Your veterinarian will spend time checking for early symptoms of illness, damage to internal illness and other serious conditions during routine exams. Our vets in San Jose explain why regular veterinary checkups are critical.
Why are routine vet checkups important?
Once or twice a year, we recommend bringing your pet in to your vet's for a routine physical exam, even when they appear to be healthy. When we're able to see your pet for regular wellness checkups, we can help them achieve and maintain their ideal health.
This also gives us the chance to check your pet's general health, and test for illnesses, conditions and diseases that may be challenging to identify in their earlier stages (including parasites and cancers).
Your pet's health can benefit from early treatment of these conditions. Your vet has two goals during the checkup: to prevent health conditions from developing when possible and to detect early symptoms of disease so that they can be treated before they become more serious issues.
How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?
How often we should see your pet for a checkup will be determined by their age and medical history.
If your dog, cat or other animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend scheduling an appointment at your vet's two or more times a year to ensure your pet remains as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and let you know how often they should become in for a physical exam.
Since your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, younger pets can be vulnerable to many illnesses that adult pets would easily be able to fight off. This is why your vet might want to see your young pet for a monthly checkup for the first few months.
An adult dog or cat with no history of illness can typically see us for a vet checkup annually. However, some pets such as senior cats and dogs, in addition to giant breed dogs, are at higher risk of many health conditions, so they should see a vet more often to watch for early signs of illness. In these cases, we recommend twice-yearly cat or dog checkups.
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:
- Past medical records, including vaccine history
- Current medications (names and doses)
- Eating and drinking habits
- Recent travel history
- Toilet habits
- Tick bites
- Food (what kind do they eat)
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.
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.