Wellness Exams Matter
Your pet's annual wellness exam is a veterinary 'check-up' for your animal. Wellness exams take place once or twice a year while your pet appears to be healthy. These examinations are a great way to help your pet achieve optimal health by focusing on prevention and early detection. By taking your healthy pet in to see their vet regularly, you give your veterinarian the opportunity to monitor your pet's overall health and check for diseases which can be difficult to spot in the early stages (such as cancers and parasites).
How Often Should My Pet Be Examined
Depending upon your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle, breed and risk for developing disease, your pet may need to visit the vet more than just annually. 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.
For pets in good health that are at their adult age, yearly wellness exams are recommended. 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 a good idea. 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 to Expect When You Attend a Wellness Exam for Your Pet
When you bring your pet in for a wellness exam, your veterinarian will carefully go through your pet's medical history. They will inquire about any specific concerns you have regarding your pet's health or behavior. Additionally, your vet will discuss your pet's diet, lifestyle, exercise habits, water intake, and urination patterns.
Many vets request that pet parents bring along a fresh sample of their pet's feces (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
- 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
- Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Listening to the animal's heart and lungs
- Taking a close look at your dog or cat's skin for issues such as dryness, parasites, or lumps
- 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
These checks can be done quickly and seamlessly if no issues are detected along the way. Your vet will likely even maintain a conversation with you as they go along.
Annual vaccinations will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based on the appropriate schedule for your animal.
Additional Wellness Testing Recommended for Pets
As well as the general checks listed above, your veterinarian may also recommend additional wellness testing. When deciding whether your pet 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
- Thyroid hormone testing
If your pet is a senior animal or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended including x-rays and other imaging.
At The End of The Wellness Exam
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 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 animal 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.