Your pet should be evaluated by a veterinary professional at least once a year, because regular wellness screenings can improve your pet’s quality of life and increase their longevity. Our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team wants to answer frequently asked questions about these visits to encourage you to book your pet’s appointment soon.

Question: Why does my pet need to see a veterinarian when they are healthy?

Answer: Your pet’s ancestors hid vulnerabilities to avoid being targeted by predators. While your pet isn’t in danger of being eaten, these instincts remain, and pets frequently don’t exhibit signs that they are sick until their condition is advanced. Health complications can be managed more easily and typically have a better prognosis when the condition is caught in the early stages. Regular wellness visits help our veterinary professionals detect health conditions as early as possible, before they cause significant complications for your pet.

Q: When does my pet need a wellness screening?

A: Young pets should be evaluated every few weeks to ensure they are developing normally, and this can easily be done at the same time they receive their initial vaccination series. After this time, pets should receive a veterinary wellness check once a year. When your pet reaches their senior years, they are at higher risk for health complications, and should be evaluated by a veterinarian every six months. Cats and small dogs become senior pets at around 11 years of age, and large dogs reach this distinction at about 5 to 6 years of age, depending on their breed.

Q: What does a pet wellness screening examination involve?

A: During a pet wellness screening, we perform a comprehensive nose-to-tail physical exam on your pet. This examination includes:

  • Weight status — We weigh your pet and assess their body conditioning score to determine their weight status. We can devise a safe weight loss strategy if they need to lose weight, or determine whether they are underweight because of an underlying health condition.
  • Temperature — We take your pet’s body temperature, because abnormalities can indicate conditions such as infection or an inflammatory condition.
  • Eyes — We assess your pet’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope to check for conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal degeneration, and dry eye.
  • Mouth — We examine your pet’s teeth and mouth to determine if they are affected by dental disease, a condition that can lead to serious health complications, including organ damage.
  • Ears — We evaluate your pet’s ears, looking for issues such as parasites, growths, and infection.
  • Lymph nodes — We palpate your pet’s lymph nodes, checking for node enlargement, which can indicate conditions such as infection, tick borne-illness, and cancer.
  • Heart — We use a stethoscope to auscultate your pet’s heart to appreciate abnormalities such as heart arrhythmias and murmurs.
  • Lungs — We auscultate your pet’s lungs, checking for abnormal sounds or the absence of lung noises.
  • Abdomen — We palpate your pet’s abdomen to evaluate their abdominal organs and check for abdominal tumors.
  • Skin — We evaluate your pet’s skin and coat to ensure they have no skin-related conditions, such as allergic dermatitis or a hot spot.
  • Gait — We analyze your pet’s gait, palpate their limbs, and assess their joint range of motion to ensure they aren’t lame or affected by joint pain.

Q: What diagnostics are performed during a pet wellness screening?

A: Several laboratory tests are performed to help our veterinary professionals ensure your pet is healthy. These include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC is a blood test that evaluates your pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Irregularities can indicate conditions such as anemia, infection, blood clotting disorders, and certain cancers.
  • Chemistry panel — This blood test evaluates multiple parameters for assessing several body systems. Irregularities can indicate conditions such as electrolyte abnormalities, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver failure.
  • Heartworm and tick test — This simple blood test helps us determine if your pet is affected by heartworm disease or a tick-borne illness. 
  • Urinalysis — We evaluate your pet’s urine, looking at the color, content, pH, and specific gravity. Irregularities can indicate conditions such as urinary stones, diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections.
  • Fecal test — We evaluate a fecal sample from your pet to check for intestinal parasites

Q: How else can regular wellness examinations benefit my pet?

A: Regular wellness examinations help us get to know you and your pet, and allow us to obtain a comprehensive medical report so we can devise a tailor-made health care plan for your pet that fits their specific health needs and lifestyle requirements. When we have a close relationship with you and your pet, we can provide the best care for your pet and ensure you are comfortable asking questions about your pet’s health whenever they have an issue. Your pet’s health is our top concern, and regular wellness examinations are the best way we can ensure your pet lives a long, healthy life. 

Regular wellness screenings are an important component of your pet’s health care plan, and allow our veterinarians to catch health complications in the early stages when they are easier to treat. If you would like to schedule a wellness screening, contact our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team, so we can ensure your pet gets the care they deserve.