by Petfolk Care Team
What to Expect at a Wellness Exam
Your pet seems happy and healthy, so why do you need to bring them to the veterinarian for a wellness visit? Just like us humans, regular check-ups and preventative care is essential for a long and healthy life. Your pet’s wellness visit is valuable time for you to spend with their veterinarian to ensure you are providing the best care at home and to identify underlying concerns that you may not have noticed.
Wellness visits should be scheduled at least once a year and often coincide with when routine vaccinations are due. Even if you and your pet saw the vet recently for sickness or another procedure, it is still recommended to see your vet when they are healthy to conduct a full wellness exam. This allows the pet care team to see your pet’s “normal” state, spend time answering non-urgent questions, and plan for the long-term health of your pet.
As your pet ages, it’s a good idea to schedule two wellness visits a year, as some health concerns are more common and frequent with older pets. More frequent check-ups allow your veterinarian to find potential issues sooner, providing more time and often more successful treatments.
So, how do you plan for a wellness appointment?
First, be sure to schedule your appointment ahead of time. Your veterinarian will likely send you reminders of when vaccinations are coming due 1-2 months ahead. Because veterinary schedules fill up quickly, we recommend scheduling an appointment as early as possible to secure your spot and prevent lapse in your pet’s protection.
Next, gather any questions you have about diet, change in activity, or general concerns you have about your pet. Don’t wait for an urgent or new problem such as an ear infection or unexpected bump - we want to check those out immediately. Questions about when to change foods, what to look out for with age or a change in home environment, and general health questions can be discussed during a wellness visit. Write these down or even send them ahead of your visit so they don’t get missed!
You can expect the veterinary nurse or technician to gather basic information about your pet prior to or at the beginning of your visit. This will include what type of food, how much, and how often your pet eats, any medications or supplements they’re taking, changes in lifestyle or home environment, and changes in activity level or eating and drinking habits. Be sure to bring this info with you, even if you have given it before so the medical team can record the most accurate and current information.
Most wellness appointments involve routine laboratory tests to look for things such as intestinal parasites, blood borne illnesses, and body and organ system functions. Ask ahead if you need to bring a stool sample for the visit. The veterinary team will often draw a small blood sample to perform other recommended tests as well. This can often be done in the room with you or in the treatment area, depending on your preference and your pet’s comfort level. We usually use some yummy treats so they don’t even notice the needle stick!
At your appointment, the doctor will perform a complete physical exam to look at every part of your pet. This doesn’t usually take a long time, but the doctor may need to concentrate and pause the conversation to best hear and assess the health of your pet. Once complete, your care team will discuss any abnormalities or concerns that were found. This could be the weight of your pet, aging changes to the eyes or joints, or new lumps or bumps. The doctor will listen for changes to the heart and lungs and look at your pet’s dental health. If there is a finding that requires further diagnostics or a more in-depth conversation, the team will most likely schedule additional time to investigate and discuss the concern.
If your pet is due for vaccinations, the veterinarian and nurse will administer these, again using yummy treats to distract your pet. These vaccines are often injections, but some are oral or intranasal. As with humans, pets can sometimes feel tired for 12-24 hours after vaccines, and your veterinarian will advise you to watch for any more severe symptoms (which are rare).
Some of the diagnostic tests performed will have results before your appointment is over, while some take longer to complete. Any completed tests can be reviewed during your wellness appointment, and the care team will usually reach out in a few days with pending results.
Finally, your wellness visit often concludes with recommendations specific to your pet. This will include medications to protect them against parasites and illness, diet and weight recommendations, and any follow up care for problems found such as dental disease. Your care team can schedule your next wellness appointment and any follow up procedures needed before you leave.
Wellness exams will help catch some diseases earlier and are essential for preventing common conditions. By preparing for your pet’s wellness appointment and communicating with your veterinarian, a wellness appointment can be a pleasant, rewarding experience for you and your pet.