Routine Vet Exams: Why Are Regular Veterinary Checkups Important?

During routine checkups, your veterinarian will check the vitals and physical health of your pet. This helps ensure your pet's continued health and increases the chances of catching any serious illnesses before they become worse or harder to treat. Here, our East Setauket vets explain the importance of routine vet exams for your pet.

Why are routine vet checkups important?

Routine wellness exams should be booked with your vet once or twice a year, even if your pet appears to be in perfect health. The frequency of visits can vary depending on the species and breed of the animal.

By bringing your healthy animal to routinely visit your veterinarian, you are giving your vet the chance to assess your pet's general health and well-being, test your pet for illness and disease and assess them for conditions that respond best to treatments in their earliest stages.

During the checkup, your vet has two goals: to prevent health conditions from developing where possible and to spot early symptoms of diseases so that they can be treated before they develop into more serious problems. 

How often should my pet attend a vet checkup?

Medical history, age, size, and breed all have an impact on how often your pet should visit the veterinarian.

If your cat, dog or other animal has a history of illness but is currently healthy, we recommend booking an appointment at your vet's twice each year or more to ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible. Your vet can examine your pet and tell you how often they should come in for a physical exam. 

Since puppies' and kittens' immune systems are still developing, young pets may be especially susceptible to illnesses that adult pets can easily overcome. Because of this, your vet may recommend that you book and monthly checkup for your puppy or kitten during their first few months.

Typically, an adult dog or cat with no history of illness should see us for a vet checkup annually. Some animals face greater health risks as they age, with larger breeds (such as Great Dane dogs) entering their senior years earlier than others. If you're unsure how often to take your pet for routine exams, consult your veterinarian.

How to Prepare

Your vet will need the following basic medical information about your canine or feline companion, especially if this is your pet's first visit. Bring notes on the following about your pet:

  • Tick bites
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Toilet habits
  • Current medications (names and doses)
  • Recent travel history
  • Past medical records, including vaccine history

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.

What does a checkup for pets involve?

When bringing your pet to see your veterinarian, your animal's medical history will be reviewed and your vet about any concerns you might have about their health. They will also inquire about your pet's diet, exercise routine, bowel movements, urination schedule and any other relevant aspects of their life or general behavior.

In some instances, you will be asked to collect and bring along fresh samples of your pet's feces so that a parasite screening test may be compiled. These exams help to identify whether or not your pet is dealing with a number of problematic parasites that would otherwise be very difficult to detect.

Next, the vet will physically examine your pet. While this will usually cover the following points, the vet may take time to do more depending on your pet’s needs:

  • Examining your furry companion’s coat to assess overall condition, as well as look for signs of abnormal hair loss or dandruff
  • Inspecting the condition of the teeth for any indications of decay, damage or periodontal disease
  • Check for any signs of illness by feeling along your pet’s body (palpating). These symptoms include lameness or limited range of motion, or signs of swelling or pain
  • Measuring your pet’s gait, stance, and weight
  • Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s lungs and heart
  • Checking your pet’s nails and feet for signs of significant health concerns or damage
  • Inspecting your cat’s or dog’s skin for numerous issues — from bumps or lumps (especially in folds of skin) to dryness and parasites
  • Looking into the eyes for signs of cloudiness, discharge, excessive tearing, cloudiness or redness. Will also look for issues with eyelids
  • Feeling the abdomen to check whether internal organs appear normal, and to check for signs of pain or discomfort
  • Examining your pet’s ears for signs of wax buildup, polyps, ear mites or bacterial infection

If no issues are detected along the way, your vet can likely run through this list quickly and seamlessly — 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 the next steps or potential treatments.

Staying up to date on your pet's vaccinations is also important to their health; ask your vet what your cat or dog's vaccination schedule should be.

Additional Wellness Testing Recommended for Pets

Alongside basic checkup exams and tests, your vet may also recommend additional wellness testing for your pet. Remember that in many instances, the early detection and treatment of a disease or health issue is far less expensive and invasive than having the condition treated when it has progressed into a more advanced stage.

Your vet may order blood tests and other diagnostics such as X-rays and fecal sample testing.

Ending the Vet Checkup

Once your pet has been examined, tested and given their annual vaccines, your vet will dedicate time to explaining their findings to you.

If the veterinarian has found any signs of injury or illness, they will recommend more detailed diagnostics or potential treatment options to help.

If your pet is healthy overall, this discussion may focus on improvements to exercise and diet routines, caring for your pet’s oral health and checking that essentials such as appropriate parasite prevention are monitored.

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. 

It might be time to book your pet's next routine checkup. Contact our East Setauket vets at Setauket Animal Hospital today to book an appointment.