When you bring your cat or dog to the vet for a routine checkup you are providing your vet with the opportunity to prevent and find any arising health conditions. In this blog, our Jacksonville vets discuss the reasons why pet checkups are important for cats and dogs as well as what you can expect at these veterinary wellness exams.
The Importance of Checkups for Cats & Dogs
Your cat or dog's annual routine exam is a veterinary 'checkup' for your four-legged companion. Routine wellness exams occur one or two times a year while your pet seems to be in good health. These pet checkups are an excellent way to help your pet achieve life-long optimal health by making prevention and early disease detection a priority.
By bringing your healthy cat or dog to the vet once or twice a year, you are providing your veterinarian with the opportunity to monitor your furry friend's overall health and check for the earliest signs of diseases that may be difficult to detect - such as parasites and cancers.
Scheduling a Checkup for Your Pet
The frequency you should be bringing your pet to the vet for routine exams depends on the risk of your pet's breed of developing diseases as well as the age, medical history, and lifestyle of your cat or dog. If your pet is currently healthy but, has a history of illness or a higher than average risk of developing a disease, taking them to the vet twice a year can help make sure your kitty or pup stays as healthy as possible.
We generally recommend yearly checkups for healthy adult cats and dogs.
Dogs and cats 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.
Geriatric pets and animals such as giant breed dogs face an increased risk of developing diseases, so vets often recommend twice-yearly wellness exams for these pets. 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 to Expect Your Cat or Dog's Checkup
When you take your pet to the vet for their wellness exam your vet will go over their medical history and ask if there is anything about your companion's behavior or health that is concerning you. Your vet will also have a conversation with you about your cat or dog's diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, level of thirst, and urination.
Lots of vets ask pet owners to bring in a fresh sample of their pet's stool (bowel movement) in order to conduct a fecal exam. Fecal exams are a valuable tool for finding intestinal parasites that could severely impact the health of your four-legged friend.
Next, your veterinarian will implement a physical assessment of your pet which typically consists of the following:
- Listening to the heart and lungs of your cat or dog
- 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
- Inspecting the overall condition of your pet's coat, watching for dandruff or bald patches
- Closely looking at your animal's skin for problems such as lumps, dryness, or parasites
- 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
- 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 see if the internal organs appear to be normal and check for signs of discomfort
All of these health checks and more could be completed quickly and seamlessly if no issues are found along the way. Most of the time your vet will perform these checks while chatting with you casually.
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 Tests Recommended for Some Pets
On top of the general health checks noted above, your vet might also recommend additional testing. When deciding if your pet should have additional testing it's important to remember that in many situations early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once they have entered their 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:
- 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.
At The End of Your Cat or Dog's Checkup
After your pet has been examined and your pet has been given their annual vaccines, your vet will designate time to explain any findings with you.
If your vet has found any signs of illness or injury, they will take the time to talk to you about more detailed diagnostics, or treatment options that are available.
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.