By bringing your pet to the vet for routine wellness exams you are providing your veterinarian with the opportunity to monitor your cat or dog's health and check for early signs of illnesses. In this blog, our Walnut Creek vets explain why routine wellness exams are important for your pet and what you can expect at these regular veterinary visits.
Why Wellness Exams Are Important
Routine wellness exams are veterinary 'check-ups' for your cat or dog. These wellness examinations occur one or two times a year when your furry friend appears to be in good health. These checkups for cats and dogs are one of the best ways to help your animal achieve optimal health because they focus on prevention and early disease detection. By bringing your pet to the vet regularly when they are still healthy, you are giving your veterinarian the chance to evaluate the overall health of your cat or dog and test for diseases that may be tricky to detect in their early stages (such as parasites and cancers).
Booking a Routine Wellness Exam for Your Pet
How often your cat or dog should visit the vet for a wellness exam depends on a variety of factors including their lifestyle, age, breed, previous medical history, and level of risk for developing diseases. If your pet is currently healthy but has a history of illness or a higher than average risk of developing a disease, you may need to see your vet twice a year to make sure your furry friend stays as healthy as possible.
Our vets recommend wellness exams once a year for adult pets that are in good health.
Animals that are very young or very old tend to be more susceptible to illness. If you have a new puppy or kitten we recommend visiting 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 certain diseases, 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 You Can Expect At Your Cat or Dog's 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 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.
Then, your vet will implement a physical examination of your cat or dog which typically consists of the following:
- Listening to your animal's heart and lungs
- Weighing your pet
- Checking eyes for redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Looking at your pet's stance and gait for irregularities
- Inspecting the overall condition of your pet's coat, watching for dandruff or bald patches
- Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- 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
- Examining your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
- 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
All of the exams and tests detailed above and more can be completed seamlessly and quickly if there aren't any problems spotted along the way. Your vet will probably even have a conversation with you as they complete this thorough examination.
Your cat or dog will also be given their annual vaccines depending on their appropriate vaccination schedule. Puppy and kitten vaccinations as well as booster shots for adult cats and dogs are an essential part of giving your pet their best chance at long-term optimal health. Keeping your animal up to date on vaccines throughout their life will help to protect your four-legged friend from a variety of contagious, possibly serious, diseases and conditions.
Additional Tests Recommended for Some Pets
As well as the general checks listed above, your veterinarian may also recommend additional wellness 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 become more advanced.
The tests listed below screen for a variety of conditions and are helpful in detecting the earliest signs of disease, even before your pet starts developing any symptoms:
- Thyroid hormone testing
- Complete blood count (CDC)
If you have a senior pet or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic tests may be recommended such as X-rays and other imaging.
At The End of Your Cat or Dog's Wellness Exam
After your pet's checkup has been completed and they have been given all of their annual vaccines, your vet will designate time to explain to you any findings they have made.
If your veterinarian has found any signs of an injury or illness, they will take the time to talk to you about more in-depth diagnostics, or the potential treatment options that are available.
If your kitty or pup has been given a clean bill of health, your vet might provide you with 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.