By bringing your dog or cat in for routine care you can help to prevent and manage any health issues that may arise. Here, our Madison vets share some insight into routine care including what to expect during your pet's annual wellness exam and how long a vet checkup may take.

What is the importance of checkups for dogs and cats?

Your pet's annual wellness exam is a veterinary 'check-up' for your cat or dog. Wellness exams - or pet checkups - take place once or twice a year while your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. These examinations are a great way to help your pet achieve optimal health by focusing on prevention and early disease detection. By taking your healthy dog or cat in to see their vet regularly, you allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet's overall health and check for diseases that can be difficult to spot in the early stages (such as cancers and parasites).

How often are pet wellness exams needed?

The recommended frequency of your pet's wellness exams depends upon your pet's age, previous medical history, lifestyle, and breed risk for developing diseases. If your animal is healthy at the moment but has a history of illness or a higher than average risk of developing a disease, seeing your vet twice a year can help to ensure that your pet stays as healthy as possible.

Typically, vets will recommend annual wellness exams for healthy adult pets. Animals that are very young or very old tend to be more susceptible to illness and may require more attentive care and more frequent checkups.

If you have a new puppy or kitten it can be a good idea to visit your vet once a month for the first 4 - 6 months.

If you have a senior pet or an animal such as a giant breed dog that faces an increased risk of developing disease, twice-yearly wellness exams are recommended. This will allow your veterinarian to check your pet for the earliest signs of disease, and get treatment started before the condition becomes more severe.

How long does a vet checkup take?

When asking 'How long do vet appointments take?', you will need to understand that there are a variety of factors that can influence the length of the visit. 

These can include the age and species of your pet, whether they require additional diagnostics and any health conditions that affect your pet.

What does a dog or cat wellness exam consist of?

When you bring your pet in to see us for their wellness exam your vet will review your pet's medical history and ask if there is anything about your dog or cat's health or behavior that you are concerned about. Your vet will also ask you about your pet's diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, level of thirst, and urination.

Many veterinarians request that pet owners bring along a fresh sample of their pet's stool (bowel movement) for a fecal exam to be performed. Fecals are a valuable tool when it comes to detecting intestinal parasites that can severely impact your pet's health.

The physical checkup portion of your pet's visit may include:

  • Weighing your pet
  • Checking the animal's stance and gait for irregularities
  • Examining your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
  • Listening to your animal's heart and lungs
  • Taking a close look at your dog or cat's skin for issues such as dryness, parasites, or lumps
  • Inspecting the overall condition of your pet's coat, watching for dandruff or bald patches
  • Checking eyes for redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
  • Examining your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
  • Looking at your pet's teeth for any indication of periodontal disease, damage, or tooth decay
  • Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
  • Palpate your pet's abdomen to assess whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort

If your dog or cat has no additional issues then your vet will be able to work through the checkup fairly quickly. They may even chat with you throughout this exam.

Annual vaccines will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based on the appropriate schedule for your cat or dog. Vaccinations for puppies and kittens, as well as booster shots for adult dogs and cats, are an important part of giving your animal their very best chance at a long and happy life. Keeping your pet up to date on vaccines throughout their life will help to protect your furry friend against a range of contagious, potentially serious, diseases and conditions.

When might the vet request additional diagnostics?

There may be situations where your vet feels that it is necessary to send your pet for extra care or veterinary diagnostic services. When deciding whether your dog or cat should have additional testing it's important to keep in mind that in many cases early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than treating the condition once it has reached more advanced stages.

The following tests screen for a range of conditions and can help detect the very earliest signs of disease, even before symptoms appear:

  • Complete blood count (CDC)
  • Thyroid hormone testing
  • Urinalysis

In some cases, such as when your dog or cat becomes older, your vet may request additional tests to stay on top of your pet's health.

What are the next steps after the exam is complete?

After your pet has been fully examined and any preventive care has been administered, your vet will likely take some time to discuss any concerns they may have or recommendations for care moving forward.

If your veterinarian has detected any signs of illness or injury, they will take the time to speak to you about more detailed diagnostics, or available treatment options. 

If your pet has been deemed healthy, your vet may offer tips or recommendations regarding your pet's diet and exercise routines, oral health, or appropriate parasite prevention.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your pet due for their annual exam? Contact our vets in Madison today to book an appointment for your dog or cat.