A routine wellness exam is a physical examination or checkup for your pet. Physical exams help to keep your pet healthy by giving your vet regular opportunities to check your pet for early signs of disease, and to monitor your pet's overall health. Here our Albany vets share more about what to expect at your pet's physical exam.
Why Regular Physical Exams Are Important
Your pet's annual physical exam is a veterinary 'check-up' for your pet. Routine physicals take place once or twice a year while your pet appears to be healthy. These examinations are a great way to help your pet achieve their optimal health by focusing on prevention and early detection. By taking your healthy pet in to see their vet regularly, you give your veterinarian the opportunity to monitor your pet's overall health and check for diseases that can be difficult to spot in the early stages (such as cancers and parasites).
How Often Should My Pet Have a Physical
The frequency of your pet's physical exams depends upon your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and breed risk for developing disease. If your dog or cat is healthy at the moment but has a history of illness or a higher than average risk of developing a disease, seeing your vet twice a year can help to ensure that your pet stays as healthy as possible.
For adult pets in good health seeing the vet for yearly physicals is recommended.
Animals that are very young or very old tend to be more susceptible to illness. If you have a new puppy or kitten it can be a good idea to visit your vet once a month for the first 4 - 6 months.
If you have a senior pet, or an animal such as a giant breed dog that faces an increased risk of developing disease, twice-yearly physical exams are a good idea. This will give your vet an opportunity to check your four-legged friend for the earliest signs of disease, and get treatment started before the condition becomes more severe.
What to Expect At Your Pet's Physical Exam
When you bring your pet in to see us for their physical your vet will review your animal's medical history and ask if there is anything about your pet's health or behavior that you are concerned about. Your vet will also ask you about your pet's diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, level of thirst, and urination.
Many veterinarians request that pet owners bring along a fresh sample of their pet's feces (bowel movement) in order for a fecal exam to be performed. Fecals are a valuable tool when it comes to detecting intestinal parasites that can severely impact your pet's health.
Next, your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination of your dog or cat which generally includes the following:
- Weighing your pet
- Checking the animal's stance and gait for irregularities
- Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Listening to the animal's heart and lungs
- Taking a close look at your dog or cat's skin for issues such as dryness, parasites, or lumps
- Inspecting the overall condition of your pet's coat, watching for dandruff or bald patches
- Checking eyes for redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Examining your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Looking at your pet's teeth for any indication of periodontal disease, damage or tooth decay
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
All of these checks and more can be done quickly and seamlessly if no issues are detected along the way. Your vet will likely even maintain a conversation with you as they go along.
Annual vaccinations will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based upon the appropriate schedule for your animal.
Additional Testing Sometimes Recommended During a Physical
As well as the general checks listed above, your vet may also recommend additional health tests. When deciding whether your pet should have additional testing it's important to keep in mind that in many cases early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once it has reached more advanced stages.
The following tests screen for a range of conditions and can help detect the very earliest signs of disease, even before symptoms appear:
- Complete blood count (CDC)
- Thyroid hormone testing
If your pet is a senior animal or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended including x-rays and other imaging.
Following Your Pet's Physical
After your pet's physical checkup is complete, and your pet has received their annual vaccines, your vet will take the time to discuss any findings with you.
If your veterinarian has detected any signs of illness or injury, they will take the time to speak to you about more detailed diagnostics, or available treatment options.
If your animal is given a clean bill of health, your vet may offer tips or recommendations regarding your animal's diet and exercise routines, oral health, or appropriate parasite prevention.
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.