We recommend wellness exams every 6 months to one year depending on the age and condition of your pet. At these visits, we perform a thorough physical exam and take a history on how your pet has been doing since his or her last visit and see if any new concerns have developed. During the physical exam, we check your pet’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth, lymph nodes, skin and coat, heart, lungs, abdomen, joints, and temperature. A thorough exam allows us to catch any abnormalities that may have developed and inform you of our findings. Based upon these findings and the history, we may recommend additional testing.
Ideally, bloodwork should be performed at least yearly and within a month of any anesthetic procedures. Bloodwork can tell us a great deal of vital information about the health of your pet. There are two large blood panels that are commonly performed during a wellness visit if we deem them appropriate. You may have heard of a Complete Blood Count (CBC) or a serum chemistry panel.
A CBC provides information on your pet’s cell counts, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This test allows us to detect signs of infection, anemia, low platelets, dehydration, stress, and blood parasites, just to name a few. A serum chemistry panel provides a look at internal organ function, including kidneys and liver. We can see the levels of electrolytes, detect muscle damage, diagnose endocrine dysfunction, and recognize kidney or liver disease with this test.
Heartworm antigen tests are also a common component of wellness visits. Heartworm disease is a preventable disease and identified with a few drops of blood. This test is done at least yearly but preferable every 6 months. This is because it takes about 6 months for an adult heartworm to produce the microfilaria that we detect using this test. This is more useful in dogs where disease can be identified and treated. Cats have more occult infections that may be difficult to detect. This is why year-round heartworm prevention is extremely important in both cats and dogs.
Urinalysis may also be performed at a wellness visit, especially for geriatric patients. We can detect urinary crystals, urinary tract infections, and signs of endocrine or kidney dysfunction with this test. We can also test the acidity and detect blood, bilirubin, hemoglobin, or myoglobin in the urine.
You can see that a wellness exam provides a wealth of information and establishes a relationship between you, your pet, and your veterinarian. Because your pets cannot speak to us and tell us something is wrong, wellness and preventative care is essential to catch any abnormalities early on and treat them to help your pets live long, healthy lives.