Wellness & Sick Pet Exams

Pets are an integral part of the family and should be treated as such. Just as we do for ourselves, they should have annual exams to maintain good health or to manage chronic illnesses.

Whether your pet is displaying symptoms that require immediate attention or they have not had a physical examination in a while, you should understand what a physical exam entails and when it’s time to get one.

Wellness Pet Exams

Maintaining your pet’s optimal health is about consistency in annual wellness exams. This does not necessarily mean your pet will not exhibit a crisis situation requiring immediate care, but they can improve your pet’s overall quality of life by monitoring ailments that affect pets as they age and getting ahead of chronic pain. A wellness exam is a routine medical procedure that can ensure your furry friend is happy and healthy for years to come.

White curly haired dog being held during wellness pet exam
chihuahua with broken leg receiving wellness pet exam

The focus of a wellness exam is to monitor their chronic conditions, test for any past or current issues, and recommend future treatment. The frequency of wellness exams depends on your pet’s age and current health status – some patients require annual exams, while others require more frequent exams. 

Puppies and kittens require more exams than their adult counterparts to ensure appropriate development and vaccinations. For the average age, an annual wellness exam is normal. For middle-aged and senior dogs, semi-annual or even quarterly checkups are recommended.

Procedures Performed During Pet Exams

During a routine wellness exam, the veterinarian will ask you questions about your pet’s diet, exercise, lifestyle, habits, bodily functions, current illnesses and medications, and general health.

Next, the vet will perform a full physical examination. Based on your pet’s history and what they find, recommendations will be made for specific preventative treatment, such as vaccinations, dental care, and parasite control.

Physical Examination

In a physical examination, the veterinarian starts by observing the general appearance of the pet as they explore their environment (aka the exam room). Next, the veterinarian will start more of a hands-on exam.

They may inspect:

  • General body condition (abdomen, legs, head, neck, paws, nails)
  • Weight
  • How your pet stands and walks
  • Haircoat (dryness, dandruff, shedding, and loss)
  • Skin (oiliness/dryness, lumps, abnormal thickening)
  • Eyes (redness, discharge, tearing, lumps, cloudiness)
  • Nose and face (symmetry, discharges, breathing)
  • Mouth and teeth (tartar buildup, gums, broken teeth, ulcers)
  • Heart and respiratory system (rate, rhythm, murmurs, pulse)
  • Abdomen (palpation, organ assessment)
  • Lymph nodes (head, neck, hind legs)
  • Musculoskeletal (muscle and bony structure, range of motion, palpation)

A veterinarian may also ask for a sample of feces to be collected prior to the visit. This will be processed and microscopically evaluated for parasites, including eggs and larvae. In puppies and kittens, fecal samples are extremely important as younger pets are highly susceptible to intestinal parasites.

Preventative Medicine

After the wellness exam is complete, the vet may recommend heartworm testing on a schedule that is appropriate for where you live. There may also be recommendations for specific treatments like:

  • Vaccinations
  • Parasite control
  • Nutrition
  • Skin and coat care
  • Weight management
  • Joint health
  • Dental care
  • Lab work (blood and/or urine analysis)

Additionally, your vet may discuss individual circumstances and whether any other life-stage or life-cycle treatments are appropriate.

Good dog standing on back legs during preventative pet exam

Sick Pet Exams

When your pet is suddenly ill or has an ongoing disease, it is important you have a veterinary professional to speak with. Sick exams are designed to focus on a specific issue or set of issues that are affecting the quality of your pet’s health. 

During an exam designed for a sick pet, veterinarians will likely perform a wide range of tests and diagnostics, depending on the presentation. This is to try and determine the underlying cause and get to the root of the problem. This exam will start with a physical examination, but then can include bloodwork, urine analysis, fecal testing, and imaging, etc.

Common reasons your furry friend may need a sick pet exam include:

    • Vomiting or excessive diarrhea
    • Refusing to eat or drink water
    • Limping or crying in pain
    • Visible cuts or abrasions
    • Hard time breathing
    • Acting lethargic or fainting
    • Seizures
    • Any other reason you feel your pet needs immediate assistance

    If you suspect your pet is ill, do not wait. Call your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule a sick exam. If the case is not an emergency, your veterinarian will draw up a tailored treatment plan based on your animal’s history and lifestyle.

    If necessary, medications can be prescribed to reduce a pet’s pain or ailment. As always, any course of treatment will be discussed with the pet owner, in full, before any action is taken.

    White cat with blue eyes on an exam table during pet exam
    small terrier dog in a travel case on top of a pet exam table
    A young puppy lays down on a soft cushion while receiving a diagnostic exam

    Diagnostic Exams for Sick Pets

    As part of your regular pet checkups, the vet may recommend a series of wellness screening tests. These are also called diagnostics exams and are part of maintaining the ongoing health of your animal.

    There are three main categories of wellness testing:

    • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
    • Biochemistry profile
    • Urinalysis

    Within each of these categories, the vet will advise as to how extensive the testing should be. In younger animals with no health complaints, relatively simple tests will be required. Much like humans, the older pets get, the more tests they’ll need to maintain health.

    In middle-aged, senior, and geriatric animals, more comprehensive testing is required. Additional screening may include chest, abdominal, or skeletal x-rays and/or ultrasound. The vet will be looking more closely at the heart, lungs, and intra-abdominal organs, as well as for degenerative changes in the bones and joints.

    These diagnostic tests are needed because it is in an animal’s natural survival instinct to hide signs of disease, especially in the early stages of disease. Changes can be so subtle that it is challenging to see at home on a day-to-day basis.  As a result, without diagnostic testing, a health condition can become highly advanced before a pet ever shows signs. You will want to catch anything before it becomes serious and possibly not reversible. This helps to extend your pet’s health while maintaining good quality.

    A full husky naps next to a bowl of dog food

    Does Your Pet Need an Exam? Call Us!

    If a disease or condition is detected early, steps can be taken to manage or correct the issue before irreversible damage occurs. That is why wellness and sick exams help improve the prognosis for a successful outcome.

    Additionally, early detection and treatment is less costly than treatment for an advanced disease. These types of exams are particularly important for older pets, as you can catch things early and help extend their lifespan. The more effort you put into continuous healthcare, the happier your pet will be!

    When you call to book an exam, ask whether your pet should fast before the visit. Certain tests may require this. You may also be asked to bring in fresh urine or fecal samples, depending on the problem.

    Prepare basic information for the visit. This includes data like:

    • Brand and type of pet food
    • Any problems noticed 
    • Whether they eat table scraps
    • Any supplements or medications they take

    There’s no need to Google “pet exam near me”, just give us a call! We’ll get you on the schedule and your pet on the right track to health.