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Why Do You Want Your Pet to Have a Physical Exam?

Your pet can't always tell you where it hurts. Sometimes pets may even mask their pain (a survival behavior in the wild). A comprehensive physical exam at Hemlock Bluffs Animal Hospital of Holly Springs allows our doctors to compile a list of clues that can help uncover disease. Early detection and treatment are essential to avoid undue suffering and to prolong the quality and longevity of your pet's life.

At home, watch for subtle changes in your pet's body weight, appetite, water intake, urination and bowel habits, as well as general attitude and activity level. These changes may signal liver, kidney or heart problems. Lumps and bumps under the skin may seem harmless, but can be cancerous. Ear infections, abscessed teeth and gum disease are common, painful conditions that may not become obvious until seriously advanced. A comprehensive physical exam is the basic tool our doctors use to evaluate your dog's, cat's or other pet's health status and to help you make informed decisions about the care of your special companion.

What is checked During a Comprehensive Physical Exam

  • Eyes: The eyes are examined with an ophthalmoscope for cataracts and retinal disease. Some retinal diseases indicate systemic (whole body) problems such as high blood pressure and infections. Glaucoma screening may be recommended for some animals.
  • Ears: The ears are examined with an otoscope, an instrument used to see into the long and angled ear canal to the eardrum of dogs and cats. Ear infections and parasites are quite common.
  • Mouth: The mouth is visually checked for lesions and tumors. Teeth are examined for tartar build-up, abscesses, fractures, missing teeth and gum disease.
  • Heart & Lungs: The heart and lungs are checked by auscultation with a stethoscope, and feeling the pulse. The gums are examined for their color, felt for how moist or dry they are, and gently pressed and observed for capillary refill time.
  • Abdomen: The abdomen is palpated for anomalies of organ size and character, such as enlargement of the liver or spleen, change in kidney size, bladder stones, tumors, and intestine abnormalities.
  • Skin: The skin is examined for parasites, lesions, and abnormal growths.
  • Lymph Nodes: The lymph nodes are palpated for symmetry, size, and tenderness.
  • Nervous System: The nervous system is evaluated by observing your pet's behavior and testing reflexes.
  • External Genitalia: The external genitalia are examined for abnormal discharge, color, swelling, or growths. The prostate gland is palpated for abnormal size and character.
  • Gait: (Manner of walking) is observed for lameness and joints are palpated to detect tenderness and inflexibility that may indicate problems like arthritis.

Vaccinations

Our vaccination protocol is customized to each pet's personal exposure and risk. We educate our clients about the various vaccinations available and then determine if the benefits of inoculation outweigh the risks.

Dog Vaccinations

Vaccinations for Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza (DHPP) are begun at 6–8 weeks of age and continue 3–4 weeks apart through sixteen weeks of age. These vaccines are combined together in 1 shot and are required for surgery, puppy class, boarding and grooming facilities. These vaccines will need to be boostered annually until 5 years of age and then are given every 3 years.

Rabies vaccination is done intially at the 16 week puppy visit and is then boostered at the 1st year visit. After that, the vaccine is boostered once every 3 years. Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccine is given to dogs that are boarded, attend puppy class, go to dog parks, walk around the neighborhood and encounter other dogs, participate in dog shows, are regularly groomed or hunt with other dogs. The vaccine protects for six months and can be given as early as 8 weeks of age. Click here for a description of each vaccination.

Feline Vaccinations

Vaccinations for Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (Distemper) (FVRCP) are given to all kittens beginning as early as 6–8 weeks of age. Boosters are done every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age. After the initial kitten booster series, these vaccines are boostered annually until 5 years of age. After 5 years of age this vaccine is repeated every 3 years.

Feline Leukemia (FeLV) vaccination is given to all kittens 3–4 weeks apart beginning as early as 9 weeks of age. It is boostered annually in all cats that are going to spend any time outdoors or are in contact with a cat that spends any time outdoors. Although you may read about the Feline Leukemia vaccine causing tumors at the injection site, at HBAH we use the PureVax brand of Leukemia which does NOT contain this tumor causing agent.

Rabies is given at 16 weeks of age per NC law and is repeated annually. Although you may read about the Rabies vaccine causing tumors at the injection site, at HBAH we use the PureVax brand which does NOT contain this tumor causing agent.

Adult Felines

Adult cats who have never been vaccinated should receive all of the vaccines listed above at their initial visit. The FVRCP and Leukemia vaccines are boostered 3 weeks later.

* Please consult with our doctors and staff to determine the most appropriate immunization schedule for your kitten or adult cat. Click here for a description of each vaccination.

Vaccine Alternatives

Additionally, vaccine tiers for the dog and cat are offered at Hemlock Bluffs Animal Hospital. If you are interested in this option please speak with one of our doctors about this alternative.

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Routine Bloodwork

All kittens should be tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodefiency Virus (FIV). This test should be repeated annually for all cats that have previously tested positive, go outdoors, or have symptoms.

Tick borne diseases are prevalent in Wake County. We also see a number of heartworm positive dogs. For this reason, all dogs should be tested annually with the Heartworm 3DX Combo test, which tests for the presence of Heartworm, Lyme, and Erhlichia infections.

We also recommend comprehensive bloodwork annually for all pets over the age of seven.

Deworming and Fecal Checks

Parasitic zoonoses are diseases caused by parasites. While we normally associate parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms with cats and dogs, people can accidentally be infected with the same parasites. Regular deworming is the best way to prevent parasitic disease and the transmission of intestinal parasites from pets to people. It also prevents the shedding of parasite eggs, which contaminate yards or any place a pet defecates.

We recommend that every pet receive broad spectrum deworming at least twice annually. Puppies, kittens, and pets that test positive for internal parasites may require several rounds of deworming.

Preventative Medications

We recommend that all dogs be on yearly prevention for heartworm, fleas, and ticks. We also recommend flea and tick prevention for cats. We sell a variety of preventatives and would be happy to help you determine which is best for your companion.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm disease is very common in North Carolina. Heartworms are spread through mosquitos. An infected mosquito bites a dog and injects microscopic baby heartworms into the bloodstream. Approximately 6 months later, the baby heartworms arrive at the heart and grow to adults. Adult heartworms look almost like spaghetti. They grow and infest the heart, eventually leading to strangulation of the heart and death. Heartworms are treatable, but treatment is costly. Prevention is definitely paramount here in North Carolina as we are blessed with an overpopulation of this pesky parasite. We recommend Ivehart that is administered once monthly to prevent this horrible disease.

Flea and Tick Prevention

Parasite PreventionFleas and ticks are virtually everywhere. Although they're a bigger problem in certain parts of the country and at specific times during the year, no cat or dog is completely safe from them. Fortunately, many safe and highly effective products are available. Today, there's no reason for any pet or owner to be bothered by these pests.

Fleas are so common because they are reproductive marvels. A single female flea can lay as many as 30 eggs a day and can live and breed on your pet for up to 100 days. The eggs then fall and land in carpets and upholstery, where they can lie dormant for up to 8 months. The best management techniques of flea-proofing your home include regularly vacuuming carpets, furniture, floors and areas where your pet sits or sleeps. You should also wash your pet's bedding, toys, and towels weekly.

Beyond causing serious discomfort, fleas and ticks can carry diseases dangerous to both you and your pet. Fleas can carry tapeworm larvae, which your pet can ingest. In cats, in particular, fleas can carry an organism called Bartonella henselae, which is one of the causes of cat-scratch disease in humans. Many pets are also so allergic to fleabites that a single bite can cause an intense allergic reaction. When the skin is irritated or inflamed, it can also become infected with bacteria or other pathogens, making the problem worse. Ticks can transmit such serious diseases as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to both you and your pet. Ticks can be a particular problem when present in large numbers, or when they attach in sensitive places, like inside the ear or near an eye.

There are numerous signs that indicate that your pet may have fleas. If your pet scratches occasionally or constantly it may be a sign of fleas. Redness or oozing lesions on the skin can be signs of flea allergy dermatitis, a condition caused by fleas. Tiny black dots on your pet might be an indication of flea dirt, or flea feces, an obvious indication that there are fleas present on the pet. Even small bites on yourself, especially around the ankles, might be fleabites.

The good news is that all of these problems can be avoided using the parasite preventatives available on the market today. Due to the mild winters in our area, there is really never a dormant time for fleas. Therefore, year-round flea prevention is recommended to avoid a flea infestation situation. We recommend Frontline Plus flea and tick preventative for our patients. Frontline Plus is a topical, once a month preventative that is very safe for your pet. The great thing about Frontline that separates it from the over the counter medications like Hartz Topspot or other similar "knock off" medications is that it kills the flea before it bites, therefore eliminating the source of the itch. Dogs and cats are allergic to the saliva in the fleas mouth and this is what causes such intense itching after the bite. Over the counter products are cleverly packaged to look similar to Frontline, but do not perform in the same manner. Over the counter medications require the flea to bite to die, therefore the dog is still miserable and itching despite the application of the flea product. Frontline is also water resistant. You can bathe your pet every week if you like, it won't wash off. Be sure to ask how you can get Free Frontline at our office.

Prescription Diets

We stock a very extensive range of Purina Prescription Diets, and can special order specific foods recommended by our veterinarians to meet your needs. Over many years our doctors have developed great confidence in these diets as an adjunct to the treatment of a variety of diseases including those affecting the kidney, heart and liver. Additionally there are diets for obesity, allergy, joint disease, diabetes and cancer which have all been shown conclusively to help the underlying disease process, and which we therefore utilize regularly.

Microchipping

Microchipping is a safe, simple and permanent form of pet identification to immediately identify lost pets and quickly reunite them with their owners. Microchipping has become a very popular and safe way to permanently identify your pet in the unfortunate case that your pet is lost. Here at Hemlock Bluffs Animal Hospital we feel it is very important for every pet to be permanently identified with a chip.

Microchipping entails the placement of a small electronic chip the size and shape of a piece of rice just under the skin in the pet's neck area. A needle is used to inject the chip. This injection is comparable to a regular vaccine injection. If your pet becomes lost and is transported to the animal shelter or any veterinary hospital, they will be able to scan your pet for the chip and contact you. The scanner is similar to a scanner found in your grocery store. Ask us for details about microchipping your pet.

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