Regular vet checkups can help your pet preserve and achieve long-term physical health. During these routine exams, your vet will check for early symptoms of illness, internal damage and other serious medical conditions. Our veterinarians in the Pacific Northwest explain why checkups are essential.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
Even while your animal appears to be perfectly healthy, they should still see the vet for a checkup once or twice a year. Also known as a wellness exam, these visits help your pet maintain their ideal health.
By bringing your healthy vet to see the veterinarian on a regular basis, you allow your vet the opportunity to assess your pet's overall health and test for diseases that may be difficult to identify in their early stages (such as cancers or parasites).
Your pet will benefit from having these conditions treated as early as possible. During your pet's routine health checkup, the veterinarian's purpose is two-fold: to prevention conditions where possible and to spot early signs of disease so that they can be treated before they become more serious, perhaps even life-threatening.
How often should my pet have a vet checkup?
How often your pet should visit the vet for a checkup depends on your animal's previous medical history, current health issues, age and other factors. If your animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet twice a year or more to ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Your vet will be able to tell you how often your pet should come in for a physical exam.
Due to the fact that their immune systems are still developing, kittens and puppies can be especially vulnerable to many illnesses that adult pets can easily fight off. This is why your vet may recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months of your puppy or kitten's life.
Generally, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup on an annual basis. However, if your pet is in a high-risk category, such as a giant breed dog or senior cat or dog, they should visit a veterinarian more frequently to watch for signs of illness due to their increased risk of health conditions. In these cases, twice-yearly dog or cat checkups are an excellent idea.
How to Prepare
When you bring your pet in for their annual checkup, your vet will need some essential up-to-date information on your canine or feline friend, especially if this is a first visit. Bring notes on your pet's:
- Past medical records, including vaccination history
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Recent travel history or tick bites
- Eating and drinking habits
- Toilet habits
You may also choose to bring toys or a favourite blanket for comfort. While cats should be in a carrier, dogs should be on a leash.
What does a pet checkup involve?
Your veterinarian will review your pet's medical history and ask whether you have any concerns. They will also inquire about your pet's exercise routine, diet, urination, thirst level, bowel movements and other aspects of their lifestyle and general behavior.
In some cases, you may be asked to collect and bring in a fresh sample of your pet's feces (bowel movement) so the veterinarian can complete a fecal exam. These exams help to identify whether your pet is suffering from any number of problematic intestinal parasites. These parasites may otherwise be challenging to detect.
The physical exam is next. While this will typically cover the following, the vet may take time to do more in-depth checks or tests depending on your pet's requirements:
- Measuring your pet’s gait, stance and weight
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
- Looking into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness or redness. Will also look for issues with eyelids
- 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 your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues — from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Checking 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
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 next steps or potential treatments.
Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup, based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.
Additional Wellness Testing Recommended for Pets
Along with the basic checkup exam points we list above, the vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in many cases, early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than having the condition treated once it has become more advanced.
Tests for blood count, thyroid hormone testing and urinalysis may be done, in addition to diagnostic testing such as X-Rays and imaging.
Ending the 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.