Routine wellness exams help to keep your pet healthy by giving your vet a yearly opportunity to examine your four-legged family member for early signs of disease and to monitor your pet's overall health. Here, our Scottsdale vets explain what to expect when you bring your dog or cat in for a routine exam.
My pet is healthy, why bother going to 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 give your veterinarian the opportunity 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 my pet have a routine wellness exam?
The frequency of your cat or dog’s wellness exams depends on your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and breed risk for developing diseases. If your cat or dog is healthy at the moment, but has a history of illness or a higher than average risk of developing a disease, seeing your veterinarian twice a year can help ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible.
For adult pets in good health yearly wellness exams are often ideal.
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 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 does a dog or cat wellness exam consist of?
When you bring your cat or dog to see us for their wellness exam, your veterinarian 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 veterinarian will also ask you about your pet's diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, thirst level, and possibly their urination frequency.
Many veterinarians 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 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?
In addition to the general checks listed above, your veterinarian might also recommend additional testing. When deciding whether your dog or cat should have additional testing, it's important to keep in mind that early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once it has reached its 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.
How long do vet checkups for dogs and cats take?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are many factors that can go into determining how long a vet appointment will take. To be on the safe side, plan for a wellness exam to take about 45 minutes to an hour. But just remember it could take longer.
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 gets a clean bill of health, your veterinarian might offer tips or recommendations regarding their 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.