Bringing your pet in for routine exams and preventive care is an easy way to help ensure they stay strong, happy, and healthy. Here, our Cumming vets talk about what to expect when you bring your dog or cat in for a wellness exam and what tests may be done during your pet's checkup.
My pet seems fine, why should they see the vet?
Your pet's annual wellness exam is a veterinary 'check-up' for your cat or dog. Wellness exams - or pet checkups - take place once or twice a year while your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These examinations 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 regularly, you allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet's overall health and check for diseases that can be difficult to spot in the early stages (such as cancers and parasites).
How often should I schedule dog or cat wellness exams?
The recommended frequency of your pet's wellness exams depends upon your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and breed risk for developing diseases. If your animal 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.
If you have a healthy, adult dog or cat, your vet will likely recommend visits once or twice a year for a wellness exam and any outstanding preventive care.
Animals 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.
If you have a senior pet or an animal such as a giant breed dog that faces an increased risk of developing disease, twice-yearly wellness exams are recommended. This will allow your veterinarian to check your pet for the earliest signs of disease, and get treatment started before the condition becomes more severe.
What will happen at my dog or cat's 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.
Many veterinarians request that pet owners bring along a fresh sample of their pet's stool (bowel movement) 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.
At this time, your vet will perform the physical portion of this wellness exam which can include:
- 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 assess whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
This exam will be completed relatively quickly as long as there are no issues found. 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 on 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?
Along with the standard wellness exam, your vet may perform additional diagnostic testing on your pet. 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 my vet has done the checkup?
At the end of the checkup, once the examination is complete and vaccines have been administered, your vet will take the time to share any findings.
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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.