Dogs might always appear lively and playful but, did you know that they age more rapidly? A human year is approximately seven dog years! This is why healthy adult dogs need to have an annual physical checkup, and healthy senior dogs (7+ years) should have it once every six months.
There are two activities in a dog’s checkup: the physical check-up and the vaccination schedule.
Physical Checkup – The Nose to Tail Exam
Physical checkups start with obtaining the health history followed by the preliminary examination which includes measuring the dog’s weight, temperature, pulse, and respiration rate. A stool sample may also be requested (or possibly obtained) and scanned for bacteria. Expect your dog to give a urine sample and a blood sample if you’ve been noticing some health issues.
The vet’s nose-to-tail exam includes a thorough check of the nose to see any nasal discharge; the eyes for any infections, scratches, or lumps; the mouth, gums, and teeth to see if there is any tartar and gingivitis; and the ears to check any traces of mites, bacteria and/or yeast. She will then, using a stethoscope, the vet will check the dog’s breathing and heartbeat to check the lungs and heart. Next, the vet will palpate the stomach area to evaluate the kidneys, liver, spleen, and intestines. Any sign of pain may indicate an abnormality.
From there, the vet will then look at the dog’s skin and coat for any swelling, fleas or ticks, and infections; the hips and legs to search for any joint swelling or stiffness; the paws and toes to see if there are any cuts, swelling, infections, or lumps; and finally, the back and tail to check for any spinal problems.
After the physical exam, your dog’s vaccination records will be checked and updated. There are 4 core vaccinations:
- Distemper-Hepatitis-Parainfluenzo-Parvo (commonly referred to as a distemper or a distemper-parvo vaccine; DHPP): This vaccine protects a dog from four potentially fatal viral infections. Distemper is a contagious viral infection that attacks a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological systems; Hepatitis most commonly damages the liver, but it can also affect the kidneys, spleen and/or lungs; Parainfluenza virus is a respiratory infection that is spread rapidly between dogs; and Parvo targets the gastrointestinal tract resulting in vomiting and bloody diarrhea, suppresses the immune system and unfortunately, can even affect the heart. This is a core vaccination that is needed by all dogs. Without protection, dogs will die from these viral infections.
- Bordetella: For social dogs, this vaccine prevents the bacterial agent Bordetella bronchiseptica from wreaking havoc on your pup’s upper respiratory system, aka kennel cough.
- Leptospirosis: Does your dog love to play in puddles, rivers or ponds? This vaccine protects again Leptospirosis, a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria which can be found in both water and soil. The bad news is that Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people.
- Rabies: Spread through an infected animal’s bite, rabies is tragically severe and often fatal, affecting the gray matter of a dog’s brain and its central nervous system.
For adult dogs, the DHPP vaccine needs to be taken every 2-3 years while Bordetella and Leptospirosis vaccines should be given yearly, and the rabies vaccine should be given every 3 years. For puppies, vaccines should be given at specific intervals; ask your vet when to start and when to continue, scheduling visits for those occasions.
Keeping our dogs’ vaccinations up-to-date is important to prevent them from contracting illnesses. An annual vet visit is a must for good health, and it’s imperative that you don’t wait until your dog gets sick.
Article courtesy of our friends at Bannock Animal Medical Center.