Treat your pet to a yearly wellness exam – they’re not just for people

Like people, pets should have the benefit of regular wellness exams, good nutrition, appropriate diet and exercise. A thorough physical exam conducted during a routine wellness visit can be very beneficial in ensuring that your pet stays healthy.

Unfortunately, many companion animals aren’t receiving this proactive form of medical care and, because our pets’ lives are shorter than our own, they can develop significant health issues within a short period of time. Some pet owners believe that if their pets don’t seem sick, they don’t need to visit a veterinarian. However, taking preventive measures early on could spare your pet from serious illness and may save you money.

Pet wellness visits

Early recognition and treatment of an illness, injury or imbalance in your pet’s health generally means the problem will be easier and less expensive to treat or manage in the long run.

Traditionally, a wellness visit was recommended annually, but medical guidelines are changing, and many veterinary professionals now suggest a semiannual visit. Some veterinary clinics offer wellness packages that incorporate monthly payment plan options and, as the popularity of pet health insurance grows, it is becoming more prevention-oriented, affordable and accessible.

Before your pet’s appointment, jot down any specific questions you would like to ask your veterinarian. At the appointment, provide thorough background information about your pet: breed, age, reproductive status, lifestyle, diet, exercise routine and previous health issues are important parts of this medical history.

Mention any changes you may have noticed in your pet’s appetite, energy level, behavior or mobility as well — these changes may be normal, but others could be early indicators of developing medical problems.

Your pet’s wellness visit should include a thorough physical examination, including a brief dental exam, weight check, discussion about vaccinations, heartworm, flea, tick and other parasite controls, and behavior and training issues. If your veterinarian recommends that blood and urine samples be taken for analysis, make sure to discuss the results once they are available.

Keep in mind that you — in partnership with your veterinarian — are the best advocate for your pet’s health and well-being. Whenever questions or concerns about your pet arise, don’t delay in contacting your veterinarian to ask for important answers.

In an animal emergency, it may be necessary to make an immediate visit to a 24-hour veterinary hospital. Make sure to keep documentation of your pet’s health status handy, including vaccination history and medication details.

Healthy habits for companion animals

Good nutrition and exercise are essential to maintaining your pet’s health and proper body condition. Feed your pet foods with high-quality ingredients from reputable companies. The proper balance of protein, starches and vegetables depends on many things, including your pet’s age, weight, activity level and health profile.

Some chronic medical conditions may require a special formulation or home-cooked diet. Daily fresh air and exercise, like walks and supervised play sessions, will help ensure that your pet remains fit and happy, both physically and mentally.

Dr. Barbara Hodges, DVM, MBA is a Veterinary Advisor to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA). She also practices integrative small animal medicine in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California. She is a graduate of New York University, the Stern School of Business at NYU and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.