One of the advantages of being a mobile vet and travelling to see my patients is that it gives me time to reflect between consultations. I often drive along thinking about how skilled cats and dogs are at hiding health problems from their owners.
Cats, who generally laze around the house all day anyway, are masters of deception. They can develop quite serious health problems without showing signs. This is because their lifestyle is so sedentary that even when they get sick often nothing outwardly changes – they still just laze around!
Or there are dogs like Hayley, a gorgeous bouncy Labradoodle. She’s outwardly been a fighting fit dog all her life, always happy and playful and up for her walks. Yet she has a serious heart condition that her owners knew nothing about until very recently. More about Hayley later in this blog…
The benefit of annual health checks
And while I’m reflecting, time after time I realise that one of the most valuable services I offer my clients is the annual health check. A thorough examination of your pet by a conscientious vet is a simple way to quickly uncover hidden problems.
A health check firstly involves chatting to you about how your pet has been. Often the questions will make you think of things you hadn’t realised were a problem. And of course the advantage we have as mobile vets is that we get to see your pets in their own natural environment which can give us vital clues to their health that we might not see in the surgery.
The next stage of our visit is a full examination from head to tail. As we go over your pet with trained and experienced hands, eyes and ears we are assessing all the body systems and looking for anything out of the ordinary. We commonly find problems owners did not know about like bad teeth at the back of the mouth, ear infections, heart conditions, lumps and bumps, abdominal problems and respiratory disease. And of course the earlier we find problems – the more chance we have of treating them.
For older pets disease processes have a nasty habit of speeding up, and many diseases are more common, so I generally suggest 6 monthly health checks are a good idea for the “senior” pets.
And so back to our Labradoodle Hayley. On her last health check a few months ago, when she was only 4 years old, I found an irregular heart rhythm and pulse even though she appeared otherwise completely normal. We arranged an ECG and echocardiogram, and found she had a very rare tumour on her heart causing the irregular heartbeat.
Surgery to remove the tumour was offered as an option however this came with grave risks. Hayley’s owners bravely decided not to opt for surgery since this was going to be a very invasive procedure with potential risks and complications – after all Hayley is happy and has no idea that her heart is in such a fragile state. She is now on some medication to try to slow the progression of the disease and is otherwise living a normal life. The family are grateful that they know the situation and are living life with her to the fullest every day!