Routine Vet Checkups
During a routine physical exam or vet checkup, your veterinarian will do a number of health checks to ensure your pet is healthy. You should bring your pet in for an exam once or twice a year so any health issues can be detected and treated early.
By taking your animal to see the vet even when they seem healthy, you allow your veterinarian the opportunity to assess your pet's general health and test for diseases that may be difficult to identify in their earliest stages (such as cancers and parasites).
It's best to treat these conditions as early as possible. Your veterinarian's purpose during these regular visits is two-fold: to prevent conditions where possible and to spot early signs of disease so that they can be treated before they become more serious — or in some cases, fatal.
How often should I take my pet for a vet checkup?
Your veterinarian will consider your pet's age, previous medical history, current issues and other factors when determining how often your pet should come in for a checkup.
If your animal has been ill in the past but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet twice a year or more to make sure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Your vet can tell you how often your pet should have a physical exam.
Puppies and kittens can be particularly vulnerable to many illnesses due to their developing immune systems. While adult pets would easily be able to fight off some conditions and illnesses, young pets may need more attention. This is why your vet may recommend booking a checkup each month for the first few months.
Typically, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup annually. However, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant breed dogs, face a higher risk of numerous health conditions and should see a vet more often to monitor for early signs of illness. In these circumstances, twice-yearly dog or cat checkups are a good rule of thumb.
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
- Toilet habits
- Eating and drinking habits
- Food (what kind do they eat)
- Recent travel history or tick bites
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
- Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
- Looking into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness or redness. 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
- Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.