Does my dog need to come in annually for a wellness visit?

                                                                                                            Are annual wellness exams necessary for my dog?

Has it been a while since your dog has had an exam from their Veterinarian?  We recommend that your pet be seen by their veterinarian at least once yearly for a wellness exam. You may be wondering why it is so important, especially if your pet appears to be healthy. You also may be questioning, what is a wellness exam anyway right?  This article will go over the many benefits to a wellness exam and explain what a dogplayingballwellness exam is.

A wellness exam is an annual visit for your dog to their veterinarian and is a general health assessment that may or may not include parasite testing, blood tests, urinalysis and treatment. During a wellness visit your dog will be physically examined from nose to tail. The doctor will check your dogs’ teeth and gums, listen to their heart and lungs with a stethoscope, use an otoscope to view the inside of the ears, and an ophthalmoscope to examine the eyes. The doctor will also ask you questions about your dogs’ diet, exercise, thirst, breathing, behavior, habits, elimination patterns (i.e., bowel movements and urination), lifestyle, and general health.  

How can wellness exams help your dog?

            Wellness exams can help your dog in so many ways! Based on your pet's history and physical examination, your veterinarian will then make recommendations for specific preventive medicine treatments such as vaccinations, parasite control (including preventive treatments for heartworms, ticks, fleas and intestinal parasites), nutrition, skin and coat care, weight management or dental care. In addition, your veterinarian will discuss your pet's individual circumstances and decide whether any other life-stage or lifestyle recommendations would be appropriate.

How effective are wellness exams?

Wellness exams can be extremely effective for you and your dog. Dogs that are seen annually by their veterinarian are more likely to live a longer, healthier life compared to dogs that do not see their veterinarian for wellness exams. Why is this the case you ask? Wellness visits are the perfect time to discuss anything about your dog’s behavior and physical wellbeing. The other aspect to wellness exams is that the doctor may find medical issues during the exam that the dog was not showing any signs of. This is good because most of the time it means the doctor has caught the issue early on! Catching symptoms early can prevent small issues from turning into long term larger issues.

Some issues that could potentially be detected during a wellness exam could be:

  1. Heart issues such as irregular heartbeat or an enlarged heart.
  2. Allergy issues such as inhalant or food allergies.
  3. Ear or eye infections.
  4. Mobility issues such as arthritis or obesity.
  5. Dental issues such as rotten teeth/excessive tartar and gingivitis.
  6. Gastrointestinal issues such as IBD, reflux, or excessive gas.
  7. Other issues such as kidney problems, liver issues, or diabetes.

How much do wellness exams cost?

A wellness exam cost at Johnson Animal Clinic will vary depending on what your dog will need at the visit. If your dog is coming in for an annual visit that will include getting vaccines, the exam cost is complimentary with vaccines. If your dog is coming in for a wellness visit only, the fee is $55. The only additional costs would be for any elective services or tests/treatments that the doctor recommends that you want to pursue.

Are wellness exams less expensive than treatment?

Yes! Yes! Yes! A wellness exam will most likely always be less expensive than the treatment of a medical issue that has not been previously detected. For example, let’s say that at your dog’s wellness exam the veterinarian notices that your dog has gained quite a few pounds compared to the year before. The doctor will most likely recommend a weight loss regimen including exercise, cutting back on food/ treats, and monitoring of the weight. This early detection and execution of the treatment plan can prevent many costly health issues down the road such as diabetes, mobility issues, heart/ lung issues etc. It is much easier and less expensive to prevent a problem than it is to treat it.

Are wellness exams covered by pet insurance?

Every pet insurance plan is different, and we recommend checking with your insurance provider, but most plans will cover wellness exams.

How often should my dog have a wellness exam?

We recommend that your dog come in for a wellness exam at least once per year. Dogs with chronic medical issues should be seen by the veterinarian based on their recommendations.

 

What should I be prepared to discuss during my dog’s wellness exam?

During your dog’s wellness exam you should be prepared to discuss his/her behavior, daily routine, eating/drinking habits, any abnormalities you’ve noticed, preventative measures and medications, activity levels and any goals you want to reach with your dog such as training for behavioral issues, agility courses or competitive sports.

 

How do wellness exams influence my veterinarian’s recommendations?

Your veterinarian will act just as your medical doctor would. He/she will use your dog’s medical history and current findings to decide if there are issues that need to be addressed or monitored. If your dog has not been seen annually and just comes in when ill, it may be harder for your veterinarian to know how long an issue has been going on. This will also make medical issues harder to treat.

What tests may be recommended for my dog?

Blood tests may be recommended if the veterinarian detects an issue based on the physical exam and explanation of symptoms you provide. Additional testing that could be recommended if a veterinarian feels necessary would be a urinalysis, radiographs, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, blood pressure checks, etc.

Are wellness exams optional?

While wellness exams are not required in general, there are certain situations that would require a wellness exam. For example, if your dog is on medications for a medical condition, the doctor would require a wellness exam at least once per year and possibly more frequently dependent upon the issue and how your pet is responding to treatment. Certain medications require blood work periodically as well.

My dog seems healthy. Why does he/she need a wellness exam?

There are multiple reasons why it is so important to have a wellness exam done for your dog annually. One of the most important reasons is that although your dog may seem healthy to you, they may be dealing with issues that are not apparent. You may never hear your dog’s irregular heartbeat or see your dogs’ joints becoming less cushioned. Another reason is because you do want to ensure your dog stays on important preventative medications such as heartworm preventative and flea/tick preventative! Ultimately your dog seeing a doctor once per year can prevent long term issues.

What can I do at home to keep my dog healthy?

At home care is dependent upon your dog and their specific needs. Each dog will have different care instructions catered to their needs. General tips for keeping your dog healthy at home include:

  1. Daily exercise/ Playtime.
  2. Regular feeding schedule vs. free feeding.
  3. Avoid using harmful chemicals to clean your home.
  4. Provide a calm and comfortable retreat for your dog such as a kennel or dog house.
  5. Training your dog on basic commands for safety and ease of direction.
  6. Always provide clean and ample amounts of drinking water.
  7. Ask your veterinarian about good food brands for your dog.

Are there any home remedies I can try?

Home remedies are rarely recommended by veterinarians for multiple reasons. One reason is that most home remedies do not work and prolong your dog from getting the treatment they need. Another reason is because some home remedies are downright unsafe for your dog.

What should I think about when considering wellness recommendations for my dog?

Always consider what will work best for YOU and your pet. This is very important because medicine as we all know is not a one size fits all deal! If your pet does not take pills well, you may consider an injection instead if it’s available. If you have a hard time handling your pet, you may need additional assistance. For example, giving your pet fluids at home may not be practical for you, and you may elect to hospitalize your pet instead.

 

What information will my veterinarian need to know before providing recommendations for my dog?

Your veterinarian will need to know any medical history for your dog from any other veterinarian if you are a newcomer. Otherwise your veterinarian will need to know if you have been treating any issues at home with any medications/treatments that they did not prescribe or recommend. Your veterinarian will also need to know your dog’s lifestyle, their typical diet, and any quirks about your dog (i.e. doesn’t respond well to restraint, can be fearful, overly excitable etc.)

What questions should I ask my veterinarian about my dog’s health?

There are so many questions to ask your vet about your dog’s health and your questions will be based on your personal experience with your dog. Some important questions to ask would be:

    1. What is the best diet for your dog?
    2. What is the best exercise regimen for your dog?
    3. Are there any special needs your dog may have?
    4. Are there any health issues that your dog’s breed is susceptible to?
    5. Does your dog need any surgical procedures?
    6. Does your dog need specific supplements, preventatives, or general medications?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In closing, wellness exams are vital to ensuring your dog remains healthy and happy for a long as possible. With a wellness exam apart of your pets medical regimen each year, you can prevent many diseases and issues early in your dog's life. After all, your dog is your best friend, and what better gift can you give them, than a clean bill of health!