Your pet seems fine. Their appetite is hearty, and they are always up for play time. A notice in the mail reminds you of their upcoming annual wellness exam. Should you go to the trouble of scheduling that appointment, when your pet is obviously doing so well? LaGrange Veterinary Hospital explains what a wellness exam entails, and why these visits, along with routine disease screenings, are so important, despite your seemingly healthy pet.

What does a wellness exam include for my pet?

During your pet’s wellness visit, our veterinary team will perform a thorough nose-to-tail examination, that will include the following:

  • Eyes — Our veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet’s entire eye, including the cornea, lens, optic disc, and retina, looking for such issues as cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye, and conjunctivitis.
  • Ears — An otologic exam checks not only the outer portion of your pet’s ear, but also the internal canal, for infection, parasites, or polyps.
  • Mouth — A thorough evaluation of your pet’s mouth can uncover loose or infected teeth that may require extraction, or masses that should be removed.
  • Brain — With a few brief tests, our veterinarian can determine your pet’s mental status and their coordination.
  • Heart — Using a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart can alert our veterinarian to any arrhythmias or heart murmurs.
  • Lungs — After assessing your pet’s heart, our veterinarian will turn to their lungs, to evaluate any abnormalities that may indicate allergies, asthma or heart disease. These problems typically present as fluid in the lungs.
  • Skin — A methodical skin analysis can pick up dermatitis, parasite, or allergy signs.
  • Limbs — Palpating all four of your pet’s limbs, along with watching them ambulate, can show any lameness issues that require further investigation.
  • Abdomen — With deep palpation of the abdominal area, our veterinarian can confirm that the organs are the appropriate size, and may help find any concerning masses.
  • Back — Our veterinarian will feel along your pet’s back, looking for any painful areas that could signal spinal column problems.
  • Body temperature — A team member will take your pet’s temperature to ensure they do not have a fever that could indicate an underlying problem. Normal body temperatures for dogs and cats range between 100 to 102.5 degrees. 
  • Weight — Your pet’s weight will be monitored at every visit. A drastic weight gain or loss could mean a disease process that would need further exploration.

What tests will be performed on my pet?

Testing will depend partly on any findings during the physical examination that warrant further investigation, but will generally include the following:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) — A CBC evaluates your pet’s red and white blood cells,  and their platelets. Abnormalities can indicate infection, anemia, and certain cancers, such as leukemia.
  • Chemistry panel — These values indicate your pet’s electrolyte levels, as well as the overall status of many major body organs.
  • Urinalysis — Testing your pet’s urine for appearance, concentration, and elements can reveal numerous issues, including diabetes, urinary tract infections, and kidney dysfunction.
  • Fecal exam — We microscopically evaluate your pet’s feces to check for intestinal parasites.
  • Heartworm test — Ensuring your pet is free of heartworms on an annual basis is critical, whether or not they are on a regular heartworm preventive. Heartworm testing can also reveal other parasite infections, including the tick-borne illness Lyme disease.

Why are wellness exams important for your pet?

Wellness exams are at the forefront of your pet’s overall wellbeing. Many animals, especially cats, are adept at hiding symptoms and remaining stoic, including in the face of severe illness. Many trained professionals could not ascertain that an animal is suffering from certain diseases without specific screening tests. Your four-legged friend’s natural instinct is to hide any hint of weakness, and they will go to surprising lengths to keep their sickness a secret. You cannot rely on their outward behavior alone as an indicator of their overall health.

Wellness exams play another important role—the hospital visit allows you and your pet to better get to know our veterinary team. A routine check-up is a low stress encounter, where you can see your chosen veterinarian’s bed-side manner in action, and your pet can learn to understand that the veterinary office is not a place to fear.

A wellness visit is also the opportunity for our veterinary team to explain the vaccinations they recommend for your pet, suggest preventive measures, such as heartworm prevention and parasite control, and set up baseline results to check against at future visits. Also, this is the time to ask any nagging questions, or discuss concerns about your furry companion.

If more than a year has elapsed since your pet’s last annual wellness exam, make contacting LaGrange Veterinary Hospital a priority, and schedule this most important aspect of your pet’s care.