Regular wellness examinations for your pet can help keep your pet healthy by giving your veterinarian an opportunity to check for early symptoms of common illnesses, and to monitor their overall health. Here, our Blue Mountain vets share a little about what you can expect when you bring your pet in for a routine wellness exam.
My pet looks healthy, why should I bring her to the vet?
A wellness exam is a routine veterinary 'check-up' for your pet. Wellness exams as a preventive measure (once or twice a year) are a great way to help your pet achieve their optimal health.
By taking your healthy pet in to see their vet regularly, you give your veterinarian the opportunity to monitor your pet's overall health and check for diseases which may be more difficult to detect in the early stages – such as endocrine disorders and cancer – but which benefit from the earliest possible intervention. Your pet's routine wellness examination is a veterinary appointment aimed at a combination of preventing conditions where possible, and spotting early signs of disease so that it can be treated before it becomes more serious.
How often should my pet have a wellness exam?
How often your pet should see the vet for wellness exams depends upon your pet's age and previous medical history.
If your pet is healthy at the moment but has a history of illness, it is a good idea to see your vet twice a year or more to make sure they stay as healthy as possible. Your veterinarian will let you know how often your pet should come in for wellness exams.
Puppies and kittens can be susceptible to a host of illnesses that adult pets easily fight off. For that reason, your vet may recommend bringing your pet in for a wellness exam monthly for the first few months.
It is typically recommended that adult dogs and cats without a history of illness visit the vet for a wellness exam on an annual basis.
That said, some pets – such as senior dogs and cats or giant breed dogs – face a higher risk of many conditions and should be seen more frequently to watch for early signs of illness. In these cases twice-yearly wellness exams are a good idea.
What does a wellness examination for pets involve?
When you attend a wellness exam with your pet, the vet will review their medical history and ask if you have any concerns. The vet will also ask you about your pet's diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, level of thirst, bowel movements, urination, and general behaviour.
In many cases, you will be asked to collect and bring along a fresh sample of your pet's feces (bowel movement) in order for a fecal exam to be performed. Fecal exams help to identify the presence of a variety of problematic intestinal parasites that are otherwise difficult to detect.
Next, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet which will typically include the following:
- Checking your animal's weight, stance, and gait
- Looking at your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Listening to your pet's heart and lungs
- Examining your dog or cat's skin for a range of issues from dryness to parasites to lumps and bumps (particularly in skin folds)
- Inspecting the pet's coat for overall condition, dandruff, or abnormal hair loss
- Checking your pet's eyes for signs of redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Looking at your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Examining the condition of your pet's teeth for any indications of periodontal disease, damage or decay
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for any signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
The list of checks that your vet will run through while performing a wellness exam can be done quickly and seamlessly if no issues are detected along the way. And your vet may even maintain a conversation with you as they go along. If your vet does detect something of concern, they will take the time to explain what they have noticed, then recommend the next steps or possible treatments.
Annual vaccinations will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based upon the appropriate schedule for your animal.
Additional Wellness Testing Recommended for Pets
As well as the basic wellness examination points listed above, your vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. When deciding whether your pet should have additional testing it's important to keep in mind that in many cases early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once it has reached more advanced stages.
The following tests screen for a range of conditions and can help detect the very earliest signs of illness before symptoms appear:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Preventive Screening Panel
If your pet is a senior animal or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended, including x-rays and other imaging.
At The End of The Wellness Exam
Once the examination and testing are complete, and your pet has been given their annual vaccines, your vet will take the time to discuss their findings with you.
If any signs of illness or injury have been detected along the way, your veterinarian will talk with you about more detailed diagnostics or available treatment options.
If your pet is generally healthy, the discussion might focus on diet and exercise improvements, caring for your pet's oral health, and essentials such as appropriate parasite prevention for your pet.