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Why does my pet need an exam?

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Whether a pet is coming in for their annual vaccinations or to address concerning new symptoms, the veterinarians at PTAH will start with a physical exam. The exam includes a nose-to-tail examination that checks all of your pet’s body systems and provides valuable and insightful information about your pet’s health. The purpose of a physical exam is not only to ensure your pet is healthy, but to make your veterinarian aware of any physical changes that might affect your pet’s treatment plan. A thorough physical exam, combined with a detailed history of your pet’s health habits, allows your veterinarian to make the best possible recommendations regarding your pet.


Prosper Trail Animal Hospital requires a physical exam before:

· Vaccines may be administered

· Medications may be prescribed

· Medical advice may be given

Did you know that animals fighting an infection, parasitism, injury, or other illness may be at risk for vaccine reactions and complications? Prior to administering vaccines, your veterinarian will assess your pet for any abnormal signs that indicate your pet’s immune system may be compromised. Your veterinarian will check your pet for a fever, abnormal heart or lung sounds, check their gums for dryness or discoloration, and check that their lymph nodes are not enlarged before administering a vaccine. Identifying these abnormal signs provide your veterinarian with information that allows them to select what diagnostics may best explain these abnormalities.

Dr. Staci Dennis recalls a time when she saw a pet because the owner was concerned about a growth on the foot. After completing the physical exam, Dr. Dennis was able to determine that the growth on the foot was actually chewing gum the pet had stepped in! By bringing the pet in for an exam, the owner was able to have peace of mind in knowing her pet didn’t have a new growth to worry about, but that the rest of her dog looked and sounded great, too.

Alternatively, there are some occasions in which pets will come in for routine vaccinations and our veterinarians will find something abnormal. There are a number of things our veterinarians can discover through their physical exam, including:

  • Dental Disease, broken teeth, or oral masses

  • Pale or yellow mucous membranes

  • Dry or tacky gums

  • Nasal Discharge

  • Eye discharge, redness, or eye changes such as cataracts, pigment change, or vision changes

  • Inflamed or swollen ears

  • Abnormal heart sounds

  • Abnormal lung sounds

  • Coat quality, hair loss, or matting

  • New lumps or masses, or changes in existing masses

  • Pigment changes on the skin or eyes

  • Skin infections

  • Bites, punctures, or scratches on the skin

  • Presence of fleas or ticks

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Amount of stool in the colon

  • Thickened intestines

  • Bladder fullness

  • Anal sac abnormalities

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Abnormal toe nail growth

  • Joint mobility

  • Arthritic changes in the joints

  • Hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and other abnormal joint functions

  • Irritation or inflammation in the paws

  • Back, neck, or joint pain

  • Abnormal neurological function

Our goal is to catch these things as early as possible so that treatment can begin or preventative measures may be taken. For this reason, we recommend scheduling at least two wellness exams per year to have your pet checked out by their veterinarian.


Frequently Asked Questions

My pet was just here 6 months ago. Why do we need another exam?

Because pets age more rapidly than we do, a lot can change in 6 months. We require the exam to confirm that nothing has changed – and to stay on top of things if anything has changed! Every time your pet is examined, our veterinarians are making note of your pet’s physical condition and entering this information into their patient chart, which is extremely useful for observing trends in your pet’s health.

My pet seems perfectly healthy. Why is it recommended I check their blood work annually?

Nothing makes us happier than hearing your pet is doing well at home! The reason we recommend annual wellness blood work for all of our patients, healthy or otherwise, is so that we can detect any abnormalities in your pet’s health early on. Knowing what your pet’s values are when they are healthy can also provide invaluable information in the event that blood work is recommended when your pet is sick, as your veterinarian will have reliable baseline values to compare to.

I’m not seeing any worms in my pet’s stool. Do I still need to have their fecal sample checked once a year?

Did you know that most of the parasites/ovum we test for can only be seen on a microscopic level? We strongly recommend having an intestinal parasite check performed on your pet at least once a year, as there are a number of parasites our pets can pick up that can also be contagious to humans and other pets. Additionally, we suggest having an intestinal parasite check performed anytime you do notice worms in your pet’s stool, and your veterinarian may recommend checking a stool sample if your pet is showing unexplained or persistent gastrointestinal signs.

What is the leptospirosis vaccine and why is it being recommended to me?

Leptospirosis is a disease that affects the blood, liver, and kidneys and can be life-threatening. It is contagious and can be spread to you from your pet. It is growing in prevalence in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas likely due to exposure to rat and mouse urine.

Can’t the doctor determine if my pet has an ear infection just by looking in the ears? What is a cytology and why does my pet need one?

Unfortunately, a veterinarian is not always able to diagnose or treat something just by looking at the pet. Things like ear and skin infections sometimes require a cytology to know what type of infection the pet has and determine the best way to treat that infection. A cytology involves taking a sample of the affected area, preparing a slide, and looking at the sample on a microscopic level. While your vet may be able to look at your pet’s ears and suspect an infection is present, the cytology results allow your vet to confirm their diagnosis and prescribe the best medication to resolve the issue.

I found a strange new lump on my cat. Can I just email a picture of it?

While pictures and videos can certainly be helpful pieces of information, our doctors are unable to diagnose patients or give medical advice without performing a physical exam. Additionally, it is impossible to know with certainty whether a lump is benign or not just by feeling it. We recommend having new lumps or masses checked in hospital, where one of our veterinarians can perform a fine needle aspirate (FNA) to determine what kind of cells make up the new lump you are seeing. Performing an FNA takes only a few minutes. Your vet will also check over your pet for any other lumps or masses that might have developed since your pet’s last exam.

My pet gets so stressed when they have to come to the vet, but they haven’t been feeling well lately. Do I still need to bring my pet in, or can I explain what’s been going on at home over the phone?

Our veterinarians require a physical exam in order to give their best recommendations for your pet. We strive to make every pet’s experience with us a positive one. However, we acknowledge that visiting the vet can be very stressful for some of our patients, and we are happy to accommodate your pet in whatever way makes them most comfortable. Our staff utilizes a number of tactics to make our hospital a stress-free facility and prioritizes successful outcomes for your pet. If you feel as though your pet might benefit from anti-anxiety or calming medications, please give us a call at 972-347-6100 to discuss your pet’s options.

My pet had this same issue last year. Can’t we just refill the medications they were given last time?

Depending on the symptoms being displayed, an exam and/or diagnostics will often be required before refilling most medications. This is to ensure that if medications like antibiotics are needed, our veterinarians are prescribing the best antibiotic to resolve the issue. Ear infections, for example, can be a recurring problem your pet experiences, but the infection might not always be caused by the same organism. Treating infection with the wrong antibiotic can not only fail to resolve the issue, but can also make those antibiotics less effective if used in the future.

The doctors and staff at Prosper Trail Animal hospital are dedicated to helping your pet live their best life. If you have recently noticed any changes in your pet, or it’s been a while since they have been in for a check-up, give us a call at 972-347-6100 to set up a consult with one of our veterinarians. We look forward to seeing you and your pet at your next visit!



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