When I've taken my own Kerries to the vets, I've often overheard pet owners at the vet say: My dog doesn't need a check-up, he's always been healthy. He's just here because he ate something bad, he started having the runs, or he just doesn't seem like himself."
A year for a dog is equivalent to five to seven human years so it is important that your Kerry receives a wellness exam at least every year and more often when he enters his senior years. Most veterinarians that I have talked with state many aspects of your pet's health can quickly change even with constant vigilance. Having a yearly baseline exam can help them find out what is going on much faster.
Similar to people, pets need to visit the veterinarian more often as they get older in order to prevent and treat illnesses that come with age. Most vets recommend that healthy dogs visit them once a year for a complete exam and laboratory testing. Healthy senior dogs should receive a wellness exam and lab testing every six months depending on your pet's age and health. Your veterinarian will suggest an appropriate physical examination schedule to help keep your Kerry in tip-top shape.
The annual exam is much more than just a cursory check-up. It is often during these exams that a veterinarian can pick up the early warning signs of a serious problem that will affect your Kerry's health in the future. Serious problems can often be corrected or at least slowed in progress when they are detected early.
Your veterinarian will want to know about your Kerry's daily behavior, including their diet, how much water they drink and their exercise routine and changes to any of these activities.
Vaccination status will be reviewed and vaccines recommended.
Parasite control for intestinal parasites will be evaluated by doing a fecal exam; fleas, ticks, mites, and heartworms will be discussed
Dental health - home care; mouth odors, pain, or other signs of disease you may have observed when your Kerry is eating or chewing on a toy
Nutrition - including what your Kerry eats, how often, what supplements and treats are given, and changes in water consumption, weight, or appetite
Exercise - how much exercise your Kerry receives and any changes in your dog's ability to exercise
Ears and Eyes - any discharge, red- ness, or itching, including how much eye "gunk" builds up
Stomach and intestines - any vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas, belching, or abnormal stools
Breathing - any coughing, shortness of breath, sneezing (or what I call the backward sneeze), or nasal discharge
Behavior - any behavior problems such as barking, 'accidents,' or changes in temperament
Feet and legs - any limping, weak- ness, toenail problems
Coat and skin - How often are they being groomed, any hair loss, pigment changes, lumps, itchy spots, shedding, mats, or anal sac problems
Urogenital - any discharges, heats, changes in mammary glands, urination frequency and difficulties, and neutering if not already been performed
Blood tests - especially for geriatric Kerry's, those with medical problems, and those who are receiving medica- tions
Once the oral history has been taken and discussed a physical exam will be preformed and it usually goes something like this.
Nose to Tail Exam
Just like it sounds; the vet will start at the nose, and work all the way down to the tail.
The first stop is, of course, the nose. Checking your Kerry's nose for nasal discharge, your vet is looking for more than just a cold. Rhinitis is a symptom of many possible diseases, Canine Distemper or respiratory, infections are just two of many possible causes.
Checking your Kerry's eyes are a vital part of the exam,. A Kerry with dull, life- less eyes is giving off warning signals of internal parasites, stress, or something even more serious. Dull eyes can indicate that a Kerry has a serious illness. The eyes should be clear of debris and discharge. Eye infections often start as just a little bit of ooze coming from the corners of the eyes. Eye infections are contagious to other pets as well as hu- mans. It is important to catch these and clear them up early.
The dog's mouth is inspected for lumps, cuts, scrapes and the condition of his teeth. A mouthful of healthy teeth should look clean, and white, and your vet can indicate if your dog is in need of a scaling. A scaling is when the dog has his teeth scraped free of cavity-causing tartar. Lumps on the outside of your dog's jaws can indicate swelling from an abscessed tooth, oral tumors, or an allergic reaction to a bug bite. Lack of healthy in the gums would alert your vet to anemia.
Ears are notorious for harboring bacteria's that cause foul odors, and ear infections. A clean ear is a good ear, and it is a very good idea to keep alert for ear mites, a pesky inhabitant of ears that are highly contagious to other pets in the household. Most Kerry owners either pull the hair themselves or have their vet or groomer pull the hair every few months to keep the canal clear and clean.
Using a stethoscope, a vet will check your Kerry's lungs for any sounds of congestion, cough, or abnormal breathing patterns. This is extremely important, as a congested chest can lead to many health hazards. Bordatella, Distemper, or even Heartworm are just a few of the problems that can cause congestion.
Listening to your Kerry's heart is an im- portant step in the exam. A dog's normal heart rate is 100 to 130 beats per min- ute. Any abnormality is cause for concern. Early detection of heart disease can help your dog live a longer, more comfortable life.
The Skin and Coat
The largest organ of the body, the skin can tell you many things about your Kerry's health. Your vet will check for fleas, ticks, and other external parasites, as well as swelling, cuts, scrapes, lumps, and condition of the coat. A dull coat on the outside means an ill pet on the in- side. The Kerry is prone to cysts, warts, spiculosis and other minor skin concerns that if caught early are simple to address but may become more concerning if left neglected.
This is often the source of many Kerry problems. By palpating your Kerry's stomach and groin area, a vet will feel for any lumps, abnormal distending, and possible infections. She is also watching for signs of pain from your Kerry, indicating further problems. Kerry's have been found to have issues with IBD (irritable bowel disease),
Back and Tail
A trip down your Kerry's spine and tail tells if there are any spinal problems that may need correcting.
The last stop is the paws, as your vet looks for cuts or swelling, and muscle damage along your dog's legs.
There is quite a bit more to an annual exam than most people think. Without regular check-ups, some Kerrys will not display any symptoms (we know they are stoic), and owners will find them-selves with an extremely sick dog on their hands, and sometimes it is too late to save them. Prevention is so much better than cure.