Cats are so darned adept at hiding their medical issues, often until they are too advanced to be readily fixable. This underscores the importance of a thorough physical examination at least once a year for young and middle aged kitties and twice yearly for seniors.
In veterinary school, we are taught to perform a thorough physical examination on each and every patient. It would truly be a shame to miss a new heart murmur or enlarged lymph nodes simply because the chief complaint was urinating outside of the litter box. The sooner abnormalities are detected the more likely you and your veterinarian will be able to achieve good results.
The components of a thorough physical examination
Listed below are the components of a complete and thorough physical examination for your cat. Truthfully, no more than a minute or two is required for a seasoned veterinarian to competently complete all of the following steps:
1. Assessment of overall alertness and appearance: Does the cat appear bright, alert, and responsive?
2. Evaluation of gait: Is there any stiffness, lameness, or asymmetry?
3. Evaluation of the skin and hair coat: Are there any areas of hair loss or inflammation? Is the coat lustrous and thrifty in appearance?
4. Assessment of body condition score (BCS): On a scale of 1-9, a number is assigned that indicates whether the cat is underweight, overweight, or just right. A score of 5 indicates an ideal body weight. Numbers 1 through 4 represent gradations of being too thin, and 6 through 9 are gradations of being too heavy.
5. Measurement of the cat’s:
- Body weight in pounds or kilograms
- Body temperature: The normal range is 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Heart rate: The normal range is 120-160 beats per minute.
- Respiratory rate: The normal rate is 16-28 breaths per minute
- Capillary refill time: This is the number of seconds it takes for the gum line to become pink after it has been blanched by finger pressure. Normal capillary refill time is 1-1.5 seconds.
6. Examination of the eyes, ears, nose, and oral cavity: Are there any abnormalities observed? Is periodontal disease present? It can be challenging to thoroughly evaluate a cat’s throat. That is because most are not trained to stick out their tongue and say, “Ahhh.” Ideally, examination of the eyes involves an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that provides a more thorough evaluation.
7. Palpation of lymph nodes: Are any enlarged or painful?
8. Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope (auscultation): Are there unusual breath sounds, a heart murmur, or a heart rhythm abnormality? Auscultation should be performed on both sides of the chest.
9. Palpation of the abdomen: Are there areas or discomfort or palpable abnormalities?
10. Palpation of the thyroid glands: Are they enlarged? This is usually the case with hyperthyroid cats (producing too much thyroid hormone).
The order of events during a veterinary examination
Veterinarians perform physicals differently in terms of the order in which body parts are examined. This doesn’t matter in the least as long as everything is included. And please remember, such thorough exams are not reserved only for the annual office visit. They should be performed at each and every visit.
How can you help during a veterinary examination?
It helps if you are quiet during the course of your cat’s physical examination, particularly when the stethoscope is in use! Conversing during this exam has the potential to interrupt your veterinarian’s concentration and may interfere with his or her thoroughness. Save your questions and comments for discussion following your cat’s examination.
Questions to ask your veterinarian
- Should I be examining my cat at home on a regular basis?
- If so, what exactly should I be looking for?
- Based on your exam, do you think my cat is overweight, underweight or just right?
- Did you find any abnormalities on my cat’s examination? If so, what are they?
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Bill Saxon DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC
Sunday, November 16, 2014
After Adoption: Why Your Shelter Pet Still Needs to See a Veterinarian
Congratulations on the adoption of your new pet! We are thrilled that you decided to adopt a pet from the shelter and save a life!
When a dog or cat is adopted from the shelter, he/she is most likely current on vaccines, has been spayed or neutered and has been microchipped. The shelters work hard to make adopting a pet as easy as possible. However, it is still very important to follow up with your veterinarian soon after adoption.
A thorough wellness exam is necessary to ensure your new pet is as healthy as possible before bringing him/her into your home and possibly introducing him/her to your other pets. If a pet comes to the shelter and is already spayed or neutered, he/she is often examined only by a veterinary technician. If this is the case, the heart and lungs have not been listened to, the eyes, ears, and mouth have not been examined and the body has not been palpated for abnormalities.
Additionally, vaccines for puppies and kittens are given in a series. This means that while a newly adopted puppy or kitten may be current on his/her vaccines now, he/she will need additional vaccinations to stay up to date.
A visit with your veterinarian may also include a fecal exam to check for intestinal parasites and a blood panel to use as a “baseline” and to check internal organ function. During the exam, your veterinarian will also review diet, behavior concerns and preventative medicine, such as flea control.
In short, a complete wellness exam is vital to ensuring your new companion is happy and healthy!
How often do I need to brush my cat's teeth?
That is very important for wellness because I'd say a lot of people just don't do it. And we do regular dental exams on cats. And we were just talking about how the wet food could cake on it. Ideally, the correct answer is daily, just as with people. There've been studies that show if you do it every other day, it's of some benefit, not as much. If you go every three days, it's basically not doing much at that point. So ideally for your cat's teeth to be brushed, daily. remember no people toothpaste we have special toothpaste for cats.
If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (909) 527-7004, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.
Vets use wellness exams to confirm that pets are up to date with their vaccinations. Making sure that your pet is properly vaccinated is important to protect your pet's health and to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases. Pets can receive vaccines to immunize them against conditions including distemper, rabies, hepatitis, chlamydia, feline leukemia and Lyme disease.
The vet may also suggest a number of diagnostic screenings based on the age and condition of your pet. Common screenings include a complete blood count, biochemistry, urinalysis, testing for heartworms, testing feces for parasites, and abdominal or full-body X-rays.
Wellness exams are critical to helping your pet maintain good long-term physical health.
Combined with regular vaccinations, parasite prevention and proper nutrition, these routine examinations include regular physical checkups to give your pet the best chance at excellent lifelong health.
When you bring your pet in for their regular checkup, we can prevent health issues from developing in your pet, or catch them early, when they are most treatable.
What to Expect During Your Pet's Physical
The vet will give your pet a thorough physical examination to get a complete picture of his or her overall health. An exam includes the following elements:
Your pet's general demeanor and physical condition can provide clues to their overall health. How they stand and walk, level of alertness and whether they are at a healthy weight for their size are all important indicators.
Coat & Skin
We will check your pet's skin and coat for signs of problems, including oiliness or dryness, lumps, bumps, dandruff or abnormal hair loss or shedding.
Face & Head
Your pet's eyes, ears and nose will be examined for any abnormalities or discharge. We'll also check the mouth for symptoms of oral health problems such as plaque buildup or periodontal disease.
Heart rate and rhythm, pulse and blood pressure are vitally important to your pet's heart health. We'll test these to ensure they're normal. The lungs will then be examined for evidence of abnormal breathing.
Lymph nodes will also be checked for pain or swelling.
We'll also examine the abdomen to ensure the intestines, kidneys, bladder, spleen, liver and stomach all feel normal, and that your pet is not exhibiting any signs of discomfort.
Puppies & Kittens
Puppies and kittens need proper medical attention in their first few weeks of life to get off to a good start.
We'll give your furry friend a complete physical examination, appropriate immunizations, and deworming. We will also test for intestinal parasites. You'll be provided with a puppy or kitten kit filled with educational material to help you care for the newest member of your family, along with samples.
Please never hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have about caring for your new pet, both at your appointments or following your visits.
Once your pet's initial appointment is complete, you'll return periodically for his or her required booster shots.
Due to advances in veterinary medical knowledge and care, newer therapies and better nutrition, our senior pets are living longer than ever.
As your pet ages, regular examinations become increasingly important to ensure their health and longevity.
In addition to routine wellness procedures we perform on adult pets, we will give special attention to your senior pet's age-related conditions such as arthritis or decreased vision. Additional laboratory tests will also provide information about your pet's overall health.