The Importance of Wellness Exams for Pets in East San Jose, CA
Wellness exams for pets are important, just as are regular check-ups with your dentist or doctor. During an exam, your veterinarian can do a thorough physical examination of your pet and detect any health problems before they get worse. Prevention is key when it comes to the health of your pet, and making sure that your pet is up to date on vaccines, heartworm prevention, and flea/tick prevention are important parts of keeping your best friend healthy and happy. Regular exams can also prevent certain diseases and health problems that can be life-threatening down the road, not to mention expensive too. Whether you’re a cat or dog owner, or both, your veterinarian can recommend a wellness program based on your pet’s breed, lifestyle, and age. Studies done by the AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association), and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) reveal that regular veterinarian visits are on the decline, and as a result, preventable diseases in pets are on the increase (1).
What is a wellness exam?
A wellness exam is a thorough physical done by your veterinarian. First, a history is taken about how your pet is doing, then vitals are taken (temperature, pulse, respiration, weight), and then your veterinarian will perform a complete head-to-tail exam. Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth, ears, nose, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, stomach and musculoskeletal system. Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning if there is a lot of tartar or gingivitis around your pet’s teeth. If your pet needs vaccines, they will recommend vaccinating. If your older dog has joint issues or arthritis, they may recommend joint supplements or anti-inflammatories. Also, many veterinarians recommend heartworm testing, and screening for intestinal parasites as well, and in older pets or pets that are on medications, blood work may be recommended to assess overall organ function and health. The purpose of the wellness exam is to evaluate the health of your pet and prevent serious health problems in the future. For example, if your older cat is obese, and drinking and urinating excessively, he/she may be showing signs of diabetes. The sooner your cat is seen by a veterinarian, the better chance you have of managing your cat’s diabetes, and ensuring a better quality of life.
How often does my pet need a wellness exam?
This depends on whether you have a cat or a dog, your pet’s breed, history, age and lifestyle. Most veterinarians recommend that younger pets less than seven years of age get yearly exams, and older pets over seven years receive an exam every six months. Pets with health issues or diseases may need more frequent exams, laboratory testing and other diagnostics. Pets age at a more rapid rate than we do, so even if seven years doesn’t sound old, that’s middle age in many breeds, and in some, considered geriatric. Of course, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian in East San Jose for recommendations.
What does the veterinarian look for during a wellness exam?
During a wellness exam, your veterinarian will consider the following conditions and issues:
- Weight – This a good measure of nutritional health.
- Skin condition/allergies/infections/tumors – Your veterinarian can conduct a thorough exam of your pet’s skin and fur.
- Teeth and dental disease – Your veterinarian will do a thorough exam of your pet’s teeth and mouth, and may recommend a teeth cleaning if needed.
- Eyes, cataracts, glaucoma – Your veterinarian will be able to detect any issues with your pet’s vision, and if necessary prescribe medications, or further tests.
- Heart health/murmurs – Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope, and will be able to detect any heart murmurs (irregular heartbeats), or possible lung issues.
- Musculoskeletal system/arthritis/ligaments – Your veterinarian will be able to assess limb, back and joint function, and if necessary, prescribe joint supplements or anti-inflammatories if your pet suffers from arthritis or inflammation.
- Parasites such as fleas, ticks, roundworms and tapeworms – Fleas and ticks can be carriers of serious diseases such as Lyme disease which can be transmitted to humans, so it’s important to discuss anti-parasiticals with your veterinarian during an exam.
- Behavior – During a wellness exam you can discuss any behavioral issues you may be experiencing so that any medical illnesses can be ruled out. If your pet is healthy, you can ask your veterinarian about behavioral modification and/or medication for your pet’s behavioral problem.
Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, additional screening diagnostics and lab work may be recommended. Some of the more common diagnostics include:
- Blood work/CBC (complete blood count)/blood chemistries to measure organ function, thyroid function and electrolytes.
- Urinalysis to assess kidney and bladder function.
- Heartworm tests.
- FELV/FIV (Feline Leukemia Virus/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) screening in cats.
- Blood pressure screening in older cats and pets with renal disease.
- Cytology of any cysts, tumors or growths.
- Radiographs to look for joint issues, and heart and lung function.
- Fecal tests to screen for intestinal parasites.
- Screening for skin issues and ear mites.
- Ultrasound to assess cardiac, liver, kidney, prostate, and bladder health.
After the exam, your veterinarian will discuss the next steps in the care of your pet. For example, if your pet has a food allergy, your veterinarian may suggest changes in diet, or if your pet’s blood work reveals liver issues, your veterinarian may suggest starting your pet on medications and liver support supplements. If abnormalities are found in routine blood work, more advanced tests may be recommended.
Regular wellness exams for your pet are always good practice, and can help you and your pet avoid possible serious health problems down the road. Call us today to schedule a wellness exam!