What happens at a pet wellness exam?

Taking your pet in for annual exams is the best way to prevent and identify a variety of health issues. In this article, our Simi Valley vets discuss what you can expect when you bring your pet in for a wellness exam.

The Importance of Routine Wellness Exams

Ideally, your pet should be seen for a routine physical exam by your veterinarian once or twice a year, even if the animal seems perfectly healthy. Regular wellness checkups help you and your vet team support your pet's good health and happiness.

By regularly attending wellness checks even when your pet seems healthy, you allow your veterinarian to assess your pet's general health and test for diseases, illnesses, and conditions that can be hard to detect. 

Potentially serious medical conditions benefit from early treatment. During the checkup, your vet has two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to spot early signs of disease so they can be treated before they develop into more severe issues.

Getting Ready for Your Pet's Wellness Exam

Your vet needs some basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first wellness check with us. Bring notes about your pet including their:

  • Recent travel history
  • Past medical records
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Current medications (names & doses)
  • Vaccine history
  • Tick bite history
  • Food (type & amount)
  • Waste elimination habits

You may also want to bring a favorite blanket or toys for comfort. While dogs should be on a leash, cats should be in a carrier.

What to dog & cat wellness exams consist of?

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, your vet will review your animal's medical history and inquire about any concerns you may have. The veterinarian will ask additional questions about your pet's diet, exercise routine, thirst level, bowel movements, urination, and other aspects of their lifestyle and behavior.

In some cases, you will be asked to collect and bring a fresh sample of your pet's feces (bowel movement) so that a fecal exam can be conducted. These diagnostic tests can help determine whether problematic intestinal parasites are present, which would otherwise be difficult to detect.

Next, the vet will perform a physical examination of your pet. While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the steps in a routine veterinary exam of your pet:

  • Measuring their gait, stance, and weight
  • Listening to your pet’s lungs and heart with a stethoscope
  • Checking the eyelids for any issues, in addition to examining their eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, or redness
  • Assessing your pet for any signs of illness such as limited motion or signs of swelling or pain by palpating (feeling along) their body.
  • Feeling the abdomen to check internal organ function and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
  • Examining your pet's nails and feet for signs of health issues or conditions
  • Checking inside your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
  • Inspecting their teeth for signs of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
  • Examining your pet's fur, skin, and/or coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss, dandruff, unusual lumps, or bumps

If your vet finds no cause for concern, the wellness check is usually completed fairly quickly and with few issues. 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 the next steps or potential treatments for your pet.

Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup, based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.

Additional Tests

Along with the basic checkup foci that we talked about above, your vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in the majority of cases, early detection and treatment of serious diseases is less expensive, less invasive, and less taxing on your pet than having the condition treated once it has become more advanced.

Tests for blood count, thyroid hormone testing, and a urinalysis may be done in addition to diagnostic testing like X-rays and imaging.

Frequency of Pet Wellness Exams

The frequency with which you take your pet to a wellness checkup is determined by several factors, including their age and medical history.

If your pet has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend that you schedule a twice-yearly wellness check with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your veterinarian can examine your pet and advise you on how often they should have a physical exam. 

Because your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets may be more vulnerable to illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. To provide your young pet with the care they require during their formative months, your veterinarian may recommend scheduling a monthly checkup for the first few months. 

An adult dog or cat with no history of illness should typically have a veterinary checkup once per year. Senior dogs, cats, and giant breed dogs are at a higher risk of developing additional conditions and should see a veterinarian more frequently to monitor for early symptoms of illness. In these cases, it's a good idea to take your pet in for a twice-yearly cat or dog checkup.

How long does a vet check-up take?

If you're wondering how long a vet appointment takes, it's generally best to ask your vet when you make your appointment. Speaking very generally, a vet check-up typically takes around 30 minutes, depending on the reason for the visit and any additional tests or procedures that may be required. However, it’s always a good idea to schedule aside an hour, just in case.

Following Your Pet's Exam

Once your pet has been physically examined, any diagnostic tests performed, and their annual vaccines administered, your veterinarian will take the time to explain their findings.

If your veterinarian discovers signs of injury, illness, or current or potential conditions, they will recommend additional diagnostics or treatment options to assist.

If your pet is generally healthy, this discussion may focus on improving or maintaining their current exercise and diet routines, caring for your pet's oral health, and ensuring that essentials such as parasite prevention are monitored.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Is your cat or dog due for a checkup? Contact our Simi Valley vets to book an appointment today.