A dog wellness exam is when when you bring your pet in at least once, maybe twice a year, and get a weight, a temperature, and a history on how he is doing. We do a full physical exam, including checking the teeth, heart, and limbs, checking for lumps and bumps, diarrhea, parasites, ear infections, and the like. It is just like your annual doctor's exam to check for things that you as an owner may not know after seeing your dog every day, that we may notice that has changed over time.
Depending on your dog's age, he should have a wellness exam every year or every six months.
If there are any concerns about thirst or urination, if their appetite's increased or decreased, if there are any stool abnormalities, vomiting issues, breath problems, mouth issues, lameness, limping, or tumors, those are all things we look at during a wellness exam.
A full wellness exam includes the exam as well as test to check for intestinal parasites, and a heartworm test that will also include a tickborne disease test. It is a small blood sample. We also send a blood sample out to the lab to do a full organ panel so they can check liver and kidney chemistries, electrolytes, and a complete blood count, to get an overall picture of your dog’s health.
Dogs do hide disease and a lot of times, they only show symptoms when the disease is advanced, so it is a good idea to have a trend. Know what your dog's normals are, and then if that trend starts changing or if we do start showing changes in their blood work, then we can address it before it becomes symptomatic.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. It is important to feed them a very good, well-balanced dog food diet, having 90% of their calories coming from dog food rather than treats. We recommend brushing their teeth, keeping them on flea, tick, heartworm medications, spaying and neutering, and keeping them on a leash when they walk outside around other dogs, even if your dog is well behaved and well trained. Other dogs may not be and that's when we get into trouble.
Bring any medications that they're on as well as a fresh stool sample would be wonderful. If they're having any urinary issues, your doctor may ask for you to bring a urine sample. But generally just bring any medications they're on, you and your questions, and the dog.
Hello, I’m Dr. Cara Hill. I'm associate veterinarian here at Advanced Animal Care. This is my pup Moog, and today we're going to be answering some common questions that we get about dog annual wellness.
What is a dog wellness examination?
Our annual wellness examination basically looks at your pet from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail and everything in between. We recommend that they get them yearly, so every year you should bring your pet in for an annual wellness. We basically start by making sure that their nose looks okay, that eyes look okay. We sometimes use special tools like an ophthalmoscope to make sure that you pet doesn't have the start of cataracts, make sure that the retina and the back of their eye looks healthy. We'll look in their ears, make sure that they are not starting an ear infection or have any allergies going on in their ears.
And then we move down, and I like to look at lymph nodes next, which is great because sometimes some cancers can be spread through the lymph nodes. So when we have lymph node enlargement, it's a good indicator that we might need to do some more diagnostics for your pet, just to make sure that they're safe and healthy. Then from there I tend to listen to their heart and lungs, make sure that they don't have any murmurs or arrhythmias, both of which we can generally manage with medication.
And then make sure that their lungs sound clear because sometimes especially in the spring and the fall, just like with people getting colds, these guys can get upper respiratory tract infections too. We just want to make sure that everything sounds good in there.
From there, I move back and palpate their abdomen, make sure that none of their major liver, spleen, kidney, major organ systems feel enlarged, make sure I don't feel any weird lumps, bumps, masses, anything like that. And then we move back and feel some lymph nodes in the back of their leg too, because believe it or not they've got sets of lymph nodes just throughout their entire body. And then lastly I look at their skin, make sure we don't have any masses that have popped up, any warts, skin tags, lumps, bumps. Make sure that skin looks nice and healthy because I'm sure a lot of you guys experience skin allergies just like we do. We want to make that everybody's happy, healthy and doing well.
What tests might be recommended for my dog during the wellness examination?
After we do a good complete and thorough physical exam, we recommend that dogs of any age or really dogs over a year old get tested for heartworm disease. We have a pretty neat test here. In addition to testing for heartworm disease, it also tests for common tick-borne diseases in the area. We're having pretty high tick counts, and we're seeing a lot of tick-borne diseases that can be managed.
Moog here, he is two years old, so I would recommend getting him his annual heartworm test when he's due. But, for my other kiddo that I have at home that's eight, we usually recommend doing some general bloodwork screening anytime they're over the age of six, just to make sure that all of their major organ systems are functioning appropriately like their liver and kidney. And then also check thyroid levels to make sure that they're not developing hypothyroidism, and rules out other common diseases like diabetes.
What information will my vet need to know before providing recommendations for my dog?
If your dog's just coming in for annual wellness, we always want to make sure that they're eating, drinking okay, that they're urinating normally, having normal bowel movements, making sure that there's no changes there. We also always recommend that they're on some type of prevention for heartworm as well as fleas and ticks and intestinal parasites. So letting your vet know if they're on any preventatives is always very helpful. That way we can keep track of it in their records, and if they take any medication.
And then if some things come up out of the norm, like if your dog's been coughing, sneezing lately, itching, scratching, anything like that, occasionally vomits, occasionally have soft stool or diarrhea, we definitely want to know all of that. So don't think that there's an unimportant detail because all of the details are important to us, and we really do want to know.
But let's say your dog's doing something funny at home and you're not coming in for wellness because your dog's coughing a whole lot or seems to have sneezing fits, or things like that, a lot of times these guys don't want to show us in the clinic. As hard as we try to get them to, they think, "Oh, I'm at the vet. I don't want to be here, so I'm not going to show them what's going wrong." So we love videos. We really do. So if you ever feel like your pet's doing something funny, take a video of it, or if they throw up something funky, take a picture of it. We're always happy to see it. We know it's gross. We understand that, but we'd rather see it and know so we can better help your pet.