Bringing your pet to your veterinarian for routine checkups can help keep him or her healthy. These checkups allow your vet to check for early signs of illness, and to monitor your pet’s overall health. Today, our vets in Central Illinois describe what you can expect when you bring your pet in for a routine pet checkup.
My pet looks healthy, why should I book an exam?
A routine exam or checkup is a veterinary ‘checkup’ for your pet, performed by your vet while your four-legged friend appears to be perfectly healthy. Routine pet checkups once or twice a year are a great way to ensure your pet is as healthy as possible.
By bringing your healthy pet in to see the vet on a regular basis, you allow your veterinarian the chance to monitor your pet’s overall health and check for diseases which can be difficult to detect in their early stages (such as parasites or cancers), but that benefit from being treated as early as possible.
This veterinary appointment has a combined purpose: to prevent conditions where possible, and to spot early signs of disease so they can be treated before they develop into more serious health issues.
How often should my pet have a routine checkup?
The answer to this question will depend on your pet’s age and previous medical history.
If your animal is currently healthy but has a history of illness, we recommend seeing your vet twice a year or more to ensure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your veterinarian can let you know how often your pet should come in for routine exams based on their specific circumstances.
Kittens and puppies can be susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets’ robust immune systems will easily be able to fight off. For this reason, your vet may recommend scheduling a routine exam monthly for the first few months.
For adult dogs and cats without a history of illness, we typically recommend they come in on an annual basis for a routine exam. Keep in mind that some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant dog breeds, run a higher risk of many conditions and should come in for a routine dog or cat checkup more frequently to monitor for early signs of illness. In these cases, twice-yearly routine exams are a great idea.
What will my vet check for during a routine checkup?
When you bring your pet in for a routine health check, the vet will look at your animal’s medical history and ask whether you have seen any concerning symptoms. The vet will also inquire about your pet’s exercise routine, diet, thirst level, urination, bowel movements, general behavior and other aspects of their lifestyle.
In many cases, you’ll be asked to collect and bring in a fresh sample of your pet’s feces (bowel movement) so the vet can perform a fecal exam. Fecal exams help your vet identify whether any number of problematic intestinal parasites — which may be difficult to detect otherwise — may be present in your pet’s body.
Next, the vet will conduct a physical examination of your pet. This will usually include the following, and often much more:
- 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 routine 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 routine exam, based upon the appropriate schedule for your animal.
Additional Wellness Testing Recommended for Pets
As well as the basic routine 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 (CDC)
- Thyroid hormone testing
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 Routine Checkup
Once the examination and testing is 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.