By bringing your companion in for ongoing veterinary checkups and care you allow your vet the opportunity to monitor your pet's ongoing health. Here, our vets in Bakersfield talk about the purpose of routine visits and what to expect when you attend your pet's annual wellness exam.
Why is an annual checkup for dogs and cats important?
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. During these exams, your vet will be able to monitor your pet's ongoing health and perform any preventive care needed. 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 are pet wellness exams needed?
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 cat or dog then a complete examination will likely be recommended on an annual basis.
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.
How long do vet appointments take?
If you are wondering 'How long does a vet checkup take?', the answer will vary. The length of your pet's annual exam can be short if they are healthy and have been to the vet recently. Visits for other pets or in other situations may take longer, especially if there are health concerns or if additional testing or procedures are needed.
What does a dog or cat wellness exam consist of?
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) 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 assess whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
Your vet will likely provide ongoing feedback while performing the exam, these steps will go quickly if there are no concerns found.
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 might my pet need additional testing?
While the list above contains the standard steps that are part of a routine exam, your pet may be in need of further diagnostics such as X-rays or bloodwork. 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 your dog or cat is a senior then your vet may need to perform additional diagnostic imaging or tests to help monitor their changing body and health.
What happens after my pet's wellness exam?
Once your dog or cat has been fully evaluated and all preventive care has been administered, your vet will discuss the results of the visit 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 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.