Routine vet exams allow your vet the opportunity to check for early signs of illness and serious conditions such as internal damage that need attention. Our Baltimore vets explain why regular veterinary checkups are so important for our pets.
Why are routine vet checkups essential?
Your veterinarian should see your pet for a cat or dog checkup once or twice annually, even when your pet seems perfectly healthy. These routine exams help your pet reach and maintain their optimal health.
By taking your healthy four-legged family member to see the vet regularly, you give your vet a chance to review your pet's general health, as well as testing for illnesses, diseases and other conditions that may be difficult to identify in their early stages (including parasites and cancers).
These conditions benefit from early treatment as they can develop into more serious problems if not diagnosed and treated within a certain timeframe. Your vet comes into a checkup with two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to detect early symptoms of disease so they can be treated efficiently.
How often should my pet go for a vet checkup?
How often your pet should see the veterinarian for a checkup will depend on your pet's age and medical history.
If your dog, cat, or other animal has a history of illness but is currently doing well health-wise, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet twice a year to help keep your pet as healthy as possible. Your vet can assess your pet and tell you how often they should come in for a routine physical exam.
Since your kitten or puppy's immune system is still developing, young pets can be especially vulnerable to a number of illnesses that adult pets would easily be able to fight off or overcome. This is why your vet might recommend scheduling a monthly checkup for the first few months of your young pet's life.
Generally, an adult cat or dog with no history of illness should come in once a year for a vet checkup. However, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant breed dogs, are at higher risk of many conditions and should visit a vet more often so they can be monitored for early signs of illness. In these cases, bringing your pet in for twice-yearly cat or dog checkups is a good idea.
How to Prepare
While you will walk away from your pet's cat or dog exam with valuable information, you'll also need to bring some important data with you. Your vet will need this basic medical information about your dog for cat, especially if this will be your pet's first visit. Bring notes on your pet's:
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Toilet habits
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Food (what kind do they eat?)
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Tick bites
You might also want to bring a favorite toy or blanket to comfort your pet. While dogs should be on a. leash, cats should be in a carrier.
What does a checkup for pets involve?
When you take your pet to the veterinarian, your animal’s medical history will be reviewed and your vet will ask if you have any concerns. They will also ask about your pet’s diet, exercise routine, thirst level, bowel movements, urination and other aspects of their lifestyle and general behavior.
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
- 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
- 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
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites or bacterial infection
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
- 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
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.