Key to prevention of disease or illness, a comprehensive physical examination is the first-and most important-step you as an owner can take to ensure your pet's well-being and long-term health.

The information taken by your Horizon Animal Hospital practitioner at the initial examination becomes part of your pet's permanent medical history. This data establishes a baseline against which any subsequent changes in clinical signs and symptoms can be assessed

In addition, any deviations in your companion animal's behavior-his or her main form of communication with you-is important in the early detection of health problems and the reduction of potential risk factors. These factors can be critical if an emergency or sudden illness arises.

Your veterinarian will pay special attention to a host of important, health-related items, including: the development of your animal's teeth and enamel; abnormalities of the eyes; the absence of parasites in the ears; the presence of hernias; laxity or abnormality of the joints; normal heart and lung sounds; and optimal conditions of the skin and nails.

To preserve the health status of your pet, it is recommended that he or she receive yearly physical examinations, the equivalent of a human being going to the doctor about once every three years.