Wellness exams and preventative care play an essential role in keeping pets as healthy as possible throughout their lives. At Old Towne Animal Hospital, we typically recommend wellness exams once a year for healthy adult dogs and cats and more frequently for young pets, senior pets, and those with chronic medical conditions. We also recommend bringing in any newly adopted pet for a wellness exam.
Curious to learn more about why we ask you to bring your pet in for wellness exams? Keep reading to find out why regular veterinary visits are important for your pet’s overall health and well-being.
Puppies and Kittens
When dogs and cats are young, we want to see them frequently during their first year to make sure they’re adequately protected by vaccines, including distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza for puppies and panleukopenia (feline distemper), rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus for kittens.
Depending on your pet’s lifestyle and risk factors, we may also recommend additional vaccines, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica (to protect against canine infectious respiratory disease complex or, as it’s more commonly known, kennel cough) or leptospirosis for dogs and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) for cats.
Starting when pets are 6 to 8 weeks of age, the initial series of vaccinations is given every 2 to 4 weeks until the pet is about 16 to 20 weeks of age; a rabies vaccine will also be administered once your pet is old enough. After that, most vaccines require boosters every year or every 3 years to keep your pet protected.
We also want to see young pets several times over that first crucial year to make sure their heart and other organs are healthy, they’re gaining weight and body mass as expected, and their teeth and bones are developing normally.
This is also when your Old Towne veterinarian will deworm your pet to get rid of any intestinal parasites, recommend flea control and heartworm disease preventatives, and typically perform a spay or neuter procedure on pets who will not be bred. Spaying/neutering has many benefits, including helping to reduce some undesirable behaviors, protecting your pet against certain cancers, and protecting female dogs and cats against a potentially life-threatening type of uterine infection called pyometra.
Adult Cats and Dogs
As pets move into their adult years, we recommend that they visit us at least once a year for a regular wellness exam. During these visits, we’ll:
- Perform a thorough physical exam of your pet
- Give your pet needed vaccine boosters to help provide continued protection against serious, highly contagious, and potentially deadly diseases
- Recommend additional vaccines to help protect against diseases that your individual pet may be at risk for because of lifestyle, risk of exposure, and other factors
- Check blood work for heartworm disease and any other hidden diseases or health conditions
- Make sure your pet remains free of fleas
- Check for intestinal parasites (that’s why we ask you to bring your pet’s stool sample)
- Examine your pet’s mouth and teeth and recommend any dental care that’s needed
- Perform a nutritional assessment to help make sure your pet is getting the right nutrition for their breed, life stage, health, and lifestyle
Even indoor-only cats need vaccinations to help keep them protected against potentially deadly diseases that can find their way inside on clothing, shoes, and other inanimate objects.
Once pets begin moving into their senior years (around 7 years of age for most pets, but sometimes a bit younger for larger dogs and a little older for healthy cats), we prefer to see them at least twice a year. Remember that pets age far faster than we do—unfortunately, this is why we have less time with them than we’d like!
During this life stage, senior wellness exams continue to help us detect any potential diseases or conditions, like osteoarthritis, cancer, dental (periodontal) disease, thyroid issues, and heart, kidney, and liver disease, that may become more common as pets age. Many pets don’t tend to show signs of disease, especially in the early stages.
Regular testing of pets, including blood work, urinalysis, and fecal screening, helps us identify any of these hidden diseases or health conditions. The earlier we can catch any changes, the better. Early diagnosis can provide us with more options for treatment.
More frequent veterinary exams and regular preventative care may even give you more quality time with your pet.
Pets With Chronic Conditions
Dogs and cats who have a chronic disease or are on regular medications also tend to benefit from more frequent veterinary visits. These visits let us check blood work and monitor your pet’s condition or disease, allowing your Old Towne veterinarian to make medication or other adjustments as needed.
Why Do Adult and Senior Pets Need Vaccines?
Although diseases like parvovirus and distemper may be thought of as ones that only puppies and kittens get, the truth is that pets need boosters for certain vaccines at regular intervals throughout life to ensure that they stay adequately protected. This is the case for several reasons:
- Not all pets who are vaccinated develop an immune response.
- A pet’s level of immunity to specific diseases decreases over time, based on how long vaccines remain protective.
- Some vaccines don’t provide pets with long-term immunity, so these vaccines (particularly those against bacteria, like Bordetella and Leptospira) need to be given more frequently.
- As pets age, their immune system tends to decline, so vaccinations can help boost an older pet’s immunity.
As part of our Adult or Senior Wellness Plans, your pet will receive the core canine or feline vaccines (those that are considered essential for all dogs or cats). Some of these core vaccines are given together, as a combination vaccine, which minimizes the number of vaccinations your dog or cat will receive at a time. We may also recommend additional vaccines, as mentioned above.
What Do You Gain From Your Pet’s Wellness Exam?
Besides playing a crucial role in helping to keep your pet healthy throughout life, regular wellness exams give you the opportunity to:
- Ask us any questions you might have, such as about your pet’s diet or nutrition
- Bring up anything you’ve noticed that seems different with your pet, like a behavior change, a new lump or bump, any joint issues, or coat or skin concerns
In addition, screening tests can not only give us an early start on a pet’s treatment, but if they come back negative, they can give you peace of mind.
Check out the wellness packages and programs we offer for dogs and cats of all ages.
Let’s Be Proactive Together!
If you notice that your pet is behaving differently or if your dog or cat just seems off, contact us right away. When possible, we want to catch anything that isn’t normal as soon as possible.