Yearly physical checkups for your pet allow your veterinarian a chance to help prevent disease and detect the earliest signs of emerging health problems. Here, our Orlando vets discuss the importance of routine exams and what they involve.
Why Cat & Dog Checkups are Important
Your pet's annual routine exam is a veterinary 'checkup' for your canine or feline friend. Once or twice a year, your veterinarian should examine your pet, even when your animal seems perfectly healthy. These dog checkups and cat checkups are a fantastic way to help your pet achieve and maintain ideal health by focusing on prevention and early detection of disease.
By bringing your healthy dog or cat in to see the vet once or twice each year, you allow your veterinarian the chance to monitor your pet's general health and check for early signs of diseases that may otherwise be difficult to identify - including parasites and cancers.
Booking Your Pet's Checkup
Your animal's age, lifestyle, previous medical history and breed risk for developing diseases will determine how often your pet should see the vet for routine exams. If your pet has a history of illness but is healthy currently, or if their risk of developing a disease is higher than average, seeing your vet twice per year can help your pet remain as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
Generally, healthy adult pets should attend yearly checkups. Dogs and cats that are very young or entering their golden years tend to be more vulnerable to illness, so if you have a puppy or kitten it can be a good idea to visit your veterinarian monthly for the first 4 to 6 months.
Senior pets and animals including giant breed dogs will have an increased risk of developing illness or diseases, so vets will often recommend twice-yearly routine exams for these pets. This will allow your veterinarian an opportunity to check your pet for the earliest signs of disease and start treatment before the condition worsens.
What to Expect at a Dog or Cat Checkup
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 vets 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 health checks and more can be done quickly and seamlessly if no issues are detected along the way. In most cases your vet will run through these checks while casually chatting with you.
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.
Additional Testing Recommended for Some Dogs & Cats
As well as the general health checks listed above, your vet may also recommend additional testing. 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 you have a senior pet or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended including x-rays and other imaging.
At The End of Your Pet's Checkup
Once your pet's 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 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.