Pet Wellness Starts At The Yearly Visit

By Dr. Meegan Weiler, Veterinarian

A yearly visit to the vet can be a stressful time for you and your pet. Many owners wonder if it’s truly necessary to traumatize their cat by stuffing it into a carrier and bringing them to a veterinarian each year. Same with owners of nervous, aggressive, or prone to carsickness dogs. The answer is, yes. The annual exam is extremely important for your pet’s well-being and long term health.

Vaccines are important part of the visit, but make up only a fraction of what is addressed during the yearly exam. We weigh your pet, look in their eyes, ears, mouth and listen to their heart and lungs. We palpate their abdomen, check their skin and joints. We also ask you to bring a stool sample and take blood samples. All of these tasks serve a purpose.

Let’s start with your pet’s weight. I know, it is a touchy subject for all and I honestly feel dogs and cats glaring at me when I say, “diet, green beans, use a measuring scoop.” But it is, pun intended, a growing problem. Dog and cat food bags instruct owners to feed far more than is necessary and a certain breed does not necessarily correlate to a certain weight. We can help you tailor a diet regimen and weight loss goals specific to your pet… much to their dismay! In the long run, this leads to better joints, heart health and a decreased risk of diabetes. On the flip side too much weight loss, when not intended, also bears the need for further discussion.

Next up in the yearly exam, teeth. It may seem like a tall order but just a little brushing can go a long way to prevent heart, kidney disease or painful, infected teeth. During the exam we may recommend a dental cleaning and grade the teeth’s condition. If your pet’s teeth are already shiny and clean we will give you tips on how to maintain that bright, and not smelly smile.

For those who are lucky and don’t have to deal with pet behavioral issues, you can skip this section, but for the rest of you that have had a cat urinate on your bed or a dog that suddenly gets anxious when you may try to leave the house; we can help. A very important part of the annual exam is to discuss with us any concerns you have. Behavioral or medical, we will work with you to find a solution.

Did I mention we ask you to bring a stool sample? A small sample, about the size of a tablespoon, will do for your biggest dogs. Covered in kitty litter? No problem. Admittedly, it is the yucky part of the visit, but also important to make sure that nasty parasites haven’t invaded your pet’s intestines.

I almost forgot to mention one of the biggest reasons you visit us, vaccines. They are important to keep your pet free of communicable diseases, but we tailor vaccines to your pets specific risks to prevent “over vaccinating.” Our goal is to make sure your pet is adequately protected for whatever they may encounter in their specific lifestyle.

So please, for your pet’s health, try one last time (as long as you are not in mortal danger) to get your cat from under the bed. If your dog vomits in the car, we can provide anti-nausea medication for the next trip. I know the physical exam and vaccine(s) are the most important part of your pet’s annual visit, but in all honesty, I look forward to seeing the patients and their owners and love hearing the stories that you share with me.

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