A loving home goes a long way toward the health and well-being of cats and dogs. But often that is not quite enough. Below is our list of your pet’s top health care needs. This great post by Off Leash K9 Phoenix will also help you find out if it’s time to start training your dog.

The Physical Exam

This is the most important part of an annual wellness program. Pets can’t tell us when they don’t feel well. That’s where a good veterinarian can help by altering the course of a disease if caught early enough.

Heartworm Lifecycle
During a physical exam, we will conduct a thorough head-to-toe examination of the pet — starting at the head working our way to the tail. During the exam, we check your pet’s mouth for broken teeth or gingivitis, the eyes for cataracts or glaucoma, the ears for infection or parasites, and the neck for the pet’s lymph nodes and thyroid gland.

Next, we will listen to your pet’s chest for a heart murmur or irregular beat — which are signs of heart disease. We also listen to the lungs; feel the abdomen for irregularities in the abdominal organs; and check the hips and elbows for swollen or painful joints and the hind end for hernias, abnormal growths, or anal gland problems.

Finally, we watch the animal move around the room for signs of pain or neurological issues.


We will recommend vaccines based on specific factors, such as whether a cat stays indoors, if a dog goes swimming, the local climate, and the diseases present in your area. Optional vaccines include feline leukemia (recommended for outdoor cats) and canine bordetella or kennel cough (recommended for dogs who visit a groomer or get boarded). Both dogs and cats need what are called core vaccines including rabies.

Core vaccines are those recommended for every pet regardless of lifestyle or geographic location. Vaccines are important as they prevent potentially fatal diseases.

Dental Exam
It is important that dental exams be conducted yearly. The frequency of professional dental cleaning should be determined with your veterinarian based on the dental exam. Good dental health is important because excessive bacteria of the mouth can stress other organs of the body — and dental disease can be painful for your pet.

Parasite Testing
Fleas and heartworm can affect pets and parasites, such as roundworm and ringworm, can affect people as well. We recommend a fecal sample to check for parasites in the intestine. Preventive medicine is recommended to protect against parasites.

Lab Work

Based on a pet’s breed and age, we might recommend additional targeted diagnostic testing. Blood work, for example, will check for items that can’t be detected on a physical exam such as signs of diabetes, an underlying infection, or poor kidney health. Detecting and treating disease at its earliest stage is best for the pet and less costly to the pet owner in the long run. Of course, owners always have the ultimate say in a pet’s care. But a collaborative approach is often best for your pet’s health and longevity.

Contact Us
We are eager to help keep your pet healthy every year — and throughout the year. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (408) 374-5850.

Kirkwood Animal Hospital

Best wishes from the entire staff at Kirkwood Animal Hospital.