Giving your cat or dog routine check-ups is the best way to prevent and identify various health problems in your pet. In this article, our veterinarians in Seattle explain what to expect when you bring your pet in for a wellness exam.

The Importance of Routine Wellness Exams

Ideally, your pet should be examined by your veterinarian once or twice a year, even if it appears to be in perfect health. Regular wellness exams help you and your veterinary team to keep your pet healthy and happy.

By attending regular check-ups, even if your pet appears to be in good health, you enable your veterinarian to assess your pet's overall health and look for diseases and conditions that may be difficult to detect.

Potentially serious conditions benefit from early treatment. During the examination, your veterinarian has two objectives: to prevent the onset of health problems wherever possible and to detect early signs of illness so that they can be treated before they develop into more serious problems.

How long does a vet appointment take?

Most standard veterinary appointments last between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on how much time your veterinary clinic usually devotes to them. It's a good idea to think through any questions or concerns you may have in advance. 

This will help you to use the time as efficiently as possible.

Getting Ready for Your Pet's Routine Exam

Your veterinarian needs some basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first check-up with us. Bring notes about your pet, including its :

  • Recent travel history
  • Past medical records
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Current medications (names & doses)
  • Vaccine history
  • Tick bite history
  • Food (type & amount)
  • Waste elimination habits

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.

Components of Routine Exams

When you take your pet to the vet, he will review his medical history and ask about any concerns. He will also ask questions about your pet's diet, exercise program, thirst, bowel movements, urination, and other aspects of his lifestyle and general behavior.

Sometimes, you will be asked to collect and bring a fresh sample of your pet's stool for fecal examination. These diagnostic tests help identify the presence of problematic intestinal parasites that might otherwise be difficult to detect.

Next, the veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet. This is not an extensive list, but just a few of the steps involved in a routine veterinary examination of your pet:

  • Measuring their gait, stance, and weight
  • Listening to your pet's lungs and heart with a stethoscope
  • Checking the eyelids for any issues, in addition to examining their eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness, or redness
  • Assessing your pet for any signs of illness, such as limited motion or signs of swelling or pain, by palpating (feeling along) their body.
  • Feeling the abdomen to check internal organ function and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
  • Examining your pet's nails and feet for signs of health issues or conditions
  • Checking inside your pet's ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites, or bacterial infection
  • Inspecting their teeth for signs of decay, damage, or periodontal disease
  • Examining your pet's fur, skin, and/or coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss, dandruff, unusual lumps, or bumps

If your vet finds no cause for concern, the wellness check is usually completed fairly quickly and with few issues. 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 your pet's next steps or potential treatments.

Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog check-up, based on your animal's appropriate schedule.

Additional Tests

In addition to the basic examinations mentioned above, your veterinarian may also recommend additional wellness tests. Remember that, in most cases, early detection and treatment of serious illness is less costly, less invasive, and less stressful for your pet than treating the disease once it has reached a more advanced stage.

Blood count, thyroid hormone, and urinalysis can be performed in addition to diagnostic tests such as X-rays and imaging.

Frequency of Wellness Exams

A few factors will determine how often you take your pet for a check-up, including its age and medical history.

If your pet has a history of illness but is currently in good health, we recommend that you schedule a twice-yearly check-up with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet maintains as good health as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and tell you how often he should come for a physical examination.

As your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets may be more susceptible to certain diseases that adult animals can easily overcome. To ensure that your young pet receives the care it needs during its formative months, your veterinarian may recommend that you have it examined once a month for the first few months.

As a general rule, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should be examined by a veterinarian every year. Pets such as older dogs, cats, and giant breed dogs are at greater risk of additional conditions and should see a vet more often to watch for early signs of illness. In these cases, you should take your pet to the vet twice a year for a check-up.

Following Your Pet's Exam

Once your pet has been physically examined, diagnostic tests performed, and annual vaccinations administered, your veterinarian will spend time explaining their findings to you.

If your veterinarian has detected any signs of current or potential injury, illness, or disease, they will recommend more detailed diagnostics or potential treatment options.

If your pet is generally in good health, this discussion may focus on improving or maintaining exercise and feeding habits, oral health, and monitoring essentials such as parasite prevention.

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. 

Is your cat or dog due for a routine wellness exam? Contact our Seattle vets to book an appointment today.