A weekly home exam performed on your pet is the only way you, as a responsible pet care taker, can hope to learn the animals normal anatomy, physiology, and behavior and consequently be able to recognize when an abnormal situation is developing. By discovering a health problems in its early stage of development you will be able to bring the problem to the attention of your veterinarian so that he/she can make a diagnosis and prescribe proper treatment before the situation becomes serious and perhaps life threatening.The more you develop your powers of observation, relative to your pet’s health, the greater chance your pet has to live a long and healthy life. When examining your pet, it is very important to look for the presence or loss of symmetry by comparing the right and left sides of the body. If one side looks different than the other then chances are something is abnormal and it should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian. Performing a weekly home physical will give you an appreciation for the value and complexity of the professional health examine performed yearly by your veterinarian
HEAD, EYES, EARS, NOSE, THROAT, TEETH, GUMS
Look directly at your pet’s head first from in front and then from the side. Check the symmetry of the eyes, ears, and nostrils. Do they look the same? Are the eye lids on both sides equally open? Are the pupils on both sides the same size? Are both corneas equally clear and transparent.? Pull down and roll out the lower lids and check and compare the color of the inside linings ( the conjunctiva) Are the whites of the eyes the same color. or is one redder and more “blood shot”.? Does the third eye lid that lies by the inside corner of the eye appear more exposed than on the other side? Is there any discharge from the eyes, ears, or nose.?..Are both ears carried the same.? Does the inside of either ear contain much wax or dirt.? Is the inside of either ear inflamed compared to the other?. Do the ears have an odor? Are the gums inflamed? Are the teeth white or are they covered with brown tartar and need a cleaning.? Are there any teeth broken or missing?
Place your hand on the under side of your pet’s chin and run your hand or fingers down the midline of the under side of the lower jaw and continue toward the neck. The first protruding structure you feel will be the larynx or voice box. Note the size and shape. Move your pet’s neck from side to side and then up and down, noting the ease and range of motion.
FRONT & BACK LIMBS
Compare the right limb with the left limb. Look for a difference in size and, shape, of the bones and joints. Flex and extend each joint and compare with the other side. Note the ease and range of motion. Note any signs of pain or differences in resistance to your examination as you go from one side to the other. Check for broken or overgrown nails, for cut or swollen foot pads, and for sores or foreign material between the toes. Note the angles the bones form with each other.
Run both hands down the right and left sides of the chest and abdomen. You are comparing the size, shape and general feel and appearance of the two sides. ie. hip bone, ribs, backbone.. Look and feel for swelling, growths, scabs, and tenderness at any point. With your thumb on one side of the abdomen and the rest of your fingers on the other side push up on the abdomen from underneath. Note the tenseness of the abdominal wall and the way the pet reacts to such pressure. Does the animal appear in any discomfort Run both hands down either side of the back about 1/2 to 1 inch from the center of the backbone. Apply light pressure on either side as you move from the back of the head toward the tail. Note any sensitive areas as evidenced by muscle twitching or by a reluctance of the animal to let you continue .
RECTUM & GENITALS
Check under the tail and examine the rectum. Does the rectum protrude at all?. Is there any stool accumulating on hairs around the rectum? Does the rectum appear inflamed? Just below the rectum note the size, color and shape of the vulva, on female pets, and note the color and consistency of any discharge. Does the vulva appear swollen or inflamed. Examine the male dog’s prepuce, on the underside of the abdomen just in front of the back legs, and note the color and consistency of any discharge. Is the tip of the prepuce look inflamed? Check the scrotum. Are both testicles present and the same size?
SKIN, HAIR COAT, NAILS
Note the thickness and luster of the coat. Are there any areas where the coat is thinning or bald.? Is the coat dry and flaky ? Are there any mats? Do you feel and lumps, bumps, pimples, or scabs?. Do you see any wounds, sores, or inflamed areas?. Do you see any fleas?. Is the skin greasy ? Does it have an odor? Are the nails broken, overgrown, or ingrown?
GAIT, POSTURE, HEAD CARRIAGE, TAIL CARRIAGE
Note your pet’s standing posture. Note the head ear, and tail carriage. Watch your pet walk and run and observe his/her gait from several angles Watch your pet rise from a siting or lying position . note any reluctance to go up or down stairs. .
TEMPERATURE, RESPIRATION, PULSE, MUCUS MEMBRANES, HYDRATION
Buy an inexpensive electronic thermometer at the drug store and take your pet’s temperature rectally. Weigh your pet and write down his/her weight along with the date. When your pet Is relaxed and quiet take his/her pulse either from the femoral artery on the inside of the animal thigh or by feeling the chest and counting the number of beats per minute.. Record your findings. Note the depth and rhythm of each respiratory cycle. Count the number of breaths taken in each minute and record your results. Note the color of the gums. Press down on the gum, note the blanching and count the number of seconds until full color returns. Pay attention to the amount of moisture on the gums. Gently pull up n the skin over the midline of your pet’s back, let go and note how quickly the skin returns to its normal position .
EATING, DRINKING, DEFECATION & URINATION
Does your pet eat enthusiastically ?. Observe the way he/she looks while in the process of eating or drinking. Does swallowing appear difficult ? How much water does your pet drink each day. Check your pet’s stool and urine on a regular basis. Is the stool loose or mucousy ? Is there a lot of foreign material in it ?. Does it look black or red? Is the urine darker than normal? Does it look pink? Is there any straining during urination or defecation?
ODORS & UNUSUAL SOUNDS
Ears, mouth, skin, anal glands, and rectum can all be sources of bad odors that represent evidence of poor health . Abnormal sounds can come from the teeth, joints, lungs, and the intestinal tract.