Your veterinarian sees your dog or cat once or twice a year. Yes, we have the benefit of examining thousands of dogs or cats every year and are pretty well warmed up to give your pet a thorough once over at their yearly check up but there are so many little things that we’d like to know about. What if Fluffy has an allergy to a certain tree that flowers in May but his yearly physical is in March? You notice he’s really itching a lot in May but you were just at the vet’s office, if anything was wrong they’d have noticed because you being the discerning pet owner you are only go to great veterinarians. So Fluffy suffers through the flowering and next March it’s completely slipped your mind. Or worse yet, you call the vet and ask what you should do, they recommend an antihistamine, it kind of works or at least your mind tells you it’s working and your attitude sort of tells Fluffy he feels better and everybody’s happy. Except Fluffy who wishes he had thumbs to make a fist and punch you in the head and then dial his vet, make an appointment and punch the vet in the head too. What are we to do then, you ask? I am going to arm you with a tool that will prevent all of this from happening in the off chance dogs and cats do develop thumbs. The tool is you. This is how you examine your pet.
If you have a cat or dog under 40 pounds, pop that little guy right up on the kitchen table. If that grosses you out, grow up, clear a spot for your pet and remember to wipe it down when you are done. This is important. If your dog is over 40 pounds it’s probably better to examine them on the floor. If your cat is over 40 pounds you better have a big litter box. And a lion.
We’ll start at the front of your pet. Start by petting and talking to your pet. If you don’t talk to your pet normally, there might be something wrong with you. Just describe what you are doing. Start with the feet, pick them up, look in between the toes, look at the nails and the pads on the bottom. Figure out how the joints move and move them through a range of motion.If your pet doesn’t like having his or her feet touched, welcome to my life. Don’t get bit. After you have determined that Fluffy’s front legs are in good shape run your hands flat along the front of the shoulders and up into the armpits, any lumps? If no that’s good, if yes they may be lymph nodes. Hold on to that thought and check below for what to do when you find an abnormality.
Now we’re going to make our way up to the head. Run your hands along the neck and up under the mandible, any lumps? Look in the ears, if you can lean in and smell the ears, they should smell like dog or cat. If it smells really bad, that’s an abnormality. See below. Look in the eyes, these should be clear and bright, the whites of the eyes should be well white. Feel the nose, is it wet or dry? Whatever doesn’t matter, stop calling me about wet or dry noses. Also, don’t touch the nose, that’s gross. Now we’re at the mouth. Seriously, if your dog/cat is going to bite you, don’t do any of this. Getting bit is not fun. I know. At the mouth, lift the lip and look at the gums, look at the teeth and note what you see. The gums should be pink, there might be some pigmented sections. The teeth should be whitish, they should end in rounded points and should be smooth. There should not be a low tide like odor coming from your pets mouth. If your cat’s mouth smells like a vagrant peed on a Christmas tree, that’s an abnormality. Any brown or grayish junk you see in the mouth doesn’t belong there, if the gums are reg at the edges of the teeth, that’s not good. Broken teeth are not good. While you have the lips lifted, go ahead and brush the teeth. You should be doing that at least five times a week.
The hard stuff is over. Now run your hands along Fluffy’s sides and along the spine. Can you feel the spine and the ribs really easily? You should be able to feel them but not see them. If you can’t feel them. That’s not good. Run your hands along the abdomen, make Fluffy roll over or lift her up and look at the skin on the belly, is there any redness any lumps or abnormalities, if yes, see below. Run your hands along the back legs, looking for lumps move the joints, look at the feet. Anything seem off? If yes, see below. On the inside of the thigh is the femoral artery, if you put your hand against it you can feel the pulse, feel it for a few seconds, get used to it and moving forward any changes are a problem. If you run your hand backwards against Fluffy’s fur you can see the skin. Is there a pepper looking substance in there? If yes. You have fleas. Indoor cat you say? If being indoors is the only thing keeping fleas off your cat is the fact that they live indoors, you probably have fleas.
Now if you are really brave, look at the tail, lift it up. Under the tail is the butt. You will recognize it, I promise. If you are super brave, squeeze just under the anus. Does it feel like there are marbles in there? That’s an abnormality.
Congratulations, you have just examined your pet. Did you enjoy it? Go ahead an do it as often as you like, though once a week is more than enough.If you did not like it, try to do it once a month. If you got bit, I warned you.
If you found any abnormalities: Call your veterinarian.
Thanks for reading.