Pet wellness exams - or pet checkups - give your vet the opportunity to help prevent disease and spot the earliest signs of developing health problems. Today, our Huntersville vets discuss more about the importance of routine exams for your dog or cat and what they entail.
Why Cat & Dog Checkups Matter
Your pet's yearly wellness exam is a vet 'checkup' for your four-legged family member. Routine exams take place once or twice a year while your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These dog checkups and cat checkups are a great way to help your pet achieve optimal health by focusing on prevention and early disease detection.
By taking your healthy dog or cat in to see their vet once or twice a year, you give your veterinarian the opportunity to monitor your pet's overall health and check for the earliest signs of diseases that could otherwise be difficult to detect - such as cancers and parasites.
How Often to Schedule Pet Checkups
How often your pet should see their vet for routine exams depends upon your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and breed risk for developing diseases. If your dog or cat is healthy at the moment but has a history of illness or a higher than average risk of developing a disease, seeing your vet twice a year can help to ensure that your pet stays as healthy as possible.
Yearly checkups are typically suitable for healthy adult pets.
Dogs and cats that are very young or very old tend to be more susceptible to illness. If you have a new puppy or kitten it can be a good idea to visit your vet once a month for the first 4 - 6 months.
Geriatric pets and animals such as giant breed dogs face an increased risk of developing disease, so vets often recommend twice-yearly wellness exams for these pets. This will give your veterinarian an opportunity to check your pet for the earliest signs of disease, and get treatment started before the condition becomes more severe.
What Happens at a Dog or Cat Checkup
When you bring your pet in to see us for their wellness exam your vet will review your pet's medical history and ask if there is anything about your dog or cat's health or behavior that you are concerned about. Your vet will also ask you about your pet's diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, level of thirst, and urination.
Often vets request that pet owners bring along a fresh sample of their pet's stool (bowel movement) in order for a fecal exam to be performed. Fecals are a valuable tool when it comes to detecting intestinal parasites that can severely impact your pet's health.
Next, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet which generally includes the following:
- Weighing your pet
- Checking the animal's stance and gait for irregularities
- Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Listening to your animal's heart and lungs
- Taking a close look at your dog or cat's skin for issues such as dryness, parasites, or lumps
- Inspecting the overall condition of your pet's coat, watching for dandruff or bald patches
- Checking eyes for redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Examining your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Looking at your pet's teeth for any indication of periodontal disease, damage or tooth decay
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
All of these health checks and more can be done quickly and seamlessly if no issues are detected along the way. In most cases your vet will run through these checks while casually chatting with you.
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.
Additional Testing Recommended for Some Dogs & Cats
In addition to the general health checks listed above, your vet may also recommend extra diagnostic 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.
Discussing Finding With Your Vet
Once your pet's annual dog or cat exam is complete, and your pet has received their annual vaccines, your vet will take the time to discuss any findings with you.
If your vet 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.