Bringing your furry friend in once or twice a year for a scheduled examination can help monitor their health and prevent serious issues from developing. Here, our vets in Westport talk about the importance of annual dog and cat wellness exams and what to expect during your pet's routine checkup.
The Importance of Annual Dog & Cat Wellness Exams
You should book this routine physical exam with your veterinarian once or twice a year, even when your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These wellness checkups help your pet achieve and maintain their ideal health.
By bringing your healthy animal to routinely visit your veterinarian, you are giving your vet the chance to assess your pet's general health and well-being, test your pet for illness and disease, and assess them for conditions that respond best to treatments in their earliest stages.
During the checkup, your vet has two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to spot early symptoms of diseases so that they can be treated before they develop into more serious problems.
How often should you schedule a routine dog or cat checkup?
Your pet's medical history and age will influence how frequently your vet will advise you to bring your pet in for a visit.
If your cat, dog, or other animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend booking an appointment at your vet's twice each year or more to ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and tell you how often they should come in for a physical exam.
Since puppies' and kittens' immune systems are still developing, young pets may be especially susceptible to illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. Because of this, your vet may recommend that you book and monthly checkup for your puppy or kitten during their first few months.
Typically, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup every year. That said, some pets such as senior dogs and cats, in addition to giant breed dogs, face an increased risk of many conditions and should see a veterinarian more often to monitor for early signs of illness. In these cases, it's a good idea to bring your pet in for twice-yearly cat or dog checkups.
How to Prepare for Your Pet's Routine Checkup
There is some information that can be helpful to your vet during the exam, especially if this is your pet's first visit. Here are some notes that can be helpful for your vet during the visit:
- Tick bites
- Eating and drinking habits
- Toilet habits
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Recent travel history
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Food (what kind do they eat)
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.
What happens during a dog or cat routine checkup?
At each annual wellness exam, your vet will review any new medical concerns and your pet's previous medical history. You can ask any questions that you have during this time. They will also inquire about your pet's diet, exercise routine, bowel movements, urination schedule, and any other relevant aspects of their life or general behavior.
Your vet may also request that you bring a fresh stool sample to the appointment to allow them to perform a fecal test. These exams help to identify whether or not your pet is dealing with several problematic parasites that would otherwise be very difficult to detect.
Next, the vet will physically examine your pet. While this will usually cover the following points, the vet may take time to do more depending on your pet’s needs:
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- Inspecting your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues–from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
- Look into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, or redness. Will also look for issues with eyelids
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
- Examining your furry companion’s coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
- Check for any signs of illness by feeling along your pet’s body (palpating). These symptoms include lameness or limited range of motion, or signs of swelling or pain
- Measuring your pet’s gait, stance, and weight
If no issues are detected along the way, your vet can likely run through this list quickly and seamlessly–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 the next steps or potential treatments.
Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup, based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.
What if my dog or cat needs additional testing?
Alongside basic checkup exams and tests, your vet may also recommend additional wellness testing for your pet. Remember that in many instances, the early detection and treatment of a disease or health issue is far less expensive and invasive than having the condition treated when it has progressed into a more advanced stage.
Tests for blood count, thyroid hormone testing, and urinalysis may be done, in addition to diagnostic testing such as X-rays and imaging.
What to Expect at the End of the Routine Vet Checkup
Once your pet has been examined, tested, and given their annual vaccines, your vet will dedicate time to explaining their findings to you.
If the veterinarian has found any signs of injury or illness, 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 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.