Routine Exams: Why are regular vet checkups important?

When you bring your cat or dog in for a routine exam your vet will examine your pet for early signs of illness, internal damage, as well as other severe conditions. Today, our Tucson vets discuss the reasons why it's important for your pet to see their vet for regular checkups.

Why Routine Vet Checkups are Important

You should schedule your pet's routine physical exam with a veterinarian at least once or twice a year, even when your four-legged friend seems to be in perfect health. These regular wellness checkups help your cat or dog maintain and achieve optimal health.

By bringing your healthy furry companion to the vet on a regular basis, you are giving your vet the opportunity to evaluate your cat or dog's overall health, and test for conditions, illnesses, and diseases that could be hard to see in their early stages (including cancers and parasites).

Early diagnoses and treatments benefit these conditions. Your vet has two goals during your pet's checkup: to prevent health conditions from arising when possible and to detect symptoms of diseases early so they can be treated before they become more serious.

How Often Your Pet Should Have a Checkup

The age and medical history of your pet will determine how often you need to bring your pet to the vet for a checkup.

If your dog or cat has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we suggest scheduling an appointment with your vet twice a year or more often to make sure 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 the immune system of your puppy or kitten is still developing, young pets can be more susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets can generally overcome more easily. For this reason, your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months.

Typically, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup on a yearly basis. That said, some pets such as senior dogs and cats, in addition to giant breed dogs, face an increased risk of many 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 cat or dog in for checkups twice a year.

Preparing for Your Cat or Dog's Vet Exam

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 animal's:

  • Past medical records, including vaccine history
  • Current medications (names and doses)
  • Toilet habits
  • Food (what kind do they eat)
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Recent travel history
  • Tick bites

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's Included in Your Pet's Checkup

When you bring your cat or dog to the veterinarian, your vet will review your pet's medical history and ask if there is anything concerning you about your animal's health. They will also talk to you about your pet’s exercise routine, diet, thirst level, bowel movements, urination, and other elements about their general behavior and lifestyle.

Sometimes, you’ll be asked to collect and bring along a fresh sample of your pet’s stool (bowel movement) so your vet can complete a fecal exam. These tests help your vet determine if there are problematic intestinal parasites present. Otherwise, these parasites could 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:

  • Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
  • Measuring your pet’s gait, stance, and weight
  • Checking your pet's eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, redness, or eyelid issues
  • Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
  • Feeling the abdomen to see if the 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 cat or dog's ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
  • Inspecting your pet’s skin for issues such as bumps or lumps (especially in skin folds), dryness, and parasites
  • Examining your animal’s coat to assess the overall condition and look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
  • Looking for signs of illness by feeling along your pet’s body (palpating), symptoms include lameness or limited range of motion, or signs of swelling or pain

If your vet doesn't find any problems during the exam they will probably run through this list quickly and seamlessly — they might even chat with you as they do so. If your vet does identify a problem they will explain what they found and recommend potential treatments and the next steps you should take.

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

Additional Wellness Tests Recommended for Cats & Dogs

Along with the basic checkup exam points we listed above, the vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in many cases, early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than having the condition treated once it has become more advanced.

Tests for blood count, thyroid hormone testing, and a urinalysis may be done, in addition to diagnostic testing such as X-rays and imaging.

At the End of the Checkup

After your cat or dog has been assessed and given their annual vaccinations, your vet will designate time to discuss their findings with you.

If your veterinarian has detected any signs of an illness or injury, they will recommend more in-depth diagnostics or options for treatment to help your pet.

If your animal is in optimal health, this discussion might focus on improvements to your pet's diet and exercise routines, caring for your pet’s oral health, and making sure the essentials such as appropriate parasite prevention is 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.

Contact our vets in Tucson today to schedule your cat or dog's routine exam.