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As a pet parent, you probably bring your beloved furry friend for a doctor visit every year. If you’ve been skipping them, or if you’re wondering why we need to bring them in, veterinarian Kristonn Colborn gives us the skinny:
So… why should my pet have an annual vet visit?
Well, for every year of your pet’s life, 6-10 years of theoretical aging occurs. That means a semi-annual exam for your pup or kitty is equivalent to you visiting your doctor once every 3-7 years, which we can all agree is a little too infrequent.
More importantly, our pets can’t tell us what’s wrong and they’re notorious for hiding discomfort. The combination of a thorough examination and screening tests are the best way to keep your furry friend on the healthiest path as they begin to age.
What will my vet do at a wellness examination?
A thorough examination, vaccinations, parasite control, dental care advice, and breed specific recommendations are routine components of an annual wellness visit.
Even if your pet is rarely outdoors or exposed to other animals, significant risks exist in their everyday environment that can threaten the life of your beloved pup or kitty. Be sure to keep up with vaccination visits and discuss your pet’s lifestyle/travel plans with your vet to keep them protected. Your pet may need vaccinations more often if it is their first time being vaccinated or if their exposure risk for certain diseases is high.
Monthly medication for heartworm disease prevention is of utmost importance to keep this serious disease from affecting your pet. Deworming and semi-annual fecal evaluations (yep – it’s as gross as it sounds) are advised to protect your pet and family. Once some of these parasites are present in your household (such as in the backyard where your dog uses the bathroom), they can present a health risk to your family. By identifying these parasites in fecal exams and deworming as needed, we can provide specific treatment before they’re problematic.
A thorough examination of your pet’s body, including their mouth, eyes, heart, lungs, abdomen, rectum, etc. will be performed. Obesity evaluation is also an important component of an exam; what may appear to be a great weight for your pet might not actually be ideal for their health. Additional screening tests including bloodwork, urinalysis, and thyroid testing may also be recommended to detect disease that is not visibly apparent. Having a baseline screening test at your pet’s first visit can be helpful to monitoring trends of change in future screenings.
Teeth are often overlooked when considering the health of our dogs and cats, yet they play a huge role. Dental care early on, including brushing, giving dental chews, and including additives in your pets’ food and water are essential to preventing tartar buildup, periodontitis and gingival disease. Following through with scheduling routine dental cleanings and radiographs will keep your pet’s mouth healthy and prevent systemic disease that tartar and bacteria buildup can cause.
The care needed for your pet will vary depending on their breed, life stage, genetic predisposition, and other factors. It may be beneficial for pets with certain predispositions to receive additional testing or treatment; it may be advised that boxers receive heart-monitoring tests and Lhasa apso’s with naturally bulging or enlarged eyes receive ocular pressure testing. Other examples include dachshunds needing special handling or home adjustments due to back issues, and Dobermans receiving blood testing for bleeding disorders.
It will be important to discuss individual wellness recommendations and what management can be done early on with your vet to keep your dog or cat happy and healthy!
Kristonn Colborn, DVM, is a small animal and equine veterinarian in Bend, Oregon focusing in primary and emergency care. She graduated from the University of Florida with doctor of veterinary medicine degree.