By taking your cat or dog to the vet regularly for routine wellness exams, you are giving your vet the chance to monitor your pet's health and examine them for any signs of illness. Here, our Grand Prairie vets explain why routine exams are important for cats and dogs and what you can expect at these checkups.
The Importance of Routine Vet Exams
Routine wellness exams are veterinary 'check-ups' for your pet. These dog and cat checkups occur one or two times a year when your four-legged friend seems to be in perfect health.
Routine exams are one of the best ways you can help your pet achieve life-long optimal health by focusing on early disease detection and prevention. By taking your healthy dog or cat to the vet regularly, you are letting your veterinarian monitor your pet's overall health and look for signs of diseases that may be hard to detect in the early stages (like parasites and cancers).
When treatments for diseases start early, cats and dogs are given their best chance at having good treatment outcomes.
Wellness exams also provide your vet with the chance to offer you valuable information about your furry friend's diet and exercise routines. Ensuring that your pet is maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise helps them live a long and healthy life. Routine exams allow your vet to help you help your animal.
At Carrier Animal Hospital, we wholeheartedly believe that prevention is much better than treatment when it comes to the health of your cat or dog. When you take your pet to see us for their exam we'll make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date and that you are aware of the parasite-prevention products that can help keep your animal healthy.
Routine Wellness Exam Frequency
How often your pet should see their veterinarian for wellness exams depends upon their age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and the breed's 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 your adult cat or dog is healthy, we will recommend bringing them in for a wellness exam once annually.
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 a disease, twice-yearly wellness exams are recommended. This will allow your veterinarian to check your pet for the earliest signs of disease, and get treatment started before the condition becomes more severe.
What to Expect at Your Cat or Dog's Checkup
When you take your animal companion to our veterinary office for their wellness exam, your vet will go over your cat or dog's medical history and ask if anything is worrying you about your pet's health. Your vet will also ask you questions about your pet's exercise routine, diet, level of thirst, urination, and lifestyle.
Our veterinarians often ask pet parents to bring in a fresh sample of their cat or dog's stool (bowel movement) so we can conduct a fecal exam. Fecal exams are an important tool when it comes to finding intestinal parasites that could severely affect your animal's health.
Following this, your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your pet which will most likely consist of the following:
- Listening to your animal's heart and lungs
- Weighing your pet
- Checking the animal's stance and gait for irregularities
- Looking at your pet's teeth for any indication of periodontal disease, damage, or tooth decay
- Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Checking eyes for redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Inspecting the overall condition of your pet's coat, watching for dandruff or bald patches
- Take a close look at your dog or cat's skin for issues such as dryness, parasites, or lumps
- 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 these checks and more can be done quickly and seamlessly provided that no issues are detected along the way.
Your cat or dog will also be given their annual vaccines at their wellness exam appointment, according to their appropriate vaccination schedule. 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 Tests Recommended for Some Pets
As well as the general checks listed above, your vet may also recommend additional diagnostic 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 tests listed below screen for a variety of conditions and could help spot the earliest signs of disease, even before symptoms arise:
- Thyroid hormone testing
- Complete blood count (CDC)
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. These additional tests, performed each year, provide your vet with valuable information regarding your pet's health and the progression of any age-related diseases. This proactive approach to veterinary care can help your pet to maintain comfortable mobility and good health into their old age.
Following Your Pet's Checkup
After your pet has been examined and given their scheduled vaccinations, your vet will designate time to talk to you about their findings.
If your vet has uncovered any signs of injury or illness, they will talk to you about more detailed diagnostics or any treatment options that may be available.
If your pet gets a clean bill of health, your vet might provide you with recommendations or tips about 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.