Taking your cat or dog in for routine exams is the best way to ensure that your pet lives a long happy and healthy life. Today, our Carlsbad vets explain these exams and why regular veterinary checkups are so crucial to your pet's health.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
You should book this routine physical exam with your veterinarian once or twice a year, even when your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These wellness checkups help your pet achieve and maintain your pet's ideal health.
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 conditions are best resolved through early treatment. During the checkup, your vet has two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to spot early symptoms of disease so that they can be treated 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 cat, dog, or other animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend booking an appointment with your vet twice each year or more to ensure 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 are of little to no concern to adults. For this reason, your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months.
Typically, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup on a yearly basis. 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 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 regarding your pet's lifestyle and recent activity including:
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Tick bites
- Toilet habits
You may also want to bring a favorite blanket or toy 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. They 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
- Inspecting the condition of your pet's oral health for damaged teeth or gums and 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
- 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
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 the 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 a 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.