The Value of an Annual Physical Examination for Adult Dogs

Depending on your breed of dog, he or she could be aging 7-10 times as fast as you. In fact, dogs experience their ‘teenage years’ before they hit the age of one! Physical examinations tell Rockland doctors a lot about your pet’s health. During examination our vets observe:

  • Overall behavior and vigor
  • Mental state and wellness
  • Symmetry
  • Eyes, ears, and nose
  • Oral health
  • Glandular normalcy
  • How the liver, bladder, kidney, stomach and intestines palpate, or how they feel
  • Normal or abnormal signs in the urogenital areas
  • Skin and hair coat
  • Joint function
  • Signs of pain, dehydration, and nutrition
  • Respiration rate, heart rate, and temperature

This information is used to catch undiagnosed illness, signs of impending disease, and to improve the life quality of the pet.  It is also used in conjunction with diagnostic testing to make a more accurate diagnosis.  A physical examination is the start of every appointment at Rockland and has been an essential tool of medicine since the days of the Greeks.

Annual Vaccination at Rockland Veterinary

At Rockland, dogs are given 5 vaccines against common and severe diseases in our area. They are:

  • Distemper, otherwise known as a DAPPV, the ‘distemper’ vaccine is really a combination of vaccines that protect agains four especially virulent and debilitating illnesses: canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and Parvo virus. You can read more about these specific illnesses here. The distemper vaccine is administered to dogs every three years after the initial booster series as a puppy and young adult.
  • Rabies is required by law in New York State. Of the animals sent to the New York State Department of Health for testing, 3 -5 are positive for rabies every month. Rabies infection in dogs is not treatable and contagious to humans. NY state law requires that dogs that scratch or bite humans and that are suspected of being rabies positive must be quarantined or euthanized. In order to be licensed by the State of New York, dogs must be up to date on their rabies vaccine. The rabies vaccine is administered every three years after the initial doses given to the dog as a puppy and young adult.
  • Bordetella, as explained in our puppy vaccine schedule, the vaccine works in conjunction with the parainfluenza protection in the distemper vaccine to protect dogs against Kennel Cough. While Kennel Cough is rarely life threatening, it can be a gateway to secondary infection by the more series Canine Influenza virus and diseases that cause diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite and so forth. Kennel Cough is highly infectious, sometimes sickening the entire population of dog parks or boarding facilities. The classic cough that accompanies it (that sounds more like choking or gagging than it does coughing) can last for weeks or months. The Bordatella vaccine is given annually and may be administered as an injection, an oral dose, or droplets in the nose.
  • Lyme disease is spread by ticks and Rockland County has the ignoble distinction of having some of the highest infection rates in the U.S with 1 in 8 dogs testing positive. Initial signs of infection are hard to spot in many dogs leading to latency of the virus within the dog and more serious, life-threatening complications like kidney failure and chronic lameness later on. The Lyme vaccine is administered annually.
  • Leptospirosis is spread by bacteria shed in the urine of infected animals. The disease is carried by many mammals including foxes, raccoons, squirrels and opossums, but it is often found in rat populations.  In fact, because of the number of rats that live in NYC, Leptospirosis is a major concern of that municipalities heath department. Leptospirosis leads to death in 5% of those animals infected. Leptospirosis is highly contagious and a serious health threat to humans. The vaccine is given annually.

Annual Parasite Screening

  • Intestinal Parasites: In 2017, roughly 3-5% of all dogs tested in Rockland County were positive for some kind of intestinal parasite. Infected dogs shed the parasite in the environment, on sidewalks, on lawns and in dog parks, where the eggs or spores can remain dormant for months and even years. Annual screening is essential for all dogs, because even with prevention, dogs may be exposed to the parasite on a regular basis. Additionally dogs that test negative for parasites can still be positive because parasites may migrate outside of the patient’s intestinal tract and into other tissues. The Center For Disease Control has published a guideline for veterinarians on the topic of common pet parasites, but all pet owners should read it as well. It’s an excellent overview of parasites that includes some eye opening statistics on human infection rates. The following is a list of the most common intestinal parasites that we see in our area along with the percentage of dogs that test positive for the disease: Roundworms 2%, Hookworms 2%, Whipworms < 1%, and Giardia 5%. In a separate survey conducted by Idexx laboratories, nearly 20% of all dogs with signs of vomiting or diarrhea were positive for Giardia. Data for tapeworm infection was not available, but pet owners are cautioned that if dogs are infected with fleas, they are likely also infected with tapeworms, as fleas are carriers of the parasite and infect dogs on whom they feed. For more on the parasite infection rates of pets in our area, visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s prevalence map.
  • Heartworm Test and 4DX: Rockland County Veterinary screens for Heartworm and the following three tick borne diseases using a 4dx test: Lyme diseaseErlichia, and Anaplasmosis. The test can be run at the veterinary office for immediate results or sent to an external laboratory for next-day results. Heartworm is a life threatening disease caused by infection from a heartworm parasite. The disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. Infected dogs typically show no sign of infection until the disease is quite advanced in which case the infected patient is lethargic, inappetant, anorexic, exercise intolerant, and often suffering from signs similar to bacteremia or blood poisoning. Positive dogs can be treated, but the mortality rate of the cure is considerable. Over the last 4 decades infection by the tick borne viruses and bacteria listed above has increased exponentially. Nearly 1 in 5 unvaccinated dogs in Rockland County will test positive for a tick borne disease and some of those dogs will test positive for concurrent infections! Since infected dogs may show little or no signs of infection, annual screening is essential to ensure long-term health. For a more extended explanation of any of the above-mentioned tick borne illnesses, visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council website where you can also view prevalence rates for these diseases in Rockland County.

Annual Blood Screening

Annual preventative blood screens are one of the most valuable things you can do to ensure that your dog is healthy and enjoys a long, qualitative life. These affordable, advanced screens tell us about the health of important organ systems like the liver, heart, kidney, spleen, glands, and intestinal tract. This information is very helpful in devising treatment plans that can be as simple as changing your dog’s diet. Annual blood screens can often be run as part of a discounted package that includes your pet’s annual parasite and 4dx screen. When you’re at our office, ask us about the screen and our recommendation.

Year-round Flea, Tick and Heartworm Prevention

Tick infestation in our area is at a record high. Year-round prevention is essential in keeping ticks off your dog and stopping potential infection. Rockland Veterinary partners with manufacturers of veterinary-approved preventatives to offer the most affordable, safe products.