The Importance of Annual Vet Checkups
With luck and good care, your dog or cat won’t get sick or injured. Does this mean that you can skip your annual vet checkup? If Fido or Fluffy doesn’t like seeing the vet, this answer might cause them a bit of stress, but the fact of the matter is that young and middle-aged pets should see the vet annually.
Older animals should visit the vet twice a year, as wear and tear on the body occurs quicker in older animals; the sooner the animal is treated, the better the outcome.
Remember…a once-yearly visit to the vet for your pet is like you seeing your doctor once every 5-7 years.
The once or twice-a-year visit is also in addition to any sick visits that come up over the course of the year; if you were there last month because your pet was coughing or injured their foot, you still need to see the vet a year after their last checkup.
Want to know why? Read on to find out.
Dogs and cats need preventative vaccinations to keep them safe from a variety of viral and bacterial illnesses. Required by law in most places is a rabies vaccine; this is due either every year or every three years. Since rabies is deadly almost 100% of the time, it is extremely important that you keep up with regular rabies vaccinations. Other vaccines that your pet needs are given at different intervals.
Some are every year, some are every few years, and some are only given as needed depending on the pet’s lifestyle, where you live, and how much contact they have with other animals.
An annual vet checkup allows the veterinarian to look at their records so you can be sure that your pet has the vaccines they need for good health as well as in case you need to board them while you go on vacation or in case of an emergency.
Depending on your climate, you might need to treat your pet for heartworm and/or flea and tick infestations on a monthly basis. These medications are available from various online pet supply companies, but you need a valid prescription from your veterinarian in most cases.
An annual checkup allows your vet to renew the prescriptions as needed. Most vets will do an annual heartworm test for dogs, since giving them heartworm preventative can be harmful if they have an active infestation. So skipping the annual visit skips not only the test but also the chance to get that prescription renewed, putting your dog at risk of developing the disease.
Potential Health Issues
While you can see some issues that might crop up with your pet, such as runny eyes or ear problems, you generally will not see if they are having trouble with their heart, lungs, or other internal organs. Both dogs and cats are great at hiding their symptoms of pain and will not usually let on that they are having trouble if a problem isn’t causing them extreme pain.
Your veterinarian will be looking for signs that there might be an issue with the heart, lungs, digestive organs, and so on. He or she will be able to palpate your pet’s abdomen and listen to her heart and lungs. In addition, your vet will be checking to see if your pet is overweight or underweight.
Obesity is a major concern for pets. Just as it creates health problems in people, excess weight can cause issues in dogs and cats. This is something that pet owners often do not see because the changes are so gradual. A veterinarian will be able to tell if your pet needs to lose weight, and he or she will also be able to give you tips on how to go about it.
If your dog or cat requires the expertise of a veterinary specialist, your regular veterinarian will usually be the one to make the referral. It is important that your vet knows which specialists your pet is seeing.
It is similar to the way your family doctor or primary care physician knows about any specialists that you see; whether human or animal, one professional is in charge of overseeing all of the care.
In your pet’s case, that professional is your regular veterinarian. Some animal specialists that you might be referred to include veterinary surgical specialists, veterinary physiotherapists, veterinary dentists, or veterinary cancer specialists. Each year, these specialists and the care that your pet is receiving will be reviewed and changes made as needed.
A Trusted Resource
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to see your veterinarian each year is to develop a rapport and relationship that allows both you and your pet to trust the vet. You should feel comfortable telling your vet anything that your pet is doing that might be negatively impacting their health.
In addition, your pet should know who your vet is and that he or she is a friend. Granted, many pets do not like the veterinarian because they remember having to have blood drawn or getting vaccinations.
Still, if the time comes that they are ill or injured, you and your pet will both feel better knowing that someone who cares is able to take the wheel and get your pet well. If your pet is overdue for an annual vet checkup, give your vet a call today.
If you don’t have a veterinarian, ask trusted friends and family members for a recommendation. The American Animal Hospital Association has a list of considerations to keep in mind when choosing a new veterinarian. The important thing is to find a vet you trust and bring in your pet once each year so all of her health care needs will be met.