Annual Health Exams: Necessary or Not?
You may have done yearly pet exams in the past, often associated with <shudder> yearly vaccinations, if you’ve been in a conventional veterinarian’s care.
You dutifully brought in a baggie with some fresh stool in it. Bowser got up on a stainless steel table, got a thermometer stuck in his anus, and received a physical exam.
But now, you’ve put your animal on track to be a vital animal, one who lives a long, shiny life, free of health concerns. You’ve stopped vaccinating, you’re feeding balanced raw food, using non-toxic flea control methods, you’re giving immune support, and you’ve stopped the toxic drugs that kill heartworm larvae.
Should you still bring him in yearly for a check up?
The yearly exam question comes up from time to time, and I think behind it is a far more important question:
Who’s Responsible for My Animal’s Health?
If you answer, “my vet is,” this post is not for you. And I’m not likely to be your veterinarian.
If your answer is, “I am!” you’ve come to the right place and I’m here to help you succeed.
I’m on board to answer questions, prescribe homeopathically when symptoms point to an imbalance that needs to be addressed, and am happy to put my hands and eyes on your animal on a yearly basis or any other time you’d like me to.
Won’t My Vet See Things I’ll Miss?
Perhaps he might, sure. It never hurts to have a professional’s hands on your animal.
Some things I’ve noticed on exams that owners have missed:
- Dull coat
- Coarse coat
- Dirty teeth/red gums (you may have noticed bad breath, though…)
- Distorted, brittle nails
- Fearful behavior, or restlessness, or even aggression
One of my favorite “ah-ha’s” was having a new cat patient in my office, and being seemingly at the end of my intake questions, all answered by my dutiful and observant owner. I had written next to nothing by “mental/emotional,” as the cat walked calmly around my exam room while we talked.
Suddenly, she came to a low window, and saw one of my cats outside. She came unglued! Screaming at the top of her lungs, hair standing up, and looking like she would somehow squeeze through the screen to get out to eat her alive!
“Wow, you didn’t tell me she had such a strong take on other cats!”
“Oh, that. Yes.” Her owner had taken it for granted, and so no mention was made.
Things You’ll Know That Your Vet’s Exam Won’t Reveal
You’ll know things of great value from your daily observations at home, once you’re cued in to look for these things.
These things are called symptoms, and your homeopathic vet will be very interested in these, while they may mean nothing to a conventional vet.
- My dog goes out every night while we’re all sleeping.
- He’s terrified of flying insects!
- After eating, he burps loudly.
- When she sleeps, it’s with all four feet in the air.
- At 4:00 every evening, he’ll clear a room with his gas!
- Whenever I change her diet, she’ll have a loose stool for days.
And so on. These are impossible to glean on a vet exam, yet so important to assess your animal’s wellness, and make decisions about a likely remedy to get her back to being vital.
A homeopathic yearly exam will, by necessity, include questions to uncover things like this.
Don’t I Need a Fecal Exam?
This leads me to ask, “How many times have you seen a positive result in the past?”
If your animal is well, vitally so, he won’t allow parasites in. They just won’t have a home. Likely, if you’ve done them in the past, they were negative time and again.
How about a yearly Heartworm Test?
Definitely a good idea if you live in a heartworm endemic area like Texas. Here’s a 2012 incidence map to help you decide how likely it is you’ll need such a test in the U.S.:
I recommend my patients receive this test yearly, regardless of whether they are opting out of the heartworm drugs or continuing to use them.
Blood Counts? Blood Chemistry Screening?
There’s no harm in doing these periodically, though I’ll usually not ask that my patients receive them yearly. Consider though, can you get in and out with just the blood work, or will you be pressured into getting vaccinations that you don’t want?
More importantly, to the extent that you are the watchful caretaker of your animal, you’ll know something’s wrong likely before the blood results show it.
Long before there were multiple blood tests, imaging services, and high tech diagnostics available, observant people knew when their animals were unwell.
And homeopathic doctors could use that knowledge of how they were not well to get them back on track once more. Symptoms can be clearly ascertained and point us to remedies to cure your animal.
So, do you do annual exams? Have they been valuable? Do you use them more or less than you did 5 years ago? Let me know in the comments.
I have never had the pleasure of seeking out homeopathic (professional) care for my best friend, but I am attempting to make better decisions for his health via my own understanding of his needs. I started him on a prey-model raw diet (SADogSushi) just over a year ago. I supplement him with probiotics when he starts to get itchy, and the problem resolved itself……a better first step than a vet visit and a steroid!
We left Austin, TX and moved back to Saint Louis, MO this past August. Still on the raw meats…..different company now…..still supplementing for his *yeastie issues*…..but alas, I KNOW I am not doing it all right because we are having issues again that sprung up as soon as we got back here!! Itching in the ears, pigmentation changes on his underbelly due to inflamation, he eats his feets and sets injury to them…..etc.
So I had to take him in for the *Yearly Visit*. My vet was pretty understanding of my decision to switch him to Raw …….but she will never be my go-to when I have questions about Duke and his meats. I also opted to do a blood panel. I chose the expensive one. I wanted to do this 1) to give myself peace of mind, and 2) to know that I had been doing his raw diet right and that there were no major issues that jumped out. I think the bloodwork is probably unecessary to do every year….??…However, if nothing else it gives me a starting point to refer back to if issues arise in the future. I want bloodwork when he is HEALTHY to compare to should he become ILL. The bloodwork did not help answer my issues with Duke’s itching/scratching starting up again…….BUT it at least let me know that I had not epically failed at this whole Raw meat thing. 🙂 Of course, if I had the money and a homeopathic vet…..I would be MORE than happy to go in every year for a visit!!
Hi Gretchen, and welcome.
You’ve done some great things for Duke and drawing blood doesn’t hurt any animal. Like in humans, it’s what we do with the results that matters. (Ah, I see another blog subject forming in my mind…)
You may be up against that wall that I see regularly in homeopathic practice: diet can only go so far in curing chronic problems.
While I would never NOT recommend balanced raw diets (meat is not balanced, alone, btw), I see them improve their health to a point, and then treatment is needed to get all the way to “cured.”
In my hands, that’s homeopathy. Others may use acupuncture, herbs, etc.
So, don’t stop what you are doing, but consider finding a trained holistic vet to work with to help Duke get the rest of the way to your goal: fully, shiningly healthy. Vital.
I ordered the 4Life supplement for Duke …… I do not know if it was a coinsidence or not….but soon after having a bit of it I noticed he was not eating at his feet in the middle of the night. (he still does it sometimes as an attention-getter…..which is why it is hard to know whether he does it ALL the time for psychological reasons as a learned behavior….or because there are yeasties getting him. lol)
Other than that I am not sure if there is ever a way to know how well it is effecting him. I guess if his ears stay clean? No long-term scratching? His feet don’t seem to bother him? (all good scenarios!) I really just want to have a good supplement that systematically works for him. I am very curious about the known effectiveness of vitamins when synthetically produced … (i.e. beta carotene has wonderful benefits…..but tested NOT to be so when given in synthetic form…..and how many items in the 4Life Transfer Factor are doing *their* job synthetically…)
How did you come upon the 4Life Transfer Factor???? Do the contents fit to what you know about an effective combination of additions (vitamins, herbs, etc.) to the raw diet? [ just curious …. as Duke can obviously not tell me whether or not his supplements are *helping* him or not….I try to do all the research I know how to in order to make sense of how they work! ] 🙂
The TF products can definitely impact the allergy state, as that’s immune based. Itchy feet are most often an allergy symptom. As to psych reasons for foot chewing, that’d be less likely than simply, “My feet itch!”
And yes, if symptoms recede, especially in several areas, you are on to something. I mainly employ the transfer factor in my practice because they have a long history of research behind them, spanning back to the 50’s. And they clearly eclipse immune boosting that any other supplement does in comparison to what they achieve. The Plus line, as in Canine Complete, Feline Complete, etc, have a great compliment of other known immune boosters added, that enhance the TF fractions even more.
I tend to “look the other way” on the synthetic vitamins. While they may not be the best, their presence is secondary to the immune benefits, and I don’t see them harming my patients. When I set out to nourish a weak organ or give vitamin and mineral support, I’ll use another line that’s entirely food based, from Standard Process. And some patients certainly get both types of supplements, especially my cancer guys.
I would like to give my two cents here! Dr. Falconer has been my vet for almost 5 years. I had a kitty (Rosebud) who was diagnosed with non-operable nasal cancer in Feb. 2008 and the hideous, although well meaning, options allopathic medicine offered were not for me and definitely not for Rosie. And so began my relationship with Dr. Falconer. He put us on the raw diet and homeopathic remedies as needed and Rosie had a wonderful four and three quarter years after diagnosis until she succomed to the cancer last October. She did quite well up to the very end and we never sought treatment elsewhere in those nearly five years.
That being said, I have two other cats, who at the time of Rosie’s diagnosis, were having some health issues of their own (urinary crystals – which were life threatening a time or two, and colds), so I started them on the raw diet too. Since the diet change, not once, have either of them had a health issue, nor have they been to the local vet clinic for check ups. My kitties could not be any happier or healthier, so I don’t see the need for it and I also don’t want to be pressured into getting vaccines.
I have however, been thinking about getting their teeth cleaned (which would be a first for them and so I have no idea what that entails). Upon inspection, I noticed they have tartar buildup on the back molars, and not so sweet smelling breath. Dr. Falconer, what is your homeopathic view on this subject?
Thanks for your perspective here. I think you’ve gotten really good at identifying symptoms and will likely be fine without exams.
Teeth that build tartar and/or calculus (the build up that almost looks like plaster, distorting the outline of the tooth) indicates a health problem. The animal is laying down too much calcium here. In the joints, we call it arthritis, in the lens of the eye, it’s called cataract, and in the bladder, stones. Teeth can catch it, and we call it calculus.
In past cases, where I wasn’t focusing necessarily on teeth, but the Whole Animal, I’ve seen the teeth clean up. Surprised me, actually. So, what happened? We must have changed the metabolism in getting the animal well, and they reabsorbed the excess calcium that was on the teeth.
I also love to see raw bones be a regular part of the diet, though that’s more difficult in cats, especially older cats. Worth trying though. See the linked page for some ways to try it on them.
So, were they my cats, I’d be starting them on “Whole Cat” remedies, which as you may remember with Rosie, takes a lot of questions and answers about the individual, looking back at historical ways of being ill, etc. and dosing infrequently with a remedy for the individual’s constitution until we see her symptoms go away. It takes time and attention to detail, but the end result is overall better health, not just cleaner teeth.
I’ve always loved your comment to me: “I treat animals not blood work”.
That statement always makes me step back and think again. Since I work in an animal shelter utilizing allopathic medicine on a daily basis, I always have to step back, take a deep breath, and think again. I also have to stand my ground on the vaccine and heart-worm issue, which is hard at times in the face of parvo, distemper, and heart-worm disease, which I see almost on a daily basis.
The voice in my heart says I’m doing it right, but my daily world, which I love and am passionate about, fight daily. Then I look at the animals lounging in my living room, healthy and happy, and I know I’m doing my best and I’ll get better all the time.
You’re doing great, Gina. You’ve learned from your own animals at home just how effective homeopathy and natural diets are, so you own it. That’s half the battle. Reading about it is nothing compared to seeing the results with your own eyes, in your own loved ones.
I’d love to do more prevention in your shelter! There’s so much that’s been done with nosodes in infectious diseases, both in animals and humans. I’d be willing to consult for free if you have a parvo or distemper or kennel cough issue, and charge you only for the nosodes. We could accomplish a lot with a little input!
See if the “powers that be” would be willing to allow it. It won’t cost much and there’s no risk, only potential for benefit. I’m helping a pup rescuer in San Antonio, and she rarely needs me. I know we’ve helped several parvo pups, and likely prevented others. See what you can do.