During a routine exam, your veterinarian will check for symptoms of early and emerging illnesses, internal damage and other serious conditions that require attention. The veterinary team at our Oakland hospital are here to explain why regularly scheduled veterinary checkups are so important.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
You should book a routine physical exam for your pet with your veterinarians at least once, and maybe even twice, per year. This applies even when your companion seems perfectly healthy. Wellness checkups can help your pet maintain and achieve better health all throughout their lives.
By taking your healthy animal to visit the vet regularly, you allow your veterinarian the opportunity to assess your pet's general health, and test for diseases, illnesses and conditions that can be difficult to identify in their early stages (including cancers and parasites).
These kinds of health issues benefit from early medical intervention. During your pet's checkup with your vet, they have two major goals: to prevent health conditions from developing in the first place, and to spot symptoms of health issues as early as possible in order to treat them before they develop into more serious problems.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
Your pet's medical history and age will determine how often your pet should see the veterinarian for a checkup.
If your companion has a history of medical issues, but is currently perfectly healthy, we advise that you book a routine checkup with your vet at least twice each year to make sure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and tell you how often they should come in for a physical exam.
Since your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets can be especially susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets are easily able to overcome. For this reason, your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months.
Generally speaking, adult dogs and cats with no history of serious illness should have a physical checkup once each year. That said, some pets such as senior dogs and cats, in addition to giant breed dogs, face an increased risk of many conditions and should see a veterinarian more often to monitor for early signs of illness. In these cases, it's a good idea to bring your pet in for twice-yearly cat or dog checkups.
How to Prepare
Your veterinarian will need the following basic medical information from you about your dog or cat, especially if it is their first visit. Bring in notes on your animal's:
- Tick bites
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Toilet habits
- Food (what kind do they eat)
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
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 does a checkup for pets involve?
When bringing your dog or cat in to your veterinarian, their medical history will be reviewed and your veterinarian will ask you if you have any particular concerns. They will also inquire about your pet's diet, their exercise routine, their thirst levels and their bowel movements. Your vet wants to get as much information as they can about your pet's general well-being and behaviors.
In some cases, you’ll be asked to collect and bring along a fresh sample of your pet’s feces (bowel movement) so a fecal exam can be completed. These exams help to identify whether any number of problematic intestinal parasites are present. These parasites may otherwise be difficult to detect.
Next, the vet will physically examine your pet. While this will usually cover the following points, the vet may take time to do more depending on your pet’s needs:
- Measuring your pet’s gait, stance, and weight
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
- Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites or bacterial infection
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Examining your furry companion’s coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
- 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
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
- Inspecting your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues — from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
- Looking into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness or redness. Will also look for issues with eyelids
If your vet doesn't detect any health issues, they will likely run through this list quite quickly—they may even be able to easily chat with you while they do so! If they do find an issue, though, they will explain whet they notice and recommend what next steps should be taken.
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
After your pet has been examined, vaccinated and tested, 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.