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What to Expect When You Attend a Wellness Exam for Your Pet

Bringing your furry friend in for a routine exam is a great way to catch any possible issues early, when they are most treatable. Here, our Nashua vets discuss what to expect during pet wellness exams and what to bring to checkups for dogs or cats.

The Importance of Routine Wellness Exams

Ideally, your pet should be seen for a routine physical exam by your veterinarian once or twice a year, even if the animal seems perfectly healthy. Regular wellness checkups help you and your vet team support your pet's good health and happiness.

Regularly attending wellness checks, even when your pet seems healthy, allows your veterinarian to assess your pet's general health and test for diseases, illnesses, and conditions that can be hard to detect. 

Potentially serious medical conditions benefit from early treatment. During the checkup, your vet has two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to spot early signs of disease so they can be treated before they develop into more severe issues.

Getting Ready for Your Pet's Routine Exam

Your vet needs basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first wellness check with us. Bring notes about your pet, including their:

  • Recent travel history
  • Past medical records
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Current medications (names & doses)
  • Vaccine history
  • Tick bite history
  • Food (type & amount)
  • Waste elimination habits

You may also want to bring a favorite blanket or toys for comfort. Dogs should be on a leash, and cats should be in a carrier.

What does a dog or cat wellness exam consist of?

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, your animal’s medical history will be reviewed, and your vet will ask about any concerns you have. The vet will further follow up with questions 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 a fresh sample of your pet’s feces (bowel movement) so a fecal exam can be completed. This diagnostic test can help to identify whether problematic intestinal parasites are present which may be otherwise difficult to detect.

Next, the vet will perform a physical examination of your pet. While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the steps in a routine veterinary exam of your pet:

  • Measuring their gait, stance, and weight
  • Listening to your pet’s lungs and heart with a stethoscope
  • Checking the eyelids for any issues, in addition to examining their eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, or redness
  • Assess your pet for any signs of illness, such as limited motion, swelling, or pain, by palpating (feeling along) its body.
  • Feeling the abdomen to check internal organ function and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
  • Examining your pet's nails and feet for signs of health issues or conditions
  • Checking inside your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
  • Inspecting their teeth for signs of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
  • Examining your pet's fur, skin, and/or coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss, dandruff, unusual lumps, or bumps

If your vet finds no cause for concern, the wellness check is usually completed fairly quickly and with few issues. 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 your pet's next steps or potential treatments.

Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.

Additional Diagnostic Testing

Along with the basic checkup foci discussed above, your vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in most cases, early detection and treatment of serious diseases is less expensive, less invasive, and less taxing on your pet than treating the condition once it has become more advanced.

Blood count, thyroid hormone testing, and urinalysis may be performed in addition to diagnostic tests like X-rays and imaging.

Frequency of Wellness Exams

A few factors, including your pet's age and medical history, will affect the frequency at which you take it to a wellness checkup.

If your pet has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling a twice-yearly wellness check with your vet to ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and tell you how often they should come for a physical exam. 

Since your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets can be more susceptible to some illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. To provide your young pet the care they need during their formative months, your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months. 

An adult dog or cat with no history of illness should usually be taken to a vet checkup every year. Pets like senior dogs, cats, and giant breed dogs can face an increased risk of additional conditions. They should see a veterinarian more often to monitor for early signs of illness. In these cases, bringing your pet in for twice-yearly checkups is a good idea.

How long does a vet check-up take?

Many people ask, 'How long do vet appointments take?' When you bring your pet in for their annual wellness exam, you can expect the visit to last 30 to 60 minutes. This, of course, varies depending on your pet and their specific needs.

Following Your Pet's Exam

Once your pet has been physically examined, had any diagnostic tests run on them, and received their annual vaccines, your vet will dedicate time to explaining their findings.

If your vet has found signs of injury, illness, or current or potential conditions, they will recommend more detailed diagnostics or possible treatment options to help.

If your pet is healthy overall, this discussion may focus on improving or maintaining their current 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. 

Is your cat or dog due for a routine wellness exam? Contact our Nashua vets to book an appointment today.

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