Annual cat and dog exams for your pet give your veterinarian the opportunity to help prevent disease and spot the earliest signs of developing health problems. Today, our Simi Valley vets share more about the importance of routine exams and what they entail.
Why Vet Checkups Matter
Your pet's yearly routine exam is a veterinary 'checkup' for your furry friend. Routine exams take place once or twice a year while your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These dog checkups and cat checkups are a great way to help your pet achieve optimal health by focusing on prevention and early disease detection.
When you take your healthy dog or cat to the vet once or twice a year, you give the doctor a chance to check on your pet's general health and look for early indications of diseases that might otherwise be challenging to detect, like cancer and parasites.
Scheduling Your Pet's Checkup
The age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and breed risk for disease development all play a role in how frequently your pet should visit the vet for regular exams. Visiting your veterinarian twice a year can help to ensure that your pet stays as healthy as possible if they have a history of illness or a higher than average risk of contracting a disease but are currently in good health.
Yearly checkups are generally recommended for healthy adult pets.
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 the disease, 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 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
- Take 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
If no problems are found along the way, all of these health checks and more can be completed quickly and easily. Most of the time, your veterinarian will perform these inspections while chit-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
Your veterinarian might suggest additional testing in addition to the general health checks mentioned above. It's important to keep in mind that, in many cases, early disease detection and treatment are less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once it has reached more advanced stages when deciding whether your dog or cat needs additional testing.
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.