Importance of Annual Exams for Dogs and Cats

Annual exams are important part of veterinary medicine, in part due to the fact that they provide a veterinarian with incite into how your pet has been doing since its last visit, they address and treat certain problems or conditions that may be going on with your pet presently, and they can provide your animal with preventative measures such as vaccinations and medications that are important factors at preventing the spread of diseases not only to your animal, but also to prevent the spread of disease to other animals that your animal may come in contact with — including yourself.

During the annual exam, a veterinarian will ask certain questions about your pet’s history in order to see how your pet has been doing since its last visit. Some questions may be geared toward problems that have been going on, while some other questions may be directed toward finding out the answer to a specific problem(s) that may have been occurring recently or in the past. By asking these questions, it allows a veterinarian to gain knowledge about an animal’s overall health and about the management of certain diseases or problems that an animal may have. It also allows the owner to ask questions to a veterinarian about concerns or problems that they may with their pets at home over the past year.

After the history of a pet has been taken and the owner’s questions have been answered, a veterinarian will perform a physical examination in order to help determine the current health of an animal. A good physical examination will take a look at different parts of your animal’s body to determine if any disease is present. For example, a veterinarian may listen to the heart to determine if there is evidence of any heart disease and he or she may palpate the animal’s belly in order to determine if any abnormalities are present within the internal organs. There are many organ systems that can have disease present and that the owner may not be aware of these problems being present until a complete and through all physical examination is performed by a veterinarian. This is one of the reasons why annual exams are extremely important to have performed consistently, so that problems associated with certain organ system can be caught early and be addressed through diagnostics and/or treatment.

In addition to the physical examination, a veterinarian may ask an owner to have annual blood work and urinalysis performed in order to screen for certain diseases. Blood work and urine screening allow the veterinarian to look at how certain organ systems are functioning on a physiological manner and to see if any changes in the blood work or urine could indicate disease. Animals can appear overtly healthy on the outside, but physiologically they can have disease present. This is why it is important and recommended by veterinarians to have these tests performed on a yearly basis.

After the physical exam and diagnostic tests have been performed, preventative measures such as flea/tick control, teeth brushing/cleaning, hair coat maintenance, and/or vaccinations can be discussed by a veterinarian. These preventative measures are extremely important in veterinary medicine because they help to prevent the spread of disease not only in the animal they are examining, but also help to prevent the spread of diseases to the community of animals or humans that the animal lives in. Without these preventative measures in place, more diseases would be prevalent than they are today. This is why it is important to vaccinate pets yearly and to use preventative medications monthly in order to help control the spread of infectious diseases within a community.

Therefore, in order to ensure the health of our pets and of the community with which they live in, annual exams should be performed to not only to prevent the spread of diseases through vaccinations and medications, but also to evaluate, address, and treat certain diseases that could be present within our pets. Early screening for any disease can help to monitor an animal’s overall health and if a disease is caught early, it can decrease the impact that it may have on animal’s future lifespan.
If you have not gotten your pet’s annual exam performed this year, please schedule an appointment to have them looked at to ensure that they are feeling at their best, to screen them for any diseases, and to ensure that they can be protected against diseases that they may come in contact with in the future.

Jonathan MacStay, DVM