Wellness Care

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Preventive care of pets, which we call Wellness Care, is very important, since most pets have short lives compared to us, and disease processes appear sooner than we expect.

A complicating factor that adds to this rapid progression of disease is a pet’s ability to hide illness from you. By the time you notice a problem and bring your pet in for an exam, the disease is well entrenched, and we have a difficult time correcting the problem.

Birds are extremely adept at hiding illness from their owners, so a yearly exam, and very close observation of your birds habits, is crucial. Our Avian Diseases page has information on common bird diseases we encounter. 

What are the steps you can take to increase your pet’s quality and length of life? It all starts with awareness. Bringing your pet in for an exam, fecal test for worms, and a basic blood panel, on a yearly basis, is the first part of this awareness. This can be timed when it is due for vaccines.

During this yearly wellness exam one of our doctors will go through a detailed examination checklist. Based on these exam findings you will receive written feedback and instructions specifically for your pet.

We are a team in your pet’s health, and to help you identify problems before they progress we have a page showing you how to do an In Home Exam. Next time you are in we will perform this with you on your pet.

This cat is getting its submandibular lymph nodes checked. Once we do a show-and-tell on an office call you will be an expert in palpating lymph nodes!

A routine blood panel is part of our Wellness Exam. We will call you with the blood panel report in 1- 2 days. At that time we will go over any new information that is pertinent. A report card with the results of the blood panel and fecal exam will be sent to you in the mail.

The blood panel is very thorough. This one caught a kidney problem in a cat.

Our Wellness physical exam checks for everything that is normal or abnormal. Consistently we find problems in four important areas, problems that are far too prevalent and are preventable:

1. Dental Disease

This is by far the most common problem we encounter during a physical exam.  It is overlooked by almost all pet owners due to the difficulty in examining a pet’s oral cavity and lack of awareness as to its importance. We cannot overemphasize the importance of good dental hygiene for your pet. It is the source of needless suffering and disease, and is completely preventable. It is so important we have a complete page dedicated to Dental Disease. It was the first page on this web site when we first started it in 1997, and gives you all the information you need regarding this problem.

By getting your pet’s teeth cleaned by us at an early age without anesthesia we can prevent this problem. Brushing the teeth several times per week in between cleanings will be needed also.


This young dog has the start of gingivitis. It looks like it only has a little tartar on its canine tooth. There is gingivitis getting started, and needs to be addressed now to prevent bacteria from continually seeding the bloodstream and causing problems in internal organs like the kidneys and the heart.


The gingivitis, which is infection just below the gumline, is the reddish and inflamed area under the circle.

Dental-ToothDiagramThe arrow point to plaque, which works its way below the gumline to start the gingivitis 

Teeth cleaning is so important that it should not be performed by a groomer or a pet store. The care given in these facilities is inferior and will not prevent dental disease. All they do is scrape some tartar off the external parts of the teeth, and do not address the major problem, which is the infection below the gumline. By law, in the state of California, dental cleanings must be performed by a trained technician under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.

In our hospital this means that only our doctors makes a diagnosis of dental disease.  It is only then that a doctor decides if cleaning the teeth without anesthetic will solve the problem. We clean pets’ teeth without anesthesia on the 4th Monday and Wednesday of each month, in our exam room number 5, under direct supervision of our doctors. Any special problems noted will be brought to your attention and will be discussed by one of our doctors with you personally. You will get a checklist of any problems your pet has.

2. Arthritis

This insidious problem sneaks up on pets as they age. A pet that was a little stiff, or doesn’t walk as long or as fast as it used to, or is not quite as active as it used to be, can seemingly become debilitated overnight. It is now in obvious pain, is not eating, and oftentimes cannot use its rear legs. In reality this problem did not occur overnight. You missed the subtle signs of its progression because your pet hid them from you. This arthritic problem needs to be addressed as your pet reaches middle age and before the problem progresses. Our arthritis page has lots of information on treatment and prevention.

Radiographs-SpineCircledDogs and cats get many forms of arthritis. A common, and insidious one, is called spondylosis. It occurs in the spine of the mid to lower back usually. The red circle on the radiograph shows where it is usually found.

It is easily seen in this radiograph at two locations under the red circles. This is painful. 

3. Obesity

Obese pets are prone to an array of diseases. Important ones are arthritis,  sugar diabetes (diabetes mellitus) and liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). If your pet is overweight we will instruct you on the proper food to correct the obesity. It might be a higher fiber diet, it might be a lower carbohydrate and higher protein diet. Every pet is different, and there is no blanket approach, so we treat each case of obesity individually.

The diet your pet should be on, no matter whether it is healthy or ill, should not be decided by advice from a pet store or feed store.  Their main goal is to sell you food, mostly based on marketing, and not tailor made to your pet’s specific needs. We prescribe food based on your pet’s body condition score, physical exam results, diagnostic test results, age, lifestyle, and many decades of extensive training, experience, and continuing education, on animal diseases.

You can learn more about some of the foods we recommend from our Prescription Diets page. You are welcome to purchase the food anywhere you want, and we will give you a written prescription to do so. Our primary interest is in the health of your pet and its quality of life, not selling you food.

Some of the foods we commonly recommend for obesity :

  • R/D
  •         M/D
  • W/D
  • Metabolic


Obesity and arthritis go hand in hand, and there is a food called Metabolic and Mobility from Hill’s that addresses both of these issues

Arthritis is also a cat problem, and since cats are so highly prone to kidney disease, this diet helps in both of these problems in overweight cats

4. Cancer

As pets live longer they are more prone to getting cancer. Cancer is many different diseases, and acts differently in different species. We have a detailed page on common cancers to help you understand it better.

Cancer-SkinMastCellThis minor and seemingly innocuous bump is actually a malignant skin cancer called a Mast Cell Tumor (MCT)

5. Kidney Disease (especially in cats)

This common age-related problem can be detected before the problem progresses to the point where your cat’s quality of life is affected. Our kidney page has all the details. Diet and access to fresh water are important basic treatment you can readily do at home.

All cats that are healthy otherwise should be put on Hill’s Early  Support K/D to prevent to slow down the progression of this common problem

You are an important link in the medical care of your pet. One of our doctors will teach you how to perform a basic exam on your pet if you are interested. You can find this information, along with important symptoms of disease, by following these links on this web site:

In Home Exam

Symptoms of Disease

To learn much more about how our doctors make a diagnosis we have a Diagnostic Process page.

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