When it comes to your dog limping or cat not jumping it is not necessarily age related. Previously we talked about the various causes for these changes but how do we track it down? In looking for infectious disease causes for behavioral changes the place to start is with a history and complete physical by your vet. This should include as much information as you can provide regarding any changes in your pet’s habits or behavior. No one knows your dog or cat as well as you and in that capacity you can provide more information than nearly anything else that we as veterinarians, can attain. Next the physical exam begins with a thorough look at the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Also examining the mouth includes the tongue, the teeth as well as the tonsils and any other oral structures that your pet is patient enough to allow. From there we check all the lymph nodes to determine if any are swollen. Using the stethoscope to note the heartbeat and its rhythm as well as “auscultating” (listening) for any abnormal heart sounds such as heart murmurs or moist breathing sounds concludes this part of the exam. Finally, “palpating” or gently feeling and manipulating the abdomen will allow us to feel internal structures such as kidneys and intestines. Once this part of the exam is completed, in depth evaluation of the legs and joints is essential in localizing the apparent cause for lameness. Observation of your pet’s gait as well as range of motion evaluation is very helpful.
From there blood testing is often indicated. Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency virus testing is essential in assessing your cat’s health as well as testing for Bartonella, the bacteria that is responsible for “cat scratch disease” in people. In dogs, evaluating through lab testing for heartworm as well as tick borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis is critical. In both dogs and cats additional testing maybe indicated and suggested by your veterinarian. If your pet is to be placed on medication a thorough blood chemistry and blood count should be performed to help eliminate any possible side effects that your pet could experience.
Lastly, radiology or x-rays are performed. These may be limited to the leg or joint that appears to be affected or may include other areas of the body to see if there is an indication of other disease processes.
Next we will address possible therapies that may be useful depending on what has been revealed in the above evaluations.