Your Cat's Annual Physical Exam
You know your cat should see the veterinarian annually for an exam to check their physical health. This includes cats that spend their time indoors and those that seem healthy.
That said, sometimes owners face obstacles in bringing their cat in to see us as often as they should, whether it's financial concerns or convincing their kitty to enter their crate to be transported, then co-operate with the vet. Luckily, our seasoned veterinarians can offer advice on how to overcome these common issues to make sure your cat receives the healthcare they need and deserve.
Before You Start
Some of our clients hesitate to bring their cats in since their feline friend seems healthy and they have financial concerns about paying for routine veterinary care. If this is true for you, discuss payment options with your vet or opt for only the most essential exam services.
Remember that detecting health problems early or preventing them from occurring can help you save money long-term.
Occasionally, cat owners ask us how to get their kitty into their cage, since they may become aggressive, fearful, anxious or stressed when the time comes for transport to the vet's office. Many a stressed-out cat has caused its owner to delay scheduling needed veterinary visits, but it doesn't have to be this way. You might try taking a deep breath, calmly approach your kitty and give lots of soothing pets and treats. You may get their state to mirror years when they pick up on your calmer, more relaxed attitude. A different crate or carrier may also relieve their fears. Be sure to maintain your calm demeanor throughout your entire trip to the vet.
What You'll Need
To reduce stress on both you and your cat, you might consider keeping a list of items you'll need to get ready before your scheduled appointment. These may include:
- Your cat's medical history and list of health concerns
- Previous vaccination records (if administered by a different vet)
- Stool sample for a fecal exam
- Cat crate or carrier
During The Exam
When you first arrive for your cat's exam, your kitty will usually be weighed by a veterinary assistant or vet tech before taking your cat's temperature with a rectal thermometer. You may be asked to help by holding your cat steady during this process.
Bring Your Cat's Health History
The veterinarian will perform a nose-to-tail physical exam and offer the opportunity to address any questions, behavioral issues or health concerns you might have. Note that cats will often act differently from their usual selves if they're feeling unwell. Your vet can help eliminate potential medical causes for their behavior. Signs of illness often appear in a disheveled coat, cloudy eyes or inflammation in the skin. The nostrils may also be congested. If your cat has dental issues or periodontitis, the vet may catch signs in their teeth or gums, and ear infections may result in redness or inflammation. Parasites may cause fatigue and, depending on the pest, show up as a bloated abdomen, visible bites on the body and more.
The vet will also examine the feet and claws, as damage or cuts can sometimes go unnoticed by even the most conscientious owner and the anus and glands will be checked for potential signs of impaction or infection.
Finally, the vet will carefully check your cat's internal organs by palpating fingers to feel for signs of lumps, bumps, swellings or other abnormalities.
Depending on your cat's needs, the vet may perform a series of lab tests to establish a baseline for your cat's normal health and make it easier to detect changes during your kitty's future vet appointments. These tests often include:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Blood chemistry panel
- Urinalysis (UA)
- Fecal exam
Ensure Your Cat's Core Vaccines Are Up to Date
You'll also need to ensure all of your cat's recommended vaccinations are up to date. Our vets are experienced at giving vaccinations and can usually get this task done while distracting animals as they receive their injections, so your cat may not notice the needle entering their skin. The vet may also ask you to help hold your cat, as your familiar, voice and gentle touch may be calming.
Since even housecats can escape outdoors where they may encounter potential dangers, vaccinations are important. They are also key to keeping any other animals and members of your household safe from parasites and diseases. We recommend having your cat vaccinated against:
- Feline calicivirus
- Feline herpesvirus I
Preventing Issues During Your Cat's Exam
Many cats become anxious at the sight of a carrier since they know that when it appears, they'll most likely need to leave the house or visit the vet. Give your kitty time to get used to its crate or carrier by setting the item on the floor and placing a few of your cat's favorite treats inside. This will give your chat a chance to explore the carrier before it's time for the appointment. Allow your cat to enter the carrier on its own - do not force him or her in.
For other cats, car rides are very stressful. Help your feline friend stay calm by bringing a blanket, catnip, and plenty of treats with you. Wait until you're ready to leave before placing the carrier in your vehicle.
Follow Your Vet's Recommendations
After your pet's physical exam is complete, your veterinarian will review findings from the exam with you and provide any necessary medications such as treatment for parasites, infections or illnesses. You'll also receive the results of your pet's lab tests, typically by phone a few days after your visit. You'll also have an opportunity to book any required follow-up appointments.
Ask your vet any questions you may have, even if you think of them after leaving your appointment. You may not even need to come back to the office as we are able to answer many questions with a simple phone conversation. A trusting relationship with your vet is key to ensuring they live a long, happy life.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.