Wellness exams for your pets are important, just as regular checkups with your dentist or doctor. During a wellness exam, your veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination of your pet and can detect health problems before they get worse. Prevention is key when it comes to your pet’s health, and making sure that your furry friend is up to date on vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and flea/tick prevention are important parts of keeping your pet healthy and happy. Regular exams can also prevent certain diseases and health problems that can be life-threatening down the road, not to mention expensive. Whether you’re a cat, dog, avian or exotic owner, your vet can recommend a wellness program based on your pet’s breed, lifestyle, and age. Studies done by the AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association), and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) revealed that regular visits to veterinarians are on the decline, and as a result, preventable diseases in pets are on the rise (1). Call Dundee Animal Hospital in Dundee at (847) 428-6114, Elgin at (847) 888-3933 or Algonquin at (847) 658-7787.
What is a wellness exam?
A wellness exam is a thorough physical done by your veterinarian. First, a history is taken about how your pet is doing, then vitals are taken (temperature, pulse, respiration, weight), and then your veterinarian will perform a complete head-to-tail exam. They will examine your pet’s mouth, ears, nose, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, stomach and musculoskeletal system. Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, they may offer recommendations for your pet. If your pet needs vaccines, they will recommend vaccinating, or if your older dog or cat has joint issues or arthritis, your veterinarian may recommend joint supplements or anti-inflammatories. Also, many veterinarians recommend heartworm testing for dogs, screening for intestinal parasites, and in older pets or pets that are on medications, blood work may be recommended to assess overall organ function and health.
The purpose of the wellness exam is to evaluate the health of your pet and help prevent serious health issues in the future. For example, if your older cat is obese and drinking and urinating excessively, he/she may be showing signs of diabetes. The sooner you get them seen by a veterinarian, the better chance you have of managing your cat’s diabetes and ensuring a better quality of life.
How often does my pet need a wellness exam?
This depends on what kind of pets you have, your pet’s breed, the history of your pet, and their age and lifestyle. Most vets recommend that younger pets under seven years old get yearly exams, and older pets over seven receive an exam every six months. Pets with health issues or diseases may need more frequent exams, laboratory testing, and other diagnostics. Pets age at a more rapid rate than we do, so although seven years doesn’t sound old, it’s considered “middle age” for many breeds, and in some, is considered geriatric. Of course, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian for recommendations.
What does the veterinarian look for during a wellness exam?
During a wellness exam, your veterinarian will consider the following conditions and issues:
This a good measure of nutritional health.
A thorough exam of your pet’s skin and fur to check for abnormalities.
Teeth and dental disease
Your veterinarian will do a thorough exam of your pet’s teeth and mouth, and may recommend a teeth cleaning if needed.
Eyes, cataracts, glaucoma
Your veterinarian will be able to detect any issues with your pet’s vision, and, if necessary, prescribe medications or further tests.
Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope, and will be able to detect any heart murmurs (irregular heartbeats), or possible lung issues.
Your veterinarian will be able to assess limb, back and joint function, and if necessary, prescribe joint supplements or anti-inflammatories if your pet suffers from arthritis or inflammation.
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, roundworms and tapeworms
Fleas and ticks can be carriers of serious diseases such as Lyme disease orleptospirosis, which can be transmitted to humans, so it’s important to discuss anti-parasiticals with your vet during an exam.
During a wellness exam, you can discuss any behavioral issues you may be experiencing with your pet so that any medical illnesses can be ruled out. If your pet is healthy, you can ask your veterinarian about behavioral modification and/or medication for your pet’s issue.
Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, additional screening, diagnostics, and lab work may be recommended. Some of the more common diagnostics include:
- Blood work/CBC (complete blood count)/blood chemistries to measure organ function, thyroid function and electrolytes.
- Urinalysis to assess kidney and bladder function.
- Heartworm tests.
- FELV/FIV (Feline Leukemia Virus/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) screening in cats.
- Blood pressure screening in older cats and pets with renal disease.
- Cytology of any cysts, tumors or growths.
- Radiographs to look for joint issues, and heart and lung function.
- Fecal tests to screen for intestinal parasites.
- Screening for skin issues and ear mites.
- Ultrasound to assess cardiac, liver, kidney, prostate, and bladder health.
After the exam, and if any diagnostics are run, your veterinarian will discuss the next steps in the care of your pet. For example, if your pet has a food allergy, your veterinarian may suggest changes in their diet. If your pet’s blood work reveals liver issues, your veterinarian may suggest starting your pet on medications and liver support supplements. If abnormalities are found on routine blood work, more advanced tests may be recommended.
Regular wellness exams for your pet are always good practice and can help your pet avoid possible serious health problems down the road. Schedule an exam with us in Dundee, Algonquin or Elgin today!