During routine exams, your vet will look for early symptoms of illness, internal damage and other serious conditions that should be addressed. Our vets in New York explain why regular veterinary checkups are critical.
Routine Vet Checkups
We recommend scheduling 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 optimal health.
When your veterinarian sees your healthy animal on a regular basis, they have the chance to assess your pet's general health, in addition to testing for diseases, illnesses and conditions that may be difficult to identify in their early stages (including parasites and cancers).
Early treatment can factor in to prognoses for these conditions. Your vet will have two goals in mind during the checkup: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to detect early signs of disease so they can be treated before they become more serious.
How often should my pet come in for a vet checkup?
Your pet's age and medical history will be large factors in how often your veterinarian should see your pet for a checkup.
If your dog, cat or other animal is currently healthy but has a history of illness or medical conditions, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet twie a year or more to make sure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your vet can assess your pet and let you know how often they should have a physical exam.
Since a kitten or puppy's immune system is still developing, young pets may still be especially susceptible to many illnesses and conditions that more mature pets are easily able to fight off. This is why your vet might recommend scheduling a monthly checkup for the first few months of your pet's life.
Usually, an adult cat or dog with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup on a yearly schedule. However, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant breed dogs, face an increased risk of many conditions and should see a veterinarian more often to monitor for early symptoms of illness. It's advisable to bring your pet in for cat or dog checkups twice a year in these cases.
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 animal's:
- 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?
When you take your pet to the veterinarian, your animal’s medical history will be reviewed and your vet will ask if you have any concerns. They will also ask about your pet’s diet, exercise routine, thirst level, bowel movements, urination and other aspects of their lifestyle and general behavior.
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 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 Recommended for Pets
Along with the basic checkup exam points we list 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 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 healthy overall, this discussion may focus on improvements to exercise and diet routines, caring for your pet’s oral health and checking that essentials such as appropriate parasite prevention are monitored.