Pet Wellness Exams

The "wellness exam": what is it? It’s a good physical examination, plus or minus some diagnostic tests, when you think you’re in good shape and don’t need it.

In terms of my own health, my insurance company pays for bloodwork each year, sends me a survey to fill out, and then advises me of what they consider to be my risks of developing common diseases for guys in my age group.  I usually see my physician each year because I can’t stay at Scout camp without a current physical.  Do I really need a check-up that often?  After a good check-up might I still have a prostate infection or a heart-attack, despite what my risk factor assessment says?  Yeah, maybe.  But what if we find something that keeps me from waking up with the plumbing shut off?  Yeah, that would be good.

When you’re young, you have contempt for the frailties of the old.  The older you get, the more obvious it becomes that your body is not as bullet-proof as you thought it was thirty years ago. Sixty doesn’t seem nearly as old when you’re fifty-four as it did when you were twenty-one. You think that maybe it’s okay to let old people keep on living for a while. On the other hand, despite doing a cardio workout every day and lifting weights twice weekly, taking my vitamins — stuff still happens.  If that "stuff" doesn’t get better pretty quick, I will call my doctor.

Animals have a tendency to conceal their problems: it’s not very pro-survival to advertise how weak and helpless you are.  We’ve talked about the tendency of older animals to have more problems.  Why should your apparently healthy pet get a check-up?  The National Pet Wellness site has lots of reasons for you.  Of course, that could be just some marketing gimmick cooked up by veterinarians and drug companies.

On the other hand, maybe you could use some help in assessing your pet’s health. 

This week a lady brought in her cat for "a second opinion". This 12-years old cat had been treated with antibiotics for a respiratory infection last week by another doctor, but she was feeling worse again.  Since I had never seen the pet, it took a while to get the complete history.  I start with "When did you get her?" and work through where she stays, what she eats, how many pets in the household, previous medical problems and treatments, and "When was her last check-up?".   "Oh, I never take them to the veterinarian.  My pets live a long time. They don’t need check-ups." 

The cat was greater than ten percent dehydrated, and weighed six pounds when she should have weighed eight.  If that were a person, think 160 pounds down to 120 pounds, and shriveled up like a raisin.  This weight loss had been apparent for at least one month.  Now the cat would hardly eat anything.  Something was going on here besides a snotty nose.

We gave her fluid therapy to rehydrate her, and started diagnostic tests the next morning.  Her kidneys were failing, and she had diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes).  IF she can be successfully managed at this point, we’re talking a major project of intensive care in the hospital.  Balancing her fluid needs, and her insulin needs, and getting her to take in food — not easy…not cheap, either.  Things would have been a lot simpler a month ago, not to mention say, six months ago, before she started "looking sick".

I’m not saying that your observations of your pet are missing as much as this lady was, but I will say that a lot of "wellness exams" turn up findings that show the pet is not so "well" as you thought it was.  I think it’s a good idea.

2 thoughts on “Pet Wellness Exams

  1. Eliza Wingate says:

    My daughter who is a veterinarian recommends mid-life blood tests also so that if some changes happen later on, you have a basemark.

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