Importance of an Annual Vet Visit

Aug 16, 2017

I take really good care of my four-year-old pet by making him eat right, exercise daily and proper grooming. All his vaccinations are up-to-date and he hasn’t given me any reasons for visiting the vet. Do you still suggest an annual physical exam? The vet’s bills are exorbitant, you see. – Asha Negi, Dehra Dun

Compared to human doctors, all veterinarians charge less. Unless there is a problem with the dog, ethically no vet would charge just for the heck of it. Coming to the annual physical exam, your dog is like one of your children: you spoil them rotten and care for them deeply. Since your pet is that important to you, then their health should be just as important! And we don’t mean just taking them out on walks, feeding them a balanced diet and pampering with toys and treats, although those are all important too! We’re talking about being proactive and taking them to the vet regularly for checkups. Most humans get regular health checkups, so dogs should get checkups too. Preventative care is just as important for pets as it is for their owners. Why? Because vets can help detect (and sometimes prevent) diseases and other life-threatening conditions early on, saving you money and heartache in the long run. And similar to how a car gets its oil changed, tyres rotated and inspections from time to time, it’s also a good idea for us to check in with the doc to make sure our pet’s vitals are in good shape and everything is running smoothly. Since dogs age faster than people do and can’t communicate when they are not feeling well, your veterinarian will gain valuable insights into the health of your dog.

An annual dog checkup is a great opportunity to bring up any questions and express any concerns you have about your pup (they are not sleeping well, the dog has discoloured poop, etc.). You’re paying for your visit, so you might as well make the most of your time with the expert and ask away. They might make some suggestions based on their evaluation of your dog and recommend some wellness tips. Here’s a list of specific things the veterinarian might ask about and check for during an annual dog checkup:

  • Vaccinations and current status of each
  • Blood tests (particularly for older dogs who are prone to more health problems)
  • Urine tests and any discharge, discolouration, etc.
  • Digestion, including any concerns about gas, burping or abnormal stools
  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing, throat or nose discharge
  • Coat and skin check for hair loss, lumps, rashes, discolouration or unusual spots
  • Limbs, walking, standing and toenails
  • Ears and eyes for discharge, swelling, redness or itching
  • Intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, mites etc.
  • Dental health, including teeth and breath smell
  • Water and food consumption
  • Organs to make sure they are not an unusual size
  • Exercise levels and how often
  • Behaviours such as excessive barking or emotional instability

As for the frequency of such exams, it depends on the age of the dog. Puppies grow at a rapid pace and thus require more vaccinations and attention. So, if your dog is under one-year-old, you should expect to go to the vet more regularly for your pup’s shots and to make sure they are progressing as expected (much like a newborn). However, after the first year, dogs are the equivalent of a teenager or young adult and then they grow at a much slower pace, so they only need visits annually for any necessary vaccines and routine checkups. And just like people, older dogs may require more frequent monitoring since they have more health issues as they age. So you may want to discuss with your vet whether bi-annual visits are needed for your older dog (7 years or older). The size of your dog also determines how quickly they “age” and thus how much attention they need. Larger dogs become older quicker than smaller dogs and are usually more active too, meaning they have more risk for physical injuries and exposure to the outdoors where pesticides and bacteria live. At the end of the day, your dog’s health does affect their overall well-being, which in turn can be a positive thing for you too! So make the investment, and your dog will thank you (and you’ll thank yourself) later.

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