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

When you take your dog or cat in for routine exams, your vet can prevent and identify a variety of health issues in your pet. In this post, our Kent vets discuss what you can expect when you bring your pet in for a wellness exam. 

The Importance of Routine Wellness Exams

Ideally, your pet should be brought to your veterinarian's office for a routine wellness exam once or twice a year, even if your furry companion seems perfectly healthy. Regular wellness checkups help you and your veterinary team support your pet's good health and happiness. 

By regularly attending wellness exams even when your pet seems healthy, you'll give your veterinarian a chance to assess your pet's general health and test for conditions, illnesses, and diseases that may be difficult to detect. 

Early treatment helps pets with potentially serious medical conditions. During your pet's checkup, your veterinarian has two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to detect early signs of disease so that they can be treated before they progress to more serious problems.

Getting Ready for Your Pet's Routine Exam 

Your vet will require some basic medical information about your cat or dog, especially if this is your pet's first wellness check with us. Bring notes about your pet, including their:

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

You may also want to bring a favorite blanket or toys to comfort your pet. While dogs should be on a leash, cats should be in a carrier. 

What does a cat or dog wellness exam consist of?

When you take your pet to the vet for an annual exam, your vet will review your four-legged friend's medical history and ask if you have any questions. The veterinarian will ask additional questions about your pet's diet, exercise routine, thirst level, bowel movements, urination, and other aspects of their lifestyle and 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 diagnostic tests 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. A typical checkup for dogs or cats may include:

  • 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
  • Assessing your pet for any signs of illness such as limited motion or signs of swelling or pain by palpating (feeling along) their 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 the next steps or potential treatments for your pet.

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

How long do vet appointments take?

We understand that even doting pet parents have busy lives and that you may wonder how long a vet checkup takes. We typically recommend scheduling about 30 minutes for your pet's routine annual exam and vaccinations, including signing in and filling out any paperwork that may be required. 

How often should I bring my pet in for a wellness exam?

A few factors will affect the frequency with which you take your pet to a wellness checkup, including their age and medical history.

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 in for a physical exam. 

Because your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets may be more vulnerable to illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. To provide your young pet with the care they require during their formative months, your veterinarian may recommend scheduling a monthly checkup for the first few months.

Usually, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should 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 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. 

Following Your Pet's Exam

Once your veterinarian has an examined your pet, administered annual vaccines, and run any diagnostic tests that may be required, they will explain their findings to you. 

If your vet has discovered any signs of illness, injury, or current or potential conditions, they will recommend further diagnostics or potential treatment options to help. 

If your pet is healthy, we can discuss improving or maintaining exercise and diet routines, oral health care, and parasite prevention.

What additional tests might my veterinarian recommend for my pet?

Along with the basic checkup items listed above, your veterinarian may recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in most cases, early detection and treatment of serious diseases is less expensive, invasive, and taxing on your pet than treating the condition after it has progressed.

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

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 cat or dog due for a routine annual exam? Contact our Kent vets to schedule an appointment today.

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