What do I need to bring to a wellness exam?

What you need to bring to a wellness exam is a good history, information on how your dog's been doing at home, what the behaviors are that you consider normal, and any behaviors that you consider to be abnormal. If your dog is older and is on some prescriptions, bring the list of prescriptions that they're on. Those, along with the name of the dog food your pet eats, would be great things that would be able to let the veterinarian know what's going on at home.

Dr. Mary Beth Soverns
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

What does the veterinarian look for during a dog wellness exam?

That's a very good question. The first thing we do is take their temperature. The body temperature in a dog and a cat should be between 100 and 102-and-a-half. They shouldn't be 98.6 like ours. The next thing I do is an ophthalmic examination. I use my ophthalmoscope, and I look in their eyes and make sure that they're bright and shiny and I can see all the way back to their retina. I next look in their ears with my otoscope and make sure that I do not see any discharge, growth, redness, paleness, or icteric in there. The next thing I do is I look in their mouth and make sure that their gums are nice and pink, and I look at their dental condition, too. Is there a lot of tartar? Is there gingivitis? And we score them so that everyone is on the same wavelength of what tartar might be there and what disease we have if any. I always actually look down their throat and do an oral exam, make sure everything's normal in there.

I feel their lymph nodes. They have multiple sets of lymph nodes all over, and if I can get you to stand up there a minute, Cash, then I'll actually feel their pulse and their back legs. I'll feel the rest of the lymph nodes that they have. We palpate their abdomen, trying to feel for their kidneys, their bladder, their spleen, and we make sure everything in there is normal. And then, we also use our stethoscope to listen to their heart rate, the heart rhythm, listen to the lungs and make sure everything in there is fine. We will listen, and we will count the beats on both the left-hand side and the right-hand side of our patients. So, that gives you a general idea. If they're an intact male, or they're females, we might look back there, and they may have a rectal exam, too, as they get older.

Are wellness exams for dogs optional?

They really shouldn't be optional. It should be something that you do at least once a year when they're in their younger and middle years. When they get older, it’s even more important to do that twice a year.

How do dog wellness exams influence subsequent treatments?

When you have a dog that's healthy, we have a baseline of how they're doing on that day, how much they weigh, what their teeth look like if there wasn't a heart murmur, and we’ve already asked a lot of questions of the owners. And then, as time goes on, as something changes from that—their behavior, their weight, perhaps a heart murmur, or their lymph nodes are enlarged—we start to know that this is a new problem, and we'll look into that as soon as we notice that it's not right.

What are baseline diagnostic tests, and how do they help my dog?

The baseline would be a baseline weight, a baseline physical exam, and we can also add baseline blood work. So, it tells about your dog's white cell count, red cell count, platelet count, liver values, kidney values, blood glucose - all of those things. We know what a normal range is, and we'll know if this dog is normal, and then we'll know the second that it's not normal.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Wellness Exams - FAQs

Dr. Mary Beth Soverns
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

What are some things I can do to maximize my dog's wellness at home?

First of all, providing a nice safe environment, particularly when they're puppies, so that they don't get into anything that they shouldn't. As they get older, they're going to need a lot of exercise, so it's essential that more senior dogs get some activity and exercise, that they get plenty of appropriate food, that they have water down at all times. They love to be with people, so socialization is excellent. When they exercise well and get to explore and do things, they probably rest better at home and just make the perfect pet.

What can I do to provide my dog with the best nutrition possible?

It's a very complicated question at this point because there are so many different foods and food sources and marketing. I think the first thing I would do is to find a person that you can trust. Hopefully, it will be your veterinarian and some other trusted sources. I think picking companies that make food might be one of the first choices that you should think of, some company that you can respect. We at Countryside highly recommend Hill's Science Diet, Royal Canin diets, and Purina diets. Those three companies do make prescription foods for us when we need them, and they are well-respected. They have veterinarians that we can reach out to very easily. They have nutritionists and specialists. So use those as the main guidelines. If you want to deviate from that, try to find out about that company and what particular needs that your animal has that you were trying to achieve by changing foods from there.

Are there health issues I can watch out for at home?

Absolutely. One of the most common things is that sometimes our dogs get overweight. Keeping a dog a normal weight has been proven to increase the length of their life and better their lifestyle. The other thing you can do is make sure that their hair coat is clean. Look how beautiful Cash is. Ensure that they're clean, not matted, and they don't have any fleas and parasites. You should provide the correct nutrition, great exercise, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick prevention in this area. Those are things that you can do to provide them to make sure that they stay nice and healthy at home.

How do I know if my puppy or dog isn't feeling well or is in pain?

One of the best things to know is if their behavior is different. So take note if they're hiding, they didn't get up early in the morning, they didn't eat, they didn't drink, and they don't want to go for their walk. Maybe they're limping, vomiting, or breathing harder. Any of those things that are different from what you would know is their normal behavior would probably indicate something is amiss.

How can I keep my dog from becoming overweight?

Dogs do have different nutritional needs. So it's very hard just to put a label on a bag and tell everyone that this dog needs a quarter of a cup or half a cup. First of all, I would feed them twice a day, breakfast and dinner. I think that's a fair way to think that their nutrition would be absorbed and used.

They are going to get treats from time to time. They're delicious, and they needed to have treats, and it's part of being a part of your family. The treats, though, could be low calorie, and you can break treats into tiny little pieces so they don't get tons of calories, even though they may need lots of treats during that day. So those are some excellent ways to do it. You can also weigh them. We weigh them here, and we can give you some guidelines on that. And then you should also exercise them and have plenty of fun outside because that'll help keep their weight in good shape.

How important is regular exercise to dog wellness?

It's vital to dog wellness. Mostly, dogs love to explore new environments or the same environment again. So if they can be outside and be in the fresh air and smell things and get different experiences, they are overall more well-rounded, happier pets. And so it's very important.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.