Your veterinarian will regularly examine your pet during a routine exam for symptoms of illness, internal health issues, and other serious conditions that may require attention. In this article, our veterinarians in North Providence explain the importance of regularly scheduled veterinary checkups.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
You should schedule a routine physical exam with your veterinarian once or twice a year, even when your pet appears perfectly healthy. These wellness checkups will help your pet achieve and maintain their ideal health.
By routinely bringing your healthy animal to your veterinarian, you allow your vet to assess your pet's general health and well-being, test them for illness and disease, and evaluate them for conditions that respond best to treatments in their earliest stages.
During the checkup, your vet aims to prevent the development of health conditions where possible and to identify early symptoms of diseases so that they can be treated before they progress into more serious problems.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
Your vet will base the frequency of your pet's visits on your pet's medical history and age.
If your cat, dog, or other animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling appointments with your vet twice a year or more to ensure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and determine how often they should undergo a physical exam.
Since puppies and kittens have developing immune systems, young pets may be particularly susceptible to illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. Consequently, your vet may suggest booking monthly checkups for your puppy or kitten during their initial months.
Adult dogs or cats with no history of illness should undergo an annual vet checkup. Nevertheless, certain pets, such as senior dogs, senior cats, and giant breed dogs, have an elevated risk of various conditions and should visit a veterinarian more frequently to monitor early signs of illness. In these cases, it's advisable to schedule semi-annual cat or dog checkups for your pet.
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 the next about your pet:
- Tick bites
- Eating and drinking habits
- Toilet habits
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Recent travel history
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Food (what kind do they eat)
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 bring your pet to the veterinarian, the veterinarian will review your animal's medical history and ask about any concerns you might have about their health. They will also inquire about your pet's diet, exercise routine, bowel movements, urination schedule, and any other relevant aspects of their life or general behavior.
In some instances, the veterinarian may ask you to collect and bring along fresh samples of your pet's feces so that they can compile a parasite screening test. These exams help identify whether or not your pet is dealing with a number of problematic parasites that would otherwise be very difficult to detect.
Next, the vet will physically examine your pet. While this examination will usually cover the following points, the vet may spend more time on specific areas depending on your pet's needs:
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet's lungs and heart
- Checking your pet's nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- 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. I will also look for issues with eyelids.
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Examining your pet's ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
- Examining your furry companion's coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
- Check 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.
- Measuring your pet's gait, stance, and weight
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 following 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
In addition to basic checkup exams and tests, your vet may also suggest further wellness testing for your pet. Remember that, in many cases, detecting and treating a disease or health issue early is much less costly and invasive than treating it when it has advanced to a more severe stage.
Furthermore, your vet may perform diagnostic tests such as blood count, thyroid hormone testing, urinalysis, and diagnostic testing like X-rays and imaging.
Ending the Vet Checkup
After examining, testing, and administering annual vaccines to your pet, your vet will take the time to explain their findings to you.
If the veterinarian identifies any signs of injury or illness, they will suggest more comprehensive diagnostics or potential treatment options.
If your pet is in good health overall, this discussion will center on enhancing exercise and diet routines, maintaining your pet's oral health, and ensuring you are vigilant in monitoring essential aspects such as appropriate parasite prevention.
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.