Hi, I'm Dr. Cherry Douglas from Village Square Veterinary Clinic in Boynton Beach, Florida. I'd like to talk to you today about better understanding dog wellness and how we can ensure that our dog lives as long as we can have them live. One of the things we can do is keep them healthy by bringing them to the veterinarian for regular examinations to look for any signs of illness or early signs of disease. Some things aren't necessarily life-shortening. However, sometimes we find things that, if we can catch them early, we can either prevent them from going further and advancing in disease or at least try to slow them down or address them, such as lumps and cancers. So get your dog to the vet regularly, at least yearly, and the older they get, the more you should consider taking them semi-annually or twice a year. That would be the best situation.
Cherry Douglas, DVM
Village Square Vet Clinic
As far as additional testing for wellness goes, I would definitely recommend doing regularly scheduled blood work. Again, when they're younger, annually is fine. As they get older, depending on if anything has been found, if their blood work is always normal, annually should still be okay. But if for some reason there's something that's maybe a little off, we might want to check it again sooner, and that would be anywhere from three to four months to six months, but I would consider keeping an eye on those blood values at least twice a year. The other thing we want to ensure we're testing for is heartworm disease. We have that very prominently here in Boynton Beach, Florida. It's transmitted by mosquitoes and easily picked up by the local dogs here. Heartworm prevention is a very easy way to prevent it, but we should be testing for it because they can get it when you're least expecting it. Stool checks are also important because we have many intestinal parasites with our weather, and they can make your dog sick with not just diarrhea but also anemia and other things.
How does the veterinarian assess dog wellness? Again, we start with the examination. We look at them from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. We are looking for bright eyes, changes in their corneas, healthy teeth and gums, a sound and solid heartbeat with no murmur, lungs to sound clear, no masses in the abdomens, and that everything seems nonpainful. We want to check their legs for any lumps or bumps in their body. We're going to look under the tail to ensure there's nothing going on under there and examine the tail as well. That's the initial exam that we want to do. We want to make sure everything appears normal. If not, we usually tell you about them and make recommendations on where to go from there. After that, the other recommendations are annual, semi-annually, or maybe even more frequent blood work if there is a good finding or an abnormal finding. Heartworm tests, fecal exams, and urinalysis. There are a lot of possibilities, like if your animal develops heart disease over time. Then we're going to make sure that that heart is evaluated regularly. We definitely want to keep an eye on anything that comes up abnormal. We want to check their teeth and make sure they look healthy because dental disease can cause liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and all kinds of things, not just losing their teeth.
Some dogs will continue to eat even though they've got something going on underneath. Whether it's teeth or something else, they would continue to eat and seem like they're doing well, but in reality, they're in a lot of pain, uncomfortable, or possibly truly sick. Sometimes it's not about their behavior or what they're doing at home or not doing at home. Other times it is. You want to let your veterinarian know if there are abnormalities in their urination, behavior, eating, or anything like that. You should make them aware. What you can do at home is watch for those things, and make sure your pet's eating the same amount or close to the same amount as they normally do. Make sure that they're drinking water and not an excessive amount. You should note how often they're going out. Are they going out more frequently? Are they waking you up in the middle of the night? Are they starting to have accidents in the house? Things like that. You want to make sure you're feeding them a good quality diet and that their urine looks clear and not red or abnormal in that way. Note how their stools are formed, and no blood or anything else is seen in there. Those are the kind of things you should look for when you've got them at home. If we can catch these diseases early, things like kidney disease and liver disease and some underlying things like thyroid or even diabetes, the more likely we are going to be able to get them under control, manage them, and maybe resolve them depending on if it's curable. We can address them. Waiting until a lump is the size of a watermelon is not going to allow us to address that as easily as when it's the size of a pea or a grape. The same goes for dental disease.
If their teeth are dirty and their gums are red, we want to address that as early as possible, not wait until it's so severe that they're painful in their mouth or they do not want to eat because then they're going to be under anesthesia longer. They probably have something underlying that we'll need to address. So the early detection of disease is really important. A lot of that, we catch with blood work. So we want to ensure that we're doing regular blood work. Here in south Florida, we have allergies and we have a lot of pets that have allergies. Unfortunately, that is not something that goes away. We can only manage them. We do the best we can to manage them with a lot of wonderful products we have now that we didn't have five or ten years ago.
We're able to help those pets be much more comfortable. Allergy testing may be beneficial, but the purpose of doing allergy testing is to see if whatever they're allergic to can be removed or if you can do allergy injections, just like they do in people. Both of those would be good reasons to do allergy testing.
If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (561) 369-0061, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.