During your pet's routine exams, your vet will look for early symptoms of illness, damage to internal organs and other serious conditions that need treatment. Our Los Angeles County vets explain why regular veterinary checkups are essential for pets.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
Once or twice a year, we recommend scheduling this routine physical exam with your veterinarian, even when your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. Wellness checkups help your pet reach and maintain its ideal health.
By taking your healthy pet in to see the vet regularly, you give your veterinarian the opportunity to check your pet's overall health, and test for illnesses, conditions and diseases that may be difficult to identify in their early stages (such as parasites and cancers).
These conditions have better outcomes with early treatment. During the checkup, your vet is trying to accomplish two things: preventing health conditions from developing where possible and spotting early symptoms of disease so they can be treated before they progress into more serious issues.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
How often your pet should see a veterinarian for a checkup will depend on their age and medical history.
If your cat, dog or other animal has had a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet twice each year or more to ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Once your vet has examined your pet, they can tell you how often your pet should come in for a physical exam.
Because your kitten or puppy's immune system is still developing, young pets may be especially susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. This is why your vet may want to see your pet for a monthly checkup for the first few months.
Typically, an adult cat or dog with no history of illness should have an annual vet checkup. That said, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, along with giant breed dogs, are at increased risk of many health conditions and should see a veterinarian more frequently to watch for early signs of illness. In these circumstances, it's a good idea to bring your pet in for twice-yearly cat or dog checkups.
How to Prepare
Your vet will require some basic medical information about your cat or dog, especially if this is your animal's first visit. Bring notes on your canine or feline companion's:
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Eating and drinking habits
- Toilet habits
- Tick bites
- Food (what kind do they eat)
- Recent travel history
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 the 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 check-up 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 a 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 its annual vaccines, your vet will dedicate time to explaining its 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.
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.