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The Importance of the Annual Wellness Examination

A comprehensive wellness examination gives our doctors the chance to evaluate your pet's overall health and to detect problems before they turn into serious illnesses. Because most pets age more quickly than people do, it is important that your pet be examined at least once a year. Additional testing may be recommended to diagnose a health problem. As part of the wellness examination, a complete physical examination will be performed. During the physical examination, our doctors are able to recognize abnormalities, which may indicate the early stages of disease. Once determined, our doctors may recommend additional testing to help in diagnosing a health problem.

Through a comprehensive physical examination, our doctors are able to detect various problems, including the early signs of heart disease. Changes in weight since your pet's last exam are also recorded, which can indicate the early stages of a metabolic problem such as diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, or obesity.

Ears are examined because they can harbor parasites, bacteria, fungus, and foreign materials, and your pet's eyes are examined to check for abnormalities, such as anemia, glaucoma, cataracts, high blood pressure, and jaundice.

Next, your pet's mouth is checked for tartar buildup, dental abnormalities, fractures, loose teeth, tumors, infections, and other problems. The skin and hair are also examined as a means of detecting allergies, infections, warts and tumors, fleas, ticks, and other parasites.

Your pet's abdomen will be palpated to detect abnormalities such as enlarged organs or masses, and the joints, muscles, and lymph nodes are examined to detect the possible presence of inflammation, arthritis, and tumors. Lastly, if your pet has not been spayed or neutered, our veterinarian will explain the health benefits of doing so.

The exam should also include a check for parasites. Heartworms are a potentially-fatal disease transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes and is quickly diagnosed with a blood test. Intestinal worms in both cats and dogs can be diagnosed by checking a fecal sample. Our doctors will be happy to discuss with you medicines to prevent parasite infections.

The annual check-up is also a good time to update vaccinations. Here in Florida, pet owners are required by law to have their dogs  and cats vaccinated against rabies.

Cats also need protection against upper respiratory tract viruses and feline distemper. Cats that spend unsupervised time outside should also receive a feline leukemia vaccination.

Adult dogs should have an annual DHLPP injection to boost their protection again distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus. If your dog spends time with other dogs – whether in a dog park or at a boarding kennel – you should also have your pet protected against bordetella (kennel cough).

It’s important to remember that dogs age at much faster rate than humans – the rule of thumb is that one human year equal approximately seven “dog” years – which means an annual physical exam is actually a once-every-seven-years exam. Veterinary experts recommend that once dogs pass middle age – about age six in people years — twice yearly visits are a good idea to ensure early detection and treatment of problems.

Some people feel that because their pet appears healthy that they can skip an annual checkup for their pet. However, an annual vet visit is an important part of his health maintenance.

Remember that dogs and cats age faster than humans do. Before we know it, that cute little puppy or kitten becomes middle aged, and health issues may start cropping up. With regular visits to your pet’s vet, he or she can detect any potential problems before they escalate.

Annual examinations (or twice-yearly for older pets) are the cornerstone of a good preventive care regimen, and preventive care is where the real savings come in. You will truly save money when you can work with your veterinarian to tweak your pet’s care in order to prevent health problems from occurring (changing his diet, for example, to prevent or reverse obesity), or to catch and treat illness before it becomes expensive — and possibly life threatening. The approval of another year’s worth of heartworm medication, as well as a review of all other medications, is part of that process.

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