If you have ever brought your pet to see the veterinarian for a routine examination, you may be wondering what you should expect. Here, our Gilbert veterinarians explain what happens at a routine veterinary exam and why these pet checkups are so important.
What Happens at a Vet Appointment
Understanding what you should be able to expect when you take your pet in for a routine exam may be able to help you and your companion to experience a stress-free and enjoyable appointment at our veterinary hospital.
When You Arrive
When you and your pet arrive at our veterinary hospital, you will either be allowed to walk into the reception area to check-in or will be asked to call upon arrival. The front desk staff will take your name and your pet's name, asking you to wait while an examination room is prepared for your companion.
Once an examination room is clean, sterilized and open for you, you will be escorted into the room where a veterinary technician will ask you a series of questions about your cat or dog's current health and medical history. These answers will be added to your pet's files for our vets to view for future reference. You may also be asked about your pet's diet, their exercise routine, their lifestyle, urination and bowel movements, thirst levels and general behavior.
The person taking your pet's medical history may or may not give your pet a casual examination in order to get further details to enter into the notes for your vet.
Your Pet's Checkup
Next, your veterinarian will come into the room and take a look at the notes taken thus far before starting your pet's exam. At this time, your vet may have some other questions to you and will be receptive to hearing about your concerns about your pet's overall well-being, symptoms, or abnormal behaviors.
In some cases, you may have been asked to bring a fresh sample of your pet's feces so that a fecal exam can be performed to look for signs of intestinal parasites. Fecals, help your vet identify the presence of intestinal parasites in your pet which are otherwise very difficult to detect.
Next, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet which will typically include the following, (and often much more):
- Testing your pet's temperature
- Checking your animal's weight, stance, and gait
- Listening to your pet's heart and lungs
- Looking at your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Checking your pet's eyes for signs of redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Inspecting the pet's coat for overall condition, dandruff, or abnormal hair loss
- Looking at your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for any signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
- Examining the condition of your pet's teeth for any indications of periodontal disease, damage or decay
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
- Examining your dog or cat's skin for a range of issues from dryness to parasites to lumps and bumps (particularly in skin folds)
If your veterinarian doesn't find any issues during your cat or dog's physical examination, the list of tests and checks that they will have to run will fly by. Your vet may even be able to maintain a full conversation with you as they go through the steps of this process. If your vet finds anything that is cause for some concern, they will take the time to explain to you what they have noticed as well as what they think the next steps or treatment should be.
Vaccinations & Parasite Prevention
Once your pet's physical exam has been completed, your vet will review your pet's medical history and speak with you about any vaccines or parasite prevention treatments they think may be appropriate. If your companion is due for their routine vaccinations, the vet or another member of our staff will be able to administer the shots. Be confident that this won't cause your pet any discomfort. More animals don'\t even notice when they are getting a vaccine and the process is generally quick and painless.
Annual vaccinations will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based upon the appropriate schedule for your animal.
Additional Testing Recommended for Some Pets
On top of the basics, your veterinarians may also recommend additional wellness testing for your companion. When making this decision about whether or not to have your pet undergo additional testing, it's important that you remember that the early detection and treatment of disease is always less expensive and invasive than treating conditions in more advanced stages.
The following tests screen for a range of conditions and can help detect the very earliest signs of illness before symptoms appear:
- Complete blood count (CDC)
- Thyroid hormone testing
If your pet is a senior animal or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended including x-rays and other imaging.
At The End of Your Pet's Exam
Once your vet has completed your pet's testing and examination, they will administer your pet's annual vaccines and take the time to discuss any findings they made with you.
If they have noticed signs of illness or injury during your pet's appointment, your vet will speak with you about the details of your companion's diagnosis and the treatment options that are available for both you and your four-legged companion.
If your pet is generally healthy, the discussion may focus on exercise improvements and diet, caring for their oral health as well as essential core care like parasite prevention.
How Often to Visit Your Vet
The recommended frequency of your physical checkups will vary based on your pet's age and prior medical history.
If your pet is perfectly healthy but has a history of illness, it may be best to take them to see your vet twice a year or more to make sure that they stay as healthy as possible. Your vet will let you know how often your pet should come in for their wellness exams.
Puppies and kittens tend to be more susceptible to diseases than adult pets. Because of this, your vet may also recommend that you bring your pet in for a puppy or kitten checkup every month for the first few months of their life. These frequent appointments will also provide your vet with the opportunity to give your young pet their complete series of vaccinations.
It is typically recommended that adult dogs and cats, without a history of illness, visit the vet for a routine wellness examination (checkup) on an annual basis. That said, some pets such as senior dogs and cats, and giant breed dogs face a higher risk of many conditions and should be seen more frequently to watch for early signs of illness. In these cases, twice-yearly wellness exams are a good idea.
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.