outside without special instruments. We can use a metal speculum tool to look at their grinders and pick up the problem. We can then rasp or burr the teeth back into the correct alignment before they stop eating and develop gut stasis (which, tragically, is often fatal).
3) Develop an individualised preventative health plan for your animal
Parasite control is a really complex area - there is no one medication that will treat every single common parasite. As a result, individually optimised plans are more important than ever - choosing a drug that suits your pet’s lifestyle and risk factors to protect them as fully as possible. Increasingly, the same goes for vaccinations - although the core vaccines need boosting either annually or every three years, there are a lot of extra “optional” ones for animals at particular risk. For example, if your cat lives in a large colony, she might want a Chlamydia jab; whereas if your dog spends lots of time up on the Mendips, he might benefit from the Lyme Disease vaccine.
4) Renew any prescriptions
Most people don’t understand the legal issues around prescription-only drugs - or that most of the flea and worm treatments we use are prescription-only!
The law states that a prescription (even one stored on our records, so you can pop in and pick up another dose of flea treatment, for instance) can only last a maximum of 6 months. After that, we are legally obliged to perform a clinical assessment of your pet before we can repeat the medication - and a health-check meets that requirement, allowing us to authorise another 6 months of medication.
5) Discuss any concerns you might have
Dogs, cats and rabbits do all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Usually, they’re cute, sometimes they’re annoying, and occasionally they’re a sign of a real problem. But are you sure which is which? Our vets and nurses have many years of training and experience to draw on - so ask them, and use this incredible reservoir of knowledge!
Health checks are a vital component of the most important partnership - between you and your pet. Help us to help you keep that partnership happy and healthy!