Why are routine vet checkups important?
Your veterinarian should see your pet for a routine physical exam once or twice annually, even when your furry best friend seems perfectly healthy. These wellness checkups help keep your pet healthy.
By bringing your pet in to see the vet regularly when they're healthy, you give your veterinarian the chance to check your pet's general health, and check for conditions, illnesses and diseases that may be difficult to identify in their early stages (such as parasites and cancers).
Early treatment can mean a better prognosis for these conditions. Your vet has two goals for a routine checkup: to prevent health issues from developing where possible and to discover any early symptoms of disease so that a treatment plan can be developed before more serious problems arise.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
How often your pet should come in for a checkup with the veterinarian will be determined by your animal's age and medical history.
If your kitty, pup or other animal has been ill historically but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling a twice-yearly exam with your vet to make sure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your veterinarian can assess your pet's health and let you know how often they should see them for a physical exam.
Since your kitten or puppy's immune system is still developing, young pets may be especially vulnerable to many illnesses that adult pets would more easily overcome. This is why your vet may recommend booking a monthly checkup, at least for the first few months.
Generally, an adult cat or dog with no history of illness should be examined on an annual schedule. That said, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant breeds, face an increased risk of health issues and should come in for a vet checkup more often to watch for early signs of illness. It's a good idea to bring your older pet in for cat or dog checkups twice each year.
How to Prepare
Your vet will need the following basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first visit. Bring notes on your animal's:
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Tick bites
- Food (what kind do they eat)
- Toilet 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 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.