Routine care can help keep your cat or dog healthy throughout their life. These visits can be used for preventive care, physical evaluations and to discuss your pet's behavior. Our veterinary team in Los Angeles shares some useful information about routine vet exams and the importance of bringing your pet to their regular checkup.
The Importance of Dog and Cat Checkups
Your vet will likely recommend that you bring your pet in for routine care once or even twice a year in some cases. You may wonder why these are necessary since your pet will likely appear perfectly fine during this time. Wellness exams are able to help your vet with keeping your pet happy and healthy throughout their lives.
Bringing your pet to the vet allows for the administering of vaccinations and parasite prevention as well as the opportunity to recognize issues at the earliest stages.
Nearly any condition that may affect your pet will be better managed with early diagnosis and treatment. During your pet's checkup with your vet, they have two major goals: to prevent health conditions from developing in the first place and to spot symptoms of health issues as early as possible in order to treat them before they develop into more serious problems.
How often should you bring your pet in for a checkup?
There are a few factors that contribute to the frequency at which your pet will need to visit. This can be their age, breed and health condition.
If your companion has a history of medical issues but is currently perfectly healthy, we advise that you book a routine checkup with your vet at least twice each year to make sure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Speak with your vet to learn more about how often your dog or cat should visit and what to expect during the appointment.
Since your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets can be especially susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets are easily able to overcome. For this reason, your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months.
If you have a healthy, adult dog or cat you should bring them in for a checkup once a year. 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 For an Annual Cat or Dog Exam
There are a few ways that you can prepare for your pet's annual examination to help make it go smoothly. This includes notes about:
- Tick bites
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Toilet habits
- Food (what kind do they eat)
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
You will want to ensure that your pet is restrained during their visit, either on a leash or in a carrier. You may also choose to bring their favorite toy or blanket to help them stay calm.
What will happen during your dog or cat's checkup?
When you see the vet, you will be able to share any concerns that you have and the vet will ask you any questions they may have about your pet's medical history and recent behavior. You can also use this time to ask any questions that you have. They will also inquire about your pet's diet, their exercise routine, their thirst levels and their bowel movements. Your vet wants to get as much information as they can about your pet's general well-being and behaviors.
The vet may request that you bring a fresh stool sample with you to the appointment. These exams help to identify whether any number of problematic intestinal parasites are present. Parasites are notoriously difficult to detect and the diagnostic tools at the clinic will be very useful in determining the presence of these pests.
Your vet will then perform a complete examination of your dog or cat. 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
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
- Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites or bacterial infection
- Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
- Examining your furry companion’s coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
- 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
- Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
- 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. Will also look for issues with eyelids
If your pet is healthy this exam will likely be done fairly quickly. If your vet discovers any concerns, they will explain what they notice and recommend what next steps should be taken.
Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup, based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.
What are some common diagnostics performed at routine visits?
Along with the routine dog or cat checkup, your vet may also request additional diagnostics such as bloodwork. 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.
Final Thoughts on Routine Pet Exams
At the end of the visit, the vet will explain any concerns that they may have along with the next steps that you should take.
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.