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Annual Health Care

     Although cats are said to have nine lives, they only have one, and you can help that one along. In the wild cats do a good job of taking care of themselves, but housecats live much longer than their wild cousins. The quality and length of a cat’s life can be extended by routine health care. By making sure your cat receives regular veterinary examinations, needed vaccines, dental care and parasite control, you can offer your cat the best preventive health care.


 Cat's physical
 

     Cat owners often ask me what they can do to provide the best possible care for their pet. I tell them two things: keep him indoors and be sure a veterinarian examines him at least once a year. Good owners can be very observant about their cats and notice important changes, but a veterinarian can objectively evaluate the animal regularly. It is difficult for owners to assess subtle changes, such as weight loss that occurs gradually over a period of time, but a veterinarian can consult records and monitor trends.
    
A veterinarian should examine a cat annually, from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. Each doctor may have their own routine when conducting a full physical exam, but the best exams are thorough exams. A full physical exam should include:

• Measurement of body weight
• Measurement of body temperature
• Evaluation of the eyes, ears and nose
• Opening the mouth and assessing the teeth and gums
• Palpation of external lymph nodes
• Evaluation of the coat and skin
• Evaluation of muscle tone and body condition
• Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope
• Examination of the legs, paws and claws
• Palpation of the abdomen
• Examination of the rectum and genitalia
• Examination of the tail

     Depending on the individual cat and how cooperative he is and the skill of the veterinarian, this examination can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. In most situations, a veterinarian can conduct the exam without help, but when the patient is wiggly, scared or aggressive, more hands are needed.
     When cats are hot or frightened, they are only able to sweat from their feet, because the footpads are the only body parts that contain moisture secreting sweat glands. If you notice damp footprints on your veterinarian’s exam table, you will know why. A routine physical exam is not painful to your cat. If the cat squawks and squirms, he is probably just resisting restraint rather than showing discomfort. Animals who have not been fully examined before by a veterinarian are generally less cooperative than those who previously have been examined, but some cats are so frightened that they act worse at each successive veterinary visit. Let the professional veterinary staff handle your cat during any veterinary visit. Many animals become scared and defensive when they are outside their own homes and become fractious. Owners are often bitten or scratched by their own cats when they try to help hold the animal during an exam. Experienced animal assistants and veterinarians are trained to manage these situations. The best way you can assist is by talking to your pet in a calm, reassuring voice. At the end of a physical exam the veterinarian should discuss any abnormal findings and assess the general health of the cat. If you do not understand what the doctor has told you, be sure to ask questions. A veterinarian and staff should be a resource for information on all aspects of caring for your cat, including nutrition and behavior. Write down any questions you have on these issues and bring them along to discuss during your cat’s annual physical exam. This prevents you from going home and wishing you had asked the doctor something about your cat that you forgot during the appointment.

 

 

 

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