During your pet's annual wellness exam, your vet will take the opportunity to examine your furry companion for early signs of disease and to monitor your pet's general health. Today, our Glendale vets discuss what to expect when you bring your dog or cat in for a checkup.
My pet is healthy, why bother going to the vet?
We often refer to pets' annual wellness exams as veterinary checkups for cats and dogs. Wellness exams - or pet checkups - happen once or twice a year while your pet appears to be in good health.
These examinations are a fantastic way to help your pet achieve optimal health by focusing on prevention and detection of early disease. By taking your healthy dog or cat in for their regular checkup with their vet, you're allowing your veterinarian to monitor your pet's general health and check for diseases that may be difficult to detect in their early stages (such as parasites and cancers).
How often should my pet have a routine wellness exam?
Your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle and their breed's risk of developing diseases will determine how often your pet should come in for a routine wellness exam. If your animal is currently healthy but has a history of illness or higher-than-average risk of developing a disease, seeing your vet twice a year can help to ensure that your pet remains as healthy as possible.
Annual wellness exams are often ideal for adult pets in good health. Because very young and very old animals tend to be more susceptible to illness, it's likely a good idea to visit your vet once a month with your puppy or kitten until they reach 4-6 months old.
Senior pets entering their golden years should also see the vet for twice-yearly wellness exams, as should giant breed dogs that face an increased risk of developing disease. This will give your veterinarian the chance to check your pet for early signs of disease and begin treatment before the condition develops into a more serious problem.
What will happen at my pet's routine wellness exam?
During your pet's veterinary checkup, your vet will study your pet's medical history and ask if there is anything about your cat or dog's health or behavior that has you concerned. Your vet will also inquire about your pet's lifestyle, diet, exercise routine, urination, and level of thirst.
Many veterinarians ask that pet owners bring in a fresh sample of their pet's stool (bowel movement) so they can perform a fecal exam. Fecals are a valuable tool for detecting intestinal parasites, which can severely affect your pet's health.
Your veterinarian will then perform a physical examination of your pet. Generally, this includes the following:
- Weighing your pet
- Checking your pet's stance and gait for abnormalities
- Inspecting your pet's teeth for any sign of tooth decay, tooth damage, or periodontal disease
- Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or symptoms of more serious health concerns
- Listening to your cat or dog's lungs and heart
- Closely inspecting your pet's skin for issues such as lumps, dryness, or parasites
- Examining the general condition of your pet's coat, in particular looking for bald patches or dandruff
- Checking eyes for redness, excessive tearing, discharge, cloudiness, or eyelid issues
- Looking at your pet's ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, bacterial infection, or ear mites
- Feel (palpate) your pet's abdomen to assess whether the internal organs appear to be normal, and to look for signs of discomfort
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for signs of illness, such as symptoms of pain, swelling, and evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion
All of these checks and more can be done quickly and easily if no issues are detected along the way. No doubt your vet will continue to chat with you as they perform this comprehensive examination.
Annual vaccines will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based upon the appropriate schedule for your cat or dog. Vaccinations for puppies and kittens, as well as booster shots for adult dogs and cats, are an important part of giving your animal their very best chance at a long and happy life. Keeping your pet up to date on vaccines throughout their life will help to protect your furry friend against a range of contagious, potentially serious, diseases and conditions.
Why is my vet recommending extra tests for my pet?
As well as the general checks listed above, your veterinarian may also recommend additional wellness testing. When deciding whether your dog or cat should have additional testing it's important to keep in mind that in many cases early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once it has reached more advanced stages.
The following tests screen for a range of conditions and can help detect the very earliest signs of disease, even before symptoms appear:
- Complete blood count (CDC)
- Thyroid hormone testing
If you have a senior pet or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended including x-rays and other imaging.
What happens once the examination is complete?
Once the examination is complete, and your pet has received their annual vaccines, your vet will take the time to discuss any findings with you.
If your veterinarian has detected any signs of illness or injury, they will take the time to speak to you about more detailed diagnostics, or available treatment options.
If your dog or cat is given a clean bill of health, your vet may offer tips or recommendations regarding your pet's diet and exercise routines, oral health, or appropriate parasite prevention.
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.