Each year, you load up your furry pal and head to Mill Creek Animal Hospital, where your pet is given a vaccination series, and examined from whisker to tail. But, what really happens during your pet’s annual exam, and is it necessary every year? While all annual exams follow similar guidelines, we tailor each exam to fit your pet’s specific needs, basing our veterinary care tasks on your furry pal’s breed, age, and health status. Let’s take a look at what happens during each part of your pet’s annual visit. 

Your pet’s comprehensive physical exam

One of the most important parts of your pet’s annual visit is the comprehensive physical exam. Our veterinarians can tell a lot about your furry pal’s health, simply by performing a physical exam. While your pet may seem to be receiving a massage, here is what really happens:

  • Heart — We listen carefully to your pet’s heart to identify irregular beats, rhythms, rate, or unusual sounds. We use this information to help diagnose congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, shunts, or other heart diseases.
  • Lungs — We also listen to your pet’s lungs to identify harsh crackling, wheezing, or fluid accumulation, which  could indicate a variety of respiratory infections, or be related to heart disease. We also calculate your pet’s regular respiratory rate, since that can clue us in to hidden pain, or compromised lung function.
  • Abdomen — We feel your pet’s abdomen to check organ size, and for masses. An enlarged or shrunken kidney, liver, or spleen can indicate underlying organ dysfunction. We also feel the bladder for stones, and the intestines for thickened walls, or other abnormalities.
  • Joints — We check your pet’s joints and range of motion for hidden painful signs, or early stages of joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, or luxating patellas.
  • Eyes, ears, and mouth — We examine your pet’s eyes, ears, and mouth for irritation, inflammation, or infection. Dental disease affects the majority of pets over age 3, while ears can hide yeast, bacteria, or mites in their folds.
  • Hair coat — We check your pet’s hair coat and skin to search for external parasites, skin allergies, or indicators of metabolic diseases, like Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism.

You can see that a lot goes into your pet’s physical exam, and our findings provide an excellent starting point for detecting underlying illness and disease you may not have noticed at home. 

Lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations for pets

While a physical exam helps detect problems, vaccinations work to prevent illness and disease. For puppies and kittens, a vaccination series will boost their immune system, and give them the tools they need to fight off potential infections. Over time, these antibodies fade, so we booster vaccinations every one to three years. We take a customized approach to vaccinations, treating each pet as an individual, and vaccinating only for exposure risk based on your pet’s lifestyle. 

Routine baseline diagnostic testing in pets

Although our veterinarians are highly skilled, and can pick up on many abnormalities through an exam, blood work and other diagnostic tests give us a clearer picture of your pet’s internal function and health. Your pet may not be showing illness signs, but running diagnostic tests annually provides a baseline of normal values, which allows us to quickly detect changes. Based on your pet’s age, we may recommend the following screening tests, to evaluate and monitor their health:

  • Complete blood count
  • Chemistry panel
  • Thyroid panel
  • Blood glucose
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal exam
  • Heartworm and tick-borne disease testing
  • Blood pressure check
  • Ocular pressure check
  • Survey X-rays of the heart, lungs, or hips

This is a sample of what we may recommend, and your pet will not need all these tests performed annually. Some pets may be at a higher risk for certain diseases, so we recommend appropriate testing to catch disease at the earliest stage, to allow for more successful management or treatment. For example, many cats suffer from chronic kidney disease later in life, so we often recommend a chemistry panel, to monitor renal function once your cat reaches a certain age. 

Your pet’s annual exam is so much more than a few injections. In addition to a comprehensive physical exam, baseline diagnostic testing, and lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations, we also screen for parasites, prescribe parasite prevention medication, discuss proper diet and nutrition, and address any behavioral concerns. Each annual exam is a total wellness and well-being visit, to ensure your pet remains happy and healthy for many years to come. 

Is your four-legged friend due for a comprehensive annual exam? Maybe your pet needs a diet and exercise plan. No matter your furry pal’s needs, our team is here to care for them—give us a call to schedule an appointment.