Pet Care – The Annual Physical Exam and What to Expect

Is it time to bring your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup? Are you unsure of what to expect? It’s actually very important to understand what your veterinarian does to your pet during its annual exam. This helps you recognize when your pet is healthy and also if something is wrong. Here are the normal procedures that a veterinarian goes through on an annual physical exam:


Taking the temperature of your pet is one the most important parts of the physical exam. A dog or cat’s average temperature is somewhere between 101 and 102.5 degrees. Even if an animal seems healthy, a veterinarian can often tell that something is not right if the animal has a high temperature.

Skin and Coat

A healthy pet should have a shiny coat and clean skin. A brittle, dry coat or flaky skin is an indication that something is wrong. If the skin and coat are not healthy, the veterinarian will likely suggest that you switch your pet from a grain-based diet to a meat-based diet. Within a few weeks, your pet’s skin and coat should be much healthier.


Normal ears should have smooth skin and should be without any wounds. The ears should be clean, dry and almost odor free. If your pet has an allergy or ear infection, you should be able to see it. However, infections usually start deep in the ear canal. The veterinarian will check for any infections that are in the early stages in order to eliminate them before they become a problem. Your veterinarian can prescribe any necessary medications and can show you the correct way to clean your pet’s ears.


The veterinarian will examine the interior of your pet’s eye structures. Usually, pets do not have serious eye problems. The most common eye irritations among pets stem from contact with pollen, dust, or grass.

Paws and Toenails

Paw injuries usually heal on their own relatively quickly, but if your pet has really long toenails, they should be clipped shorter.


Often pets with an infection in their mouth do not display any symptoms. However, many infections can be found in animals’ mouths including infected gums, objects stuck in between teeth, and even tumors.


A seemingly healthy pet can also have problems with its abdomen. A veterinarian can discover that your pet could have bladder stones, a tumor, only one working kidney, or is pregnant. By feeling the outside of your pet’s abdomen, the veterinarian can tell what’s going on in the inside. Often what’s on the inside is just as important, if not more important, than what’s on the outside.


During any physical exam, it is important that your veterinarian listens to your pet’s heart and lungs. By doing this, they can detect any heart valve or heart rhythm problems. If any heart problems are detected, further testing is usually recommended.

Bringing your pet in for a physical exam is an extremely important part of your pet’s health. Many times, a seemingly normal pet is actually unhealthy. Only a veterinarian would be able to detect such problems. Understanding the physical exam will help you understand your pet’s health and this will help your pet live a long and healthy life.

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