TPR: just a few of the data points your veterinarian is collecting at your dog’s annual visit
Each month, we explain a few questions from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study questionnaire.
The veterinary baseline survey questions 55 to 63 center on the minimum data base collected during every physical examination. Veterinarians perform these evaluations over and over, but have you ever wondered what they’re checking when he or she presses on a dog’s gums or pinches their skin?
Most veterinary examinations begin with a measurement of weight. This measurement gives the veterinarian information on trends over time. Although most of us think of body weight as it relates to food intake, changes in body weight also reflect disease states and hydration status. Dehydration can lead to significant weight loss. Fluid retention, common in many diseases, will cause sudden increases in body weight.
Temperature, pulse rate and respiratory rate, “TPR,” are simple measurements that tell us a lot about the internal environment of our pets. These data are collected during every exam.
Veterinarians participating in the Golden Retriever Lifetime study are asked to provide height, a measurement not typically included in most routine physical examinations. Height gives us additional information on a participant’s overall physique.
The questionnaire includes an evaluation of body condition. Since simple body weight measurement doesn’t always reflect whether a dog is overweight or underweight, scoring systems were developed to help determine the true body condition of a patient. Body conditions scores also are helpful in guiding weight loss programs.
Veterinarians also look at mucous membrane color and capillary refill time. The most common place to evaluate mucous membrane color is in the mouth by noting gum (gingiva) color. Pale gingiva can indicate anemia or poor blood flow; a bluish tinge can indicate poor blood oxygenation; and a yellow color usually is associated with high blood bilirubin (commonly called jaundice). Veterinarians also will press their finger against the gingiva until the area turns white, then release and count the seconds until the color returns. This is called the capillary refill time, and is a rough assessment of hydration and blood flow. In addition, many veterinarians will note if the gums are moist or tacky, which can give clues to a patient’s hydration status.
Question 63 asks veterinarians to assess hydration status. Most owners have witnessed a veterinarian “tent” their dog’s skin. The test consists of pulling up the loose skin and then watching how quickly the skin returns to normal. The longer the skin stays tented, the more dehydrated the patient. While the test is not meant to replace the more accurate bloodwork tests for hydration, it is one quick way of checking a patient in the exam room.
Morris Animal Foundations’s Golden Retriever Lifetime study allows us to evaluate the performance of these simple tests over time, and provides some data on the overall body condition and physical size of our population. These parameters will be used later when data is analyzed for associations between disease conditions and examination results, and could provide useful information for veterinarians to use during their routine exams for all patients.