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Routine checkups for dogs

Routine checkups for dogs

Posted by Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM on Oct 21st 2022

The components of a thorough physical examination
Listed below are the components of a complete and thorough physical examination of your dog. The list may look long, but truthfully no more than a minute or two is required for a seasoned veterinarian to competently complete everything:

1. Assessment of overall alertness and appearance: Does the dog appear bright, alert and responsive?
2. Evaluation of gait: Is there any stiffness, lameness, swelling or asymmetry?
3. Evaluation of the skin and hair coat: Are there any areas of hair loss or inflammation? Is the coat lustrous and thrifty in appearance?
4. Assessment of body condition score (BCS): On a scale of 1-9, a number is assigned that indicates whether the dog is underweight, overweight or just right. A score of 5 indicates an ideal body weight. Numbers 1 through 4 represent gradations of being too thin, and 6 through 9 are gradations of being too heavy.
5.Measurement of the dog’s:
Body weight: in pounds or kilograms
Body temperature: The normal range is 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit
Heart rate: The normal range is 60-120 beats per minute, depending on the size and athletic condition of the dog. The larger the dog, the lower the heart rate; the better athletic condition, the lower the heart rate.
Respiratory rate: The normal rate is 10-25 breaths per minute
Capillary refill time: This is the number of seconds it takes for the gum line to become pink after it has been blanched by finger pressure. Normal capillary refill time is 1-1.5 seconds.
6. Examination of the eyes, ears, nose, and oral cavity: Are there any abnormalities present? Only rarely can the throat be evaluated. This is because most dogs are not trained to stick out their tongue and say, “Ahhh.” Ideally, examination of the eyes involves an ophthalmoscope and examination of the ears involves an otoscope. Both of these instruments provide a more thorough inspection.
7. Palpation of lymph nodes: Are any enlarged or painful?
8. Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope (auscultation): Are there unusual breath sounds, a heart murmur, or a heart rhythm abnormality? Auscultation is performed on both sides of the chest.
9. Palpation of the abdomen: Are there areas of discomfort or palpable abnormalities?
10. Rectal examination (specific for dogs that are middle aged and older): Are there any growths present within or around the rectum? Is the prostate gland enlarged or painful? Is the stool normal?

Questions to ask your veterinarian
Should I be examining my dog at home on a regular basis?
If so, what exactly should I be looking for?
Based on your exam, do you think my dog is overweight, underweight or just right?
Did you find any abnormalities on my dog’s examination? If so, what are they?
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.