Like people, our pets require annual health examinations to maintain a high quality of life and overall wellbeing—perhaps more so. Because our pets don’t always show obvious illness signs and can’t tell us when they aren’t feeling well, it’s our job to ensure they stay healthy throughout their life. Dr. Breite and the LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team’s motto when caring for pets is “thorough and thoughtful,” and we’re here with the scoop on the importance of regular wellness screenings for your pet. 

Question: What is a pet wellness screening?

Answer: A  wellness screening is a comprehensive physical screening of your pet that should be performed annually, whether or not your pet appears healthy. Most annual exams do not reveal any surprises, but sometimes they expose an illness before any physical signs are present. The purpose of these examinations is to diagnose diseases early, when they are easier to manage and treat, to maintain your pet’s optimal health. 

Q: What happens during a wellness screening?

A: Our veterinary team believes your pet deserves the best patient care possible, and we pride ourselves on a thorough exam. A wellness screening for your pet will include the following:

  • Inspection — We will observe your pet’s behavior and body conditioning score, as well as the following areas, to ensure they are in good health:
  • Eyes — We can diagnose issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye. Catching these conditions early can help preserve your pet’s eye health and vision.
  • Ears — We will look for issues such as ear mites, polyps, and bacterial or yeast infections, which can be painful for your pet and lead to serious complications.
  • Mouth — We will examine your pet’s mouth and teeth to determine if they need a professional dental cleaning. 
  • Skin —  Hair loss and poor skin condition can indicate issues such as endocrine imbalances, allergies, parasites, and poor nutrition. 
  • Listening — We will listen to your pet’s heart, lungs, and breathing, to ensure they have a normal heart rate and their breathing sounds normal. 
  • Palpation — We will palpate your pet’s lymph nodes in their head, neck, and hind limb regions, to assess for pain or swelling. We will also palpate their limbs and joints, looking for evidence of issues such as lameness, arthritis, and muscle and nerve problems. In addition, we will palpate their abdomen, to evaluate their bladder, kidneys, liver, intestines, spleen, and stomach, to assess organ size, and to determine if your pet displays any discomfort when these areas are palpated.

Q: How frequently should my pet have a routine wellness screening?

A: For puppies and kittens, wellness checks are recommended about once a month, when they receive their initial vaccinations. Pets 12 months and older should be evaluated by a veterinary professional once a year, and pets who have reached “senior status” (i.e., older than age 7) should be seen at least twice a year.

Q: What blood tests are performed during a pet wellness screening?

A: Blood will be pulled to perform a few routine blood tests, which include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC tests your pet’s red and white blood cells and platelets, to assess their immune status.
  • Chemistry profile — A chemistry profile checks your pet’s electrolytes and the function of several organs, such as their liver and kidneys.
  • Heartworm test — Testing your pet once a year for heartworms is recommended to protect them from these deadly parasites. You should also keep them on a heartworm preventive year-round.
  • Thyroid test — Senior pets are at higher risk for thyroid diseases, and may need their thyroid tested, so affected pets can be medicated to correct the issue.

Q: What other diagnostics are performed during a pet wellness screening?

A:  Other testing that may be recommended includes:

  • Fecal check — You may be asked to bring in a fresh fecal sample to test for intestinal parasites, which can leach nutrients from your pet and lead to diarrhea and weight loss. 
  • Urinalysis — Your pet’s urine may be evaluated for issues such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, and urinary crystals.

Regular wellness screenings are an important part of your pet’s health care, to keep them as happy and healthy as possible. Contact our LaGrange Veterinary Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s wellness screening, and to maintain their quality of life for as long as possible.