During routine exams, your vet will check for early symptoms of illness, internal damage, and other serious conditions that should be addressed. Our vets in Riverside County explain why regular veterinary checkups are essential.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
You should book this routine physical exam with your veterinarian once or twice a year, even when your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These wellness checkups help your pet achieve and maintain their ideal health.
By taking your healthy animal to visit the vet regularly, you allow your veterinarian the opportunity to assess your pet's general health and test for diseases, illnesses, and conditions that can be difficult to identify in their early stages (including cancers and parasites).
Early treatment is beneficial for these conditions. The two objectives of the checkup are to identify early disease symptoms so they can be treated before they worsen and, when possible, to prevent health conditions from developing.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
Your pet's medical history and age will determine how often your pet should see the veterinarian for a checkup.
If your cat, dog, or other animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend booking an appointment at your vet's twice each year or more 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.
Young pets can be especially vulnerable to many illnesses that adult pets are easily able to overcome because their immune systems are still developing in puppies and kittens. Due to this, your veterinarian might advise scheduling a monthly checkup for the first few months.
A mature dog or cat without a history of illness should typically visit our office once a year for a checkup. Nevertheless, some pets, including giant breed dogs and senior dogs and cats, are more susceptible to many illnesses and should visit the vet more frequently to be checked for early symptoms of the disease. In these situations, it's a good idea to bring your dog or cat in for a checkup every two years.
How to Prepare
Your vet will need the following basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first visit. Bring notes on your animals:
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Tick bites
- Food (what kind do they eat)
- Toilet 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?
Your pet's medical history will be examined by the doctor when you bring your pet in, and he or she will also inquire about any worries you may have. They will also inquire about your pet's eating habits, exercise routine, level of thirst, frequency of bowel movements, and amount of urination, among other lifestyle and general behavior-related questions.
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
- 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
- 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
- Inspecting your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues — from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
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 the 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 is Recommended for Pets
In addition to the basic checkup exam points listed above, the veterinarian may recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in many cases, early disease detection and treatment is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition after it has progressed.
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 generally healthy, this discussion may focus on improving exercise and diet routines, caring for your pet's oral health, and ensuring 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 veterinarian's advice regarding treatment.