Routine Vet Exams - Why Are Regular Cat or Dog Checkups Important?

As a pet parent, all you want is for your pet to be healthy and without routine exams, your vet will be unable to check for the early signs of illness and make recommendations for preventive care and treatment of illnesses that your pet may be experiencing. Our vets in Wake Forest discuss the importance of routine vet exams and why they are important to help protect your beloved cat or dog.

What is the Importance of Checkups For Dogs & Cats?

You should book a routine physical exam twice yearly for your dog or cat with your veterinarian at the very least to allow them the opportunity to examine your pet and ensure that they are healthy and to check for any signs of potential concerns that may need to be addressed.

By taking your healthy animal to visit the vet regularly, you allow your veterinarian the opportunity to assess your pet's general health, and test for diseases, illnesses and conditions that can be difficult to identify in their early stages (including cancers and parasites). 

If spotted early most conditions can be easily managed or treated, if any condition gets left untreated then it could lead to serious complications for your dog or cat.

How Often Should Your Dog or Cat Have a Vet Checkup?

The frequency in which your dog or cat should visit the vet for a checkup will depend on various factors such as their age, health and breed.

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 your puppy or kitten's immune system is still developing, young pets can be especially susceptible to many illnesses that adult pets are easily able to overcome. For this reason, your vet might recommend booking a monthly checkup for the first few months. 

If you have a dog or cat that is healthy with no underlying health conditions then your vet may recommend wellness checkups only once a year. That said, some pets such as senior dogs and cats, in addition to giant breed dogs, face an increased risk of many conditions and should see a veterinarian more often to monitor for early signs of illness. In these cases, it's a good idea to bring your pet in for twice-yearly cat or dog checkups. 

How to Prepare For Your Cat or Dog's Checkup

There is some basic information that your vet may ask for that can give them a better idea of what their overall health is like. When your pet has a checkup try to bring notes with the following:

  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Recent travel history
  • Current medications (names and doses)
  • Past medical records, including vaccine history
  • Tick bites
  • Food (what kind do they eat)
  • Toilet habits

Bringing a favorite toy for your pet may help to keep them calm during their visit and always ensure that dogs are on a leash and cats are kept in a carrier.

What Happens During a Dog or Cat Checkup?

During the checkup your vet will review any information that you have provided regarding your dog or cat's health history and any concerns that you currently have about your pet. They will also ask about your pet’s diet, exercise routine, thirst level, bowel movements, urination and other aspects of their lifestyle and general behavior.

In some cases, you’ll be asked to collect and bring along a fresh sample of your pet’s feces (bowel movement) so a fecal exam can be completed. These exams help to identify whether any number of problematic intestinal parasites are present. These parasites may otherwise be difficult to detect.

Next, the vet will physically examine your pet. Here are the main parts of your pet that the vet will check over:

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

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 next steps or potential treatments.

Annual vaccinations are also administered during a cat or dog checkup, based on your animal’s appropriate schedule.

Other Recommendations That Your Vet May Make During Your Cat or Dogs Checkup

Along with the basic checkup exam points we list above, the vet may also recommend additional wellness testing. Remember that in many cases, early detection and treatment of disease is less expensive and less invasive than having the condition treated once it has become more advanced.

Tests for blood count, thyroid hormone testing and urinalysis may be done, in addition to diagnostic testing such as X-rays and imaging.

After Your Cat or Dog's Routine 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog or cat due for their routine checkup? Contact our Wake Forest vets to schedule a visit for your furry friend.