What Your Veterinarian Looks For During Check-ups

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Are you curious about what’s going on during your cat’s yearly check-up? It may seem like your veterinarian is just petting your cat, but they are examining your cat’s entire health and lifestyle during the checkup. Here’s a little insight on what to expect during a routine check-up. Typically, the examination is divided into four parts:

  1. Questions and Information Gathering
  2. Hands-on Examination
  3. Discussion
  4. Taking and Analyzing Samples

1. Questions and Information Gathering

One of the most important parts of your cat’s annual examination is gathering information from you about your cat. As the caregiver, you have valuable information that is essential for your veterinarian to know in order to properly assess your cat’s health.

Sometimes these questions are asked by a trained veterinary assistant or a certified veterinary technician, instead of your veterinarian. Typical questions include:

  • Where did you get your cat from?
  • What does your cat eat on a daily basis?
  • How much does your cat eat typically eat each day?
  • Does your cat have any previous health issues?
  • Is your cat having any problems using the litter box?
  • Has your cat experienced any coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea?
  • Has your cat left the state?
  • How does your cat get around your home?
  • Is your cat microchipped?
  • Does your cat ever go outside?
  • Do you have any major worries or concerns about your cat?
  • Do you plan to travel with your cat?
  • Are there other pets in your household?

2. Hands-on Examination

It is important for your veterinarian to spend time looking at your cat and listening for important clues to help determine your cat’s health status.

During the examination, your veterinarian incorporates a thorough evaluation of all of the major organ systems including:

  • Abdomen
  • Muscle tone
  • Coat, fur, and skin
  • Ears and eyes
  • Mouth, gums, and teeth
  • Joints and spine
  • Under the tail

The hands-on exam will also include weighing your cat. If your cat has been seen at this clinic previously, your cat’s current weight is compared with previous weights. A body condition score is often assigned to indicate if your cat’s weight is appropriate for their age, size, and breed. If your cat is stressed or frightened, the veterinary team might take the weight at the end of the appointment, so that the exam can be conducted first in the bottom part of the carrier and/or under a towel.

If your veterinarian notices something abnormal or worrisome, they will make a note or comment so this can be discussed with you later.

3. Discussionistock_000021382380medium

Now is the time for you and your veterinarian to talk in more depth. Your veterinarian should discuss what he or she noticed during the exam and make recommendations for care, including obtaining samples from your cat and additional tests or procedures such as a blood test or dental cleaning, if needed.

Cats can hide many signs of illness and pain, so it is common for your veterinarian to suggest various laboratory samples be obtained for evaluation to help determine any problems your cat may be experiencing.

Now is also the time for you to ask any questions you may have as well as advice for any issues you and your cat are encountering. Please remember that your veterinarian is your partner as well as a medical professional, and wants to help you provide the very best care for your cat.

Don’t be shy to ask for advice on subjects like litter box or behavioral issues, as well as what to expect as your cat ages.

4. Taking and Analyzing Samples

With your consent, samples are obtained by your veterinarian or another member of veterinary team. If medications are needed, they are often discussed and dispensed at this time. Make sure that you ask them to demonstrate how to administer any medication so you feel confident doing it at home without your veterinarian.

You can expect your veterinarian or a member of the staff to contact you within 24 – 48 hours, detailing the findings of the laboratory tests and providing you with a recommendation of any next step(s) to help ensure your cat stays as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Good pet care is a partnership between you and the veterinary team, and relies on communication and trust between you and the doctor. You should feel comfortable calling the veterinary team with any questions, concerns or updates on your cat.