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Routine Vet Exams - Why Are Regular Veterinary Checkups Important?

Routine Vet Exams - Why Are Regular Veterinary Checkups Important?

By bringing your dog or cat in to see their vet throughout the year you can help to keep them healthy and happy for life. The veterinary teams at our clinics in St. Louis are here to share some information about the importance of routine vet exams and what to expect during these pet checkups.

What makes routine cat and dog checkups important?

Most pets benefit from seeing the vet for a checkup once or twice a year. These vet checkups should happen even during times when your cat or dog seems perfectly healthy. Wellness exams can help your pet maintain and achieve better health 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.

For most conditions, the earlier treatment begins the better the prognosis. 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 frequently should your pet attend a checkup?

There are a few different factors that determine how often your dog or cat should have a checkup. 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. Your vet can provide you with more information on their recommendations for your pet.

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. 

Most dogs and cats that don't have any underlying conditions will be good with seeing the vet on an annual basis. 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. 

Preparing For Your Annual Cat or Dog Exam

In order to help your vet treat your pet quickly there is some basic information you should bring to the appointment. 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 happens during your pet's vet checkup?

At the beginning of the checkup, the vet will review the recent medical history of your pet and ask any questions about their health. 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. 

Most routine exams will include a fecal exam which will likely require you to bring a fresh stool sample. These exams help to identify whether any number of problematic intestinal parasites are present. These parasites may otherwise be difficult to detect.

Your vet will then perform a complete examination or 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 if my pet needs extra diagnostic testing?

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.

In Conclusion

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. 

Did your primary vet discover an issue during your pet's annual exam that requires urgent care or extra diagnostics? Contact our veterinary team in St. Louis today.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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