Why Your Pet Needs a Yearly Checkup

Why Your Pet Needs a Yearly Checkup featured image

Dogs are vulnerable to suffering from diseases that are asymptomatic in their early stages. Since dogs can’t tell us when they don’t feel good, we often miss subtle behavioral changes — such as eating less or laying down more than normal — that are indicative of illness. Pets also age more rapidly than humans do. Consequently, they tend to develop diseases we associate with “old age” when they are only six or seven years old. In fact, veterinarians consider dogs to be “senior citizens” at the age of seven or eight. Having a veterinarian give your pet a checkup, including blood tests and urine analysis, will not only keep your dog healthy, but it can also reduce the cost of treating a sick dog later. Waiting until your dog is showing signs of a disease in its advanced stage means the dog may have to endure antibiotic injections or operations that may have been preventable with an earlier diagnosis.

How Often Does My Pet Need a Checkup?

Puppies and dogs less than seven years old should have a checkup at least once a year. To ensure your pet is disease-free, your veterinarian will perform the following tests during a physical examination:

  • Checking vital signs (rectal temperature, respiration and pulse rate)
  • Measuring weight and height
  • Palpating the abdomen and groin area to detect any unusual masses or swelling
  • Examining and manipulating the dog’s joints
  • Inspecting the mouth, eyes and ears
  • Inspecting the dog’s coat and skin

Your veterinarian will also use a stethoscope to listen to your dog’s heart and lungs. Depending on what he finds (if anything) and the dog’s age, the vet may also order a health screening consisting of a complete blood count, urinalysis, heartworm/parasite tests and diagnostic X-rays. You will also be asked about your dogs vaccination schedule and if your dog has ever suffered serious illnesses or injuries in the past.

Common Asymptomatic Canine Diseases

Some serious bacterial infections can infect dogs without producing symptoms until the disease has advanced.  Lyme disease and leptospirosis can only be detected in its early stages through a blood test. Fungal infections such as histoplasmosis can damage the lungs if not treated aggressively as soon as it is detected.   Canine parasitic infections are typically asymptomatic and are the hardest for owners to recognize in their dogs. Coccidiosis, heartworm, hookworms and roundworms can live in your dog for years and only occasionally cause diarrhea and vomiting.   With internal parasites, you often don’t know something is wrong with your dog until he begins to lose weight rapidly, suffer continuous diarrhea and fail to thrive. Veterinarians need to perform a fecal examination to determine whether a dog is infected by internal parasites.

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