Why is it important to bring my pet in for a routine exam?
We recommend booking a routine physical exam for your pet with your veterinarian once or twice a year, even when your cat or dog appears to be healthy. With these wellness checkups, our goal is to help your pet achieve and maintain its ideal health.
By taking your healthy animal to visit your vet on a regular basis, you afford your vet the opportunity to assess your pet's general health and test for conditions, illnesses, and diseases that may be difficult to identify in their early stages (including parasites and cancers).
These conditions can benefit from early treatment. Your vet will have two priorities during the checkup: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to spot early symptoms of disease so that they can be treated before they develop into more complex, serious, or long-term problems.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
Your pet's age and medical history will determine how often they should see the veterinarian for a checkup.
If your dog, cat, or other animal has been sick in the past but is currently healthy, we recommend booking an appointment at your vet's twice a year or more to ensure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and tell you how often they should come in for a physical exam.
Since your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets can be especially susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets may be able to overcome easily. This is why your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months.
A typical adult dog with no history of illness should see us for an annual vet checkup. That said, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant breed dogs, face an increased risk of many conditions and should see a veterinarian more often to watch for early signs of illness. In these cases, it's a good idea to bring your pet in for twice-yearly cat or dog checkups.
Preparing for Your Pet's Checkup
Your vet will need this basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first visit. Bring notes on your animal's:
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Recent travel history
- Tick bites
- Toilet habits
- Food (what kind and how much do they eat)
You may also want to bring a favorite toy or blanket for comfort. While cats should be in a carrier, dogs should be on a leash.
What does a checkup for pets involve?
Your vet will review your pet's medical history and ask if you have any concerns about your animal's health. They will also ask about your pet's bowel movements, urination, thirst level, diet, exercise routine, and other aspects of their lifestyle and general behavior.
You may also be asked to collect and bring along a fresh sample of your pet's feces (bowel movement) so a fecal exam can be completed. These exams help to identify whether any number of problematic intestinal parasites may be in your pet's system. These parasites may otherwise be difficult to detect.
Next, the vet will physically examine your pet. While this will usually cover the following items, your vet may take time to do more depending on your pet's needs:
- Measuring your pet’s gait, stance, and weight
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
- Looking into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, or redness. Will also look for issues with eyelids
- Checking for any signs of illness by feeling along your pet’s body (palpating). These symptoms include lameness or limited range of motion, or signs of swelling or pain
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
- Examining your furry companion’s coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
- Inspecting your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues — from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
If no issues are detected along the way, your vet can likely run through this list quickly and seamlessly — they may even chat with you as they do so. If an issue is identified, your vet will explain what they have noticed and recommend the next steps or potential treatments.
Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup, based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.
Additional Wellness Testing is Recommended for Pets
Along with the basic check-up exam points we list above, the vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in many cases, early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than having the condition treated once it has become more advanced.
Tests for blood count, thyroid hormone testing and a urinalysis may be done, in addition to diagnostic testing such as X-rays and imaging.
Ending the Vet Checkup
Once your pet has been examined, tested, and given its annual vaccines, your vet will dedicate time to explaining its findings to you.
If the veterinarian has found any signs of injury or illness, they will recommend more detailed diagnostics or potential treatment options to help.
If your pet is healthy overall, this discussion may focus on improvements to exercise and diet routines, caring for your pet’s oral health, and checking that essentials such as appropriate parasite prevention are monitored.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.