A few months ago I examined a patient, who I will call Jake, (not his real name) was in for routine examination. As per the owner, Jake, was doing great, no problems! “Do you think we really need the examination”. Of course my answer was yes. Jake was an older, although healthy appearing dog. The value of a complete veterinary examination, where the doctor takes his/her time, asks you questions, palpates or feels your pet’s body, looks in the mouth, ears, flexes and extends the limbs to asses the joints, and a fecal exam to check for parasites. Yes, a complete exam will also include, taking a temperature and listening to the heart and lungs, which is often the only thing done in place of a complete veterinary examination. It is important, because our patients can’t talk to tell us when something doesn’t feel right or something hurts, etc.
As I examined Jake, I noticed he had several lymph nodes which were enlarged. The owners did not know this. Otherwise the exam was unremarkable. I advised the owners of my findings and suggested that we check this again in a couple of weeks, and if the lymph nodes were still enlarged, to a biopsy. At two weeks, the lymph nodes were still enlarged. So we did a lymph node biopsy a couple of days later. When the results of the biopsy came back…the diagnosis was lymphoma, a type of lymphoid cancer.
I asked the clients to come in to discuss the results of the biopsy and the way forward. I discussed with them the available options: 1. Referral to a veterinary oncologist for further assessment and care, 2. Treat him with medication which may help slow the progression of the disease., or 3. Do nothing. The clients chose option #2 because of the costs associated with the first option. The owners were very appreciative and thanked me for diagnosing this problem before Jake had gotten clinically ill form the disease. We could now manage his final months, and give him good quality time with the knowledge of how the disease will progress.
Last week we unfortunately had to euthanize Jake. The owners were of course sad and emotional. But were very grateful that we had diagnosed Jake before he became ill and his final few months were good months. The time that the owners had to prepare for Jakes eventual death was of great value to them, because they had a good knowledge of what Jakes problem was and what to expect.
My advice to pet owners is not to take the examination that your veterinarian recommends lightly, it is so important, in many ways you may not realize. We are one of the many vets in Columbus who can provide this valuable service to you. We recommend a complete veterinary exam by a vet at least every 6 months. This is so important because adult dogs and cats age much faster than we do. One year for us is five to seven years for them.
Calvin W. Washington, D.V.M.
East Columbus Veterinary Hospital
855 E. Livingston Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43205