The Annual Exam: The Core of Your Pet’s Preventative Care

In human medicine, preventative care has become the standard of care, and veterinary care should be no exception, but pet owners do not always understand the benefits of regular check-ups for their pets. Annual veterinary exams can catch manageable conditions such as diabetes and dental disease, prevent issues with internal and external parasites, and slow the progression of common problems like osteoarthritis and kidney disease. Many pets, however, are only taken to the veterinarian when visibly sick or in need of vaccinations. Below is a list of important items that should be included in a comprehensive wellness exam.*1

Get your dog or cat a veterinary checkup at least once a year.Don’t assume an indoor cat doesn’t need an annual exam, or that a seemingly healthy pet can sit a year out. Aging senior dogs and cats may benefit from exams every six months.
Bring up any behavior issues. Your veterinarian is a great resource for information and can help determine if there is an underlying medical cause for many behavioral changes.

Test annually for dangerous diseases. Every dog and cat should have an annual screening test for heartworm and internal parasites, and cats should be tested at least once for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Annual blood work is necessary for early diagnosis of many diseases.

Watch their weight. Being overweight can increase the risk of diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, cancer, and arthritis. A slight adjustment to your pet’s diet or exercise regimen can make a huge difference, so ask your veterinarian for your pet’s target weight.

Keep those whites pearly. 70–80% of dogs and cats have signs of dental disease by age three. Left untreated, dental problems can cause pain, infection, and inflammation and take years off your pet’s life. Treated, your pet will be healthy and happier. So smile when your veterinarian checks your dog or cat’s teeth and gums – it’s a vital part of their care.

Battle the bloodsuckers. Every dog and cat should receive year-round parasite control to prevent against heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas, and when appropriate, ticks. Even if your pet spends most of his time indoors, he can still pick up diseases from these sneaky pests that can fly, crawl, or hitchhike on you to get inside your house.

Tailor vaccination protocols to your pet. While some vaccines, like rabies, are required by law because of the risk to humans, others may be necessary for your pet’s lifestyle. Your veterinarian will know what’s best for your pet.

Check the chip. Every dog and cat should be microchipped – even indoor cats and fenced-in dogs can escape and become lost. Make sure your contact information is current with the microchip manufacturer, and ask your veterinarian during your pet’s annual exam to “check the chip.”

So please keep your pets up-to-date on their annual exams – they will thank you!

*1 Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) preventative care guidelines.