EXPERT ADVICE: How to do a health check on your pet

Television vet Dr Lisa Chimes shares her top tips and tricks
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It’s no exaggeration that Australia is a pet-loving nation!

No matter their size, species, or age, animals play a huge role in the lives of the thousands of Aussies who adopt a furry, feathered, or scaled pet to join their family each and every year. 

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Unfortunately like humans, pets can fall sick. Even more unfortunate is that they can’t directly tell you how they are feeling, leaving the onus on the owner to look after them.

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Emergency vet Dr. Lisa Chimes tells New Idea that it’s important to get your pet used to being handled from a young age so routine health checks can be undertaken. 

She also recommends trusting your gut instinct when it comes to the well-being of your furry, feathered, or scaly friend! 

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“Pet owners are really good at knowing when something isn’t right because the more time you spend with your pet, the easier it will be for you to realise when something doesn’t seem right!” Lisa tells us. 

“A lot of the time it is about going with your gut instinct. You know your pet better than anyone else. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s always best to get to the vet straight away because animals are really good at hiding what’s going on until they are really sick.”

“It’s just a survival mechanism that they have, they don’t whinge and complain like people do so it’s important to get them to the vet where we can actually try and troubleshoot what’s going on for you,” Lisa laughs.

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How to perform a routine health check on your pet

“It’s as simple as [asking yourself]: Is my pet eating like they normally eat? Are they going to the toilet like they normally do? What does the poop look like? How often are they urinating? Are they urinating in the house? Are they straining to do any of that? Are they vomiting more than usual? Are they more sleepy than usual? What’s their energy like?”

“But when you get down to performing a physical health check on them, you can start by simply watching them breathe while they sleep and if their breathing looks faster or slower than it usually does. Are they coughing? Are they panting more than normal? You can also lift up their lips and look at the colour of their gums – which should be a nice pink colour.

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While you are at the head, you can look at the eyes, is there any discharge around them? Same with the nose….”

“And then you can move down their body, pop your hands over their belly, and feel their abdomen. Is it nice and soft? Is it hard and firm when you touch that area? Can you feel their ribs more than you could normally? Are there any spots or sores on their skin that you are noticing? Are they limping?

“All those things, people might underestimate those, but we as vets will use them as part of our problem-solving to figure out what’s going on.”

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How do I do a health check on an anxious animal?

“Do those things [listed above] when they are really young, put your hands in their ears and mouth. Touch their toes, run your hands all over their bodies. Do a full body exam often when they are young and that’ll make them much easier to handle as they get older.”

“But if you’ve already got an anxious [animal] then it’s all about going slow and not adding to their stress and anxiety. If your [animal] is anxious and not allowing you to do things, more importantly just get them to the vet. We’re experienced in managing animals like that and its not worth putting them at risk or yourself at risk.”

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