Animals require yearly exams just like humans. Many owners associate yearly exams with vaccinations, but vaccines are only part of the importance of having your pet examined every year. Having an annual exam is especially important since animals have an incredible ability to hide disease and pain. Sometimes owners may miss signs of a pet being ill because the signs are so subtle.
During the appointment your veterinarian will gather a history that will help them understand the big picture of your pet’s health. Sometimes things that you tell your veterinarian can help with diagnosing any issues, such as an increase in thirst or decrease in energy. Also this is a chance to discuss any behavioral issues that your pet is having such as urinating outside the litterbox or barking uncontrollably when you leave.
A big part of having a happy healthy pet is prevention. Vaccinations can help prevent or decrease the severity of diseases. This is why veterinarians stress the importance of vaccinations. Veterinarians also recommend yearly heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention. This is because mosquitos can be found in microclimates, such as in a damp basement, year around. Fleas can cause an infestation in your home, and ticks carry deadly diseases. All of these are easily preventable with once monthly heartworm and flea and tick prevention. Most veterinarians recommend yearly heartworm and fecal tests because we all occasionally forget to give our pets their heartworm prevention, and because fecals test for intestinal parasites that are zoonotic, or can be transmitted to humans.
During the annual exam your veterinarian will do a physical exam on your pet. Your veterinarian is looking for things such as eye/ear diseases, dental disease, heart disease, respiratory disease, orthopedic/neurologic, abnormal shape/texture to abdominal organs and dermatological diseases. Physical exams can only tell your veterinarian so much and it is ideal to have annual bloodwork performed. This bloodwork usually consists of a CBC and chemistry which allows your veterinarian to check for anemia, infections, or metabolic and endocrine diseases. On my own pets I have found significant diseases on routine yearly bloodwork that need treatment without my pet even appearing ill! Consider bloodwork as an extra tool for veterinarians to use to assess the overall health of your pet.
As our pets get older veterinarians recommend other screening diagnostics such as blood pressure checks and urinalysis. Some pets may need exams every 6 months when they get older to monitor disease progression.
Your veterinarian’s overall goal is to keep your pet as healthy as possible so you can spend years enjoying the company of your pet. Prevention and early detection are keys to success. Annual exams help you and your veterinarian to help your pet.