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Routine Exams: Why are regular vet checkups important?

Regular veterinary checkups can help your pet achieve their ideal health. During these routine exams, your vet will look for early symptoms of illness, internal damage and other serious conditions. Our Central Illinois veterinarians explain why checkups are vital.

Why are routine vet checkups important?

A vet checkup is a routine physical exam your veterinarian will complete while your animal appears to be perfectly healthy. These wellness checkups should be scheduled once or twice a year to help your pet maintain their optimal health.

By taking your healthy pet to visit the vet regularly, you allow your veterinarian the chance to check in on your pet’s general health, and test for diseases that can be difficult to identify in the early stages (such as parasites and cancers).

These conditions benefit from being treated as early as possible. At your pet’s routine wellness checkup, the veterinarian has a dual purpose: to prevent conditions where possible and spot early symptoms of disease so that they can be treated before they become more serious.

How often should my pet have a vet checkup?

How often your pet should see the veterinarian for a checkup depends on your animal’s age and previous medical history.

If your animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend booking an appointment at your vet’s twice a year or more to ensure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your vet can tell you how often your pet should have a physical exam.

Due to their developing immune systems, puppies and kittens can be especially susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets easily fight off. For this reason, your vet may recommend booking a checkup monthly for the first few months.

Typically, an adult cat or dog with no history of illness should come in for a vet checkup on an annual basis. However, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, as well as giant breed dogs, face a higher risk of many conditions and should see a veterinarian more frequently to monitor for early signs of illness. In these cases, twice-yearly cat or dog checkups are a good idea.

How to Prepare

Your vet will need some up-to-date, basic information on your feline or canine friend, especially if this is a first visit. Take notes on your pet’s:

  • Current medications (names and doses)
  • Past medical records, including vaccine history
  • Food (what kind do they eat)
  • Toilet habits
  • Recent travel history or tick bites
  • Eating and drinking habits

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 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
  • Inspecting your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues — from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
  • Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites or bacterial infection
  • Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
  • Examining your furry companion’s coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
  • Looking into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness or redness. Will also look for issues with eyelids

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 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 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your pet due for a checkup? At Pekin Veterinary Clinic, our skilled vets look forward to working with you to help provide your pet with the highest quality care. Contact us today to book an appointment for a checkup.

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