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Wellness Exams

Designing a General Health Care Program
Ideally, you should provide your pet with a wellness check at least once per year.  Small puppies and senior dogs have more needs than healthy adults and twice annual exams are recommended for dogs of this age.  Unless your pet is experiencing health issues or other concerns, annual wellness checks are often enough to help your veterinarian take excellent care of your pet.  Speaking with your veterinarian can also help you determine whether your dog needs exams more frequently due to concerns about age, health or genetic conditions.

 In This Section:


Wellness Exams

There are a few different tests and aspects to a traditional wellness exam, and knowing what to expect can help to set your mind at ease.  Understand that there may be additional tests or examinations depending on the age and breed of your dog as well as any previous health problems or concerns.  No veterinarian does things exactly alike, but understanding the basics of the exam can offer some comfort.

Questions and Answers
Typically, every wellness check should begin with a period of questions and answers.  Your veterinarian will ask about diet, exercise, activity and general health.  They should also ask if your pet has been displaying any problems, if there are any concerning symptoms or behaviors and if anything has changed since your last visit.  This is certainly the time to bring up any concerns you may have, no matter how small.  Whether you have noticed diarrhea, coughing, increased or decreased appetite or other symptoms, be sure to mention them, and if you have questions about diet, exercise, or general care, don’t hesitate to ask.  Your veterinarian wants your dog to receive the best care possible, and this starts with a well-informed owner.

Vital Signs
Another common part of every wellness check will be the monitoring of your pet’s vital statistics.  The vet will check your dog or puppy’s weight, temperature, pulse and respiration.  These are all standard tests and should cause no discomfort for your pet.  These are very important tests and changes in weight or heart rate can help the veterinarian identify problems long before they become apparent during simple observation.

Skin Exam
You will likely notice that your veterinarian will closely examine the fur and skin of your dog.  This can help them identify the presence of fleas and ticks.  Changes to your dog’s coat may also indicate nutrient deficiencies or other problems and this part of the examination is certainly important.  If signs of fleas or ticks are detected, your veterinarian will likely provide flea medication that can be used monthly to help prevent the situation from recurring.  These pests carry a number of diseases that can be harmful or fatal to even a healthy dog or puppy.

Dental Check
While few pet owners really stop to consider it, dental health is very important in dogs.  Ideally, owners should brush their dog’s teeth and gums at least twice per week.  Your veterinarian will examine the dog for signs of cavities and gum disease.  The color of the gums can also help indicate conditions such as anemia.  Dental problems can cause a number of health problems in dogs, including infections and even heart disease.

Heart and Lung Exam
Much like during our own physicals, veterinarians will take time during a wellness check to listen to the heart and lungs via a stethoscope.  This allows them to hear the dog’s heartbeat and listen for any irregularities.  It can also help your veterinarian identify the early signs of respiratory problems or conditions so that they may be diagnosed and treated promptly.

Blood Tests
Blood tests are also quite common during a wellness exam.  While they are likely to be your dog’s least favorite part of the exam, they are generally rather painless.  These tests can help your veterinarian check nutrient levels and organ function and can help them ensure that your dog is free of certain illnesses and parasites that are typically found in the blood.

Vaccinations
Vaccinations are some of the most important things that any pet owner can provide for their four legged companion.  During a wellness exam, your veterinarian may provide vaccinations against a large number of conditions, including rabies, distemper, parvovirus, Lyme disease, and more.  The vaccinations provided will depend on a number of factors, including vaccination history, the age of your dog or puppy, and even the environment you live in (urban, rural, etc).

Eye Exam
Your vet is also likely to examine your dog’s eyes during your visit.  While the vet cannot use a standard eye chart to determine if your dog has vision problems, there are actually a number of problems and conditions that can be diagnosed with an eye exam.  In addition to signifying cataracts, glaucoma, and eye injuries, changes in eye shape, color, or function can help identify liver problems, high blood pressure, kidney problems, allergies, infections, anemia, and more.

Ear Exam
During your wellness check, you are likely to notice that your veterinarian spends a significant amount of time looking at and into your dog’s ears.  While the inner ears of dogs and puppies are well protected, the outer ear is typically a haven for dirt and parasites.  Your veterinarian will want to make sure that your dog’s ears are both clean and healthy.

Summary
An annual wellness check for your dog is certainly too important to be ignored. It is important that you ensure that you schedule these exams regularly and that you do not put your appointments off. You want to provide your dog with the best care possible in order to ensure that he or she lives a happy and healthy life and this means providing exemplary care when they are healthy, as well as when they are sick. You help to ensure the best chance of identifying any potential illnesses or conditions before they become serious by providing proper wellness care for your dog or puppy.

Getting annual wellness checks is crucial for the health and well being of your dog. Whether you are the proud owner of the world’s cutest puppy or the lifelong companion of a senior dog, knowing that they are always as healthy as possible can make the relationship better for both of you. Having a canine companion is one of life’s most rewarding things, but as the human in the relationship, it is up to you to ensure that your companion has the care they need.


NOTE:  The information shown is offered for educational purposes only.  Consult with your veterinarian to design a wellness program for you pet.
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