Naperville Central High School teacher Mr. Luke Rauen recently hosted Dr. Raymond Bishop at his “Companion Animal Biology” class. Dr. Bishop is the lead veterinarian practicing at Naperville’s Animal Healthcare PC clinic, and he came in to the high school in order to demonstrate the proper way to perform a physical health exam on a dog.
The Importance of Proper Health Examinations
It could be that some pet owners believe there is no good reason to take their animal to a veterinarian regularly, unless something is clearly wrong with them. However, this could be likened to always waiting until one is sick before going to the doctor. Not only does this mean that an individual is waiting to become ill enough that they are clearly uncomfortable, it also means that they are more involved in treatment for current illness than in preventative measures. The latter is actually less expensive and time-consuming. Furthermore, cats and dogs age about ten years for each of the first two “human years” of their life, and about five years of each “human year” thereafter. This means that failing to take your animal in for regular health examinations every year is somewhat like a human skipping their own doctor visits for five years. Needless to say, it is far more difficult to diagnose and successfully treat health conditions that have taken hold and progressed for some time than it is to prevent them from occurring in the first place, or even than it is to catch and treat them early on.
Routine health examinations can help determine whether your pet is moving well through their life or encountering difficulties. This is especially helpful when one considers that pets are unable to easily communicate how they feel, as humans can, and may be quite good at suppressing symptoms of discomfort until non-optimum health conditions have progressed to more dangerous levels. Health examinations can also help an individual detect possible symptoms of underlying conditions that can crop up later on.
Of course, a proper health examination requires an understanding of what conditions are normal and what conditions are not normal in a pet. It can occur that someone’s pet is suffering from a serious health issue without their owner’s knowledge, but a trained and licensed veterinarian can quickly spot the problem and take action to correct it.
A physical examination of a pet is a complete “nose-to-tail” check-up. This includes moving along every inch of the animal’s body, checking their mouth, paws, skin, coat, tail and other areas along the way. The mouth and teeth are especially important indicators of overall health, and are important to keep clean and healthy as roughly eighty percent of all dogs suffer from dental problems involving bacteria that can move to their other organs and cause complications and infections. A dull coat and skin conditions can indicate that there is something wrong internally, which may need to be handled through diet, medication or other treatment methods. The joints and bones are also checked to ensure there are no signs of degenerative conditions like arthritis and other joint problems which can cause great discomfort.
Dr. Bishop’s Demonstration
During Dr. Bishop’s demonstration of a proper and thorough health examination, he showed students how to examine each of the following points:
- Behavior – a dog that is gentle and social is normally considered in better overall health than a dog who is acting fearful and aggressive, especially if they are not normally this way.
- Signs of external parasites like fleas, ear mites or ticks
- Signs of mange
Dr. Bishop then demonstrated how to use the information gathered from the examination to determine the dog’s overall condition – whether excellent, good, fair, poor or critical.
Two dogs aided Dr. Bishop in his demonstration, Freckles and Charlie, so that students could get hands-on experience in performing a thorough canine health examination. The students enjoyed the demonstration, and learning more about the importance of maintaining and verifying an animal’s good health.