Bringing your cat or dog in for regular check-ups helps prevent various health problems your pet might face. In this article, our veterinarians at La Pine emphasize the significance of these routine pet vet exams.
The Importance of Routine Exams
Your veterinarian should examine your pet once or twice a year, even if your animal appears perfectly healthy. Regular wellness check-ups enable you and your vet team to support your pet's well-being and happiness actively.
By consistently attending wellness check-ups, even when your pet appears healthy, you allow your veterinarian to evaluate your pet's overall health and screen for diseases, illnesses, and conditions that may be challenging to detect in their early stages (including cancers and parasites).
Early treatment is beneficial for potentially serious medical conditions. During the check-up, your vet aims to prevent the development of health issues when possible and identify early signs of disease so that they can be treated before they become more severe problems.
How Often Your Pet Should Be Examined
You should take your pet for wellness check-ups at different frequencies based on factors like their age and medical history.
If your pet has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling wellness checks with your vet twice a year to maintain their health. Your vet can assess your pet and determine the appropriate frequency for physical exams.
Because young pets, such as puppies or kittens, are still developing their immune systems, they may be more susceptible to certain illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. To ensure your young pet receives the necessary care during their early months, your vet might suggest monthly check-ups for the first few months.
Typically, adult dogs and cats with no prior history of illness should visit the vet for a check-up once a year. However, senior dogs, cats, and giant breed dogs are at an increased risk of developing additional health issues and may require more frequent visits to monitor for early signs of illness. In such cases, bringing your pet in for check-ups twice a year is advisable.
Preparing for Your Pet's Routine Exam
Your vet needs some basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first wellness check with us. Bring notes about your pet, including their:
- Recent travel history
- Past medical records
- Eating and drinking habits
- Current medications (names & doses)
- Vaccine history
- Tick bite history
- Food (type & amount)
- Waste elimination habits
You may also want to bring a favorite blanket or toys for comfort. While dogs should be on a leash, cats should be in a carrier.
Elements of Your Pet's Exam
When you take your pet to the veterinarian, the vet will review your animal's medical history and inquire about any concerns you may have. They will also ask about your pet's diet, exercise routine, thirst, bowel movements, urination, and other aspects of their lifestyle and general behavior.
In certain situations, you may need to collect and bring a fresh sample of your pet's feces (bowel movement) for a fecal exam. These diagnostic tests can help identify the presence of problematic intestinal parasites that might be difficult to detect otherwise.
Afterward, the vet will conduct a physical examination of your pet. While this is not a comprehensive list, here are some of the steps involved in a routine veterinary exam for your pet:
- Measuring their gait, stance, and weight
- Listening to your pet's lungs and heart with a stethoscope
- Checking the eyelids for any issues, in addition to examining their eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, or redness
- Assessing your pet for any signs of illness, such as limited motion or signs of swelling or pain, by palpating (feeling along) their body.
- Feeling the abdomen to check internal organ function and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Examining your pet's nails and feet for signs of health issues or conditions
- Checking inside your pet's ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
- Inspecting their teeth for signs of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
- Examining your pet's fur, skin, and/or coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss, dandruff, unusual lumps, or bumps
If your vet finds no cause for concern, the wellness check is usually completed fairly quickly and with few issues. 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 your pet's next steps or potential treatments.
Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog check-up based on your animal's appropriate schedule.
Additional Exam Tests
In addition to the basic check-up areas we discussed earlier, your vet might also suggest extra wellness tests. Keep in mind that, in most cases, catching and treating severe illnesses early is cheaper, less invasive, and less demanding on your pet compared to treating them once the condition has progressed further.
These additional tests may include checking your pet's blood count, examining thyroid hormone levels, performing a urinalysis, and performing diagnostic tests such as X-rays and imaging.
Following Your Pet's Exam
Once your pet has been physically examined, had any diagnostic tests run on them, and given their annual vaccines, your vet will dedicate time to explaining their findings to you.
If your vet has found signs of injury, illness, or current or potential conditions, 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 or maintenance of their current 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.