You may think your pet doesn’t need to see a veterinarian because they aren’t acting sick or hurt, but regular wellness screenings are important for your seemingly healthy pet. These exams are critical to help maintain your pet’s optimal quality of life. Our team at Liberty Veterinary Hospital wants to answer some frequently asked questions about wellness screenings, so you understand why you should schedule an appointment for your pet.

Question: What is a pet wellness screening?

Answer: A routine wellness screening is an evaluation of a pet who seems healthy, as opposed to a sick or injured pet. These examinations are necessary to diagnose disease processes early, when they are easier to manage and treat, to maintain your pet’s optimal health. A typical wellness screening usually includes:

  • History — You will be asked about your pet’s diet, activity level, appetite, behavior, elimination patterns, lifestyle, and any concerns you may have about your pet.
  • Physical examination — Your pet will be observed, auscultated, and palpated, looking for abnormalities.
  • Diagnostics — Other diagnostics, including bloodwork, fecal tests, and urinalysis, will typically be performed.

Q: Wouldn’t my pet act sick if they were ill?

A: Not necessarily. Your pet still has close ties to their ancestors, and if they show vulnerability in the wild, predators will take advantage of the situation. This means pets, especially cats, are more likely to hide illness signs. Testing during a routine wellness screening can detect these issues, before they become a major problem for your pet.

Q: How frequently should my pet have a routine wellness screening?

A: During early puppy and kittenhood, wellness checks are recommended about once a month, at the same time they receive their initial vaccinations. After they bypass their first birthday, your pet should be evaluated by a veterinary professional once a year, and once your pet reaches about 7 years of age, they should be seen at least twice a year, because, depending on their breed, pets reach senior status, and are at higher risk for disease processes, at around 7 years of age.

Q: What does a physical examination entail for my pet?

A: Our veterinary professionals employ many observational skills to perform a thorough physical examination on your pet.

  • Inspect — We will observe your pet’s demeanor, behavior, and their body condition score, to determine if they are at a healthy weight. We will also watch them move to assess for lameness issues. Other areas we will inspect include:
  • Eyes — By looking carefully at your pet’s eyes, we can diagnose issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye. Catching these conditions early can help preserve your pet’s eye health and vision.
  • Ears — Your pet’s ears will be examined for issues such as ear mites, polyps, and bacterial or yeast infections, which can be painful for your pet, and lead to serious complications.
  • Mouth — Poor dental health can lead to many serious health problems for pets, and we will examine your pet’s mouth and teeth, to determine if they need a professional dental cleaning. 
  • Skin — Hair loss and poor skin condition can indicate issues such as endocrine imbalances, allergies, parasites, and poor nutrition. 
  • Auscultate — We will listen to your pet’s heart, to ensure they have a normal heart rate and rhythm, and no evidence of a heart murmur. In addition, we will listen to their lungs, to ensure their breath sounds are normal.
  • Palpate — We will palpate your pet’s lymph nodes in their head, neck, and hind limb regions, to assess for pain or swelling. We will also palpate their limbs and joints, looking for evidence of issues such as lameness, arthritis, muscle problems, and nerve problems. In addition, we will palpate their abdomen to evaluate their bladder, kidneys, liver, intestines, spleen, and stomach, to assess organ size, and determine if your pet displays any discomfort when these areas are palpated.

Q: What blood tests are performed during a pet wellness screening?

A: Blood will be pulled to perform a few routine blood tests, including:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC tests your pet’s red and white blood cells, and platelets, to assess their immune status.
  • Chemistry profile — A chemistry profile checks your pet’s electrolytes and the function of several organs, such as their liver and kidneys.
  • Heartworm test — Testing your pet once a year for heartworms is recommended, to protect them from these deadly parasites. You should also keep them on a year-round heartworm preventive.
  • Thyroid test — Senior pets are at higher risk for thyroid diseases, and may need to have their thyroid tested, so medication can be given to correct the issue, should they be affected.

Q: What other diagnostics are performed during a pet wellness screening?

A:  Other testing that may be recommended includes:

  • Fecal check — You may be asked to bring in a fresh fecal sample to test for intestinal parasites, which can leach nutrients from your pet, leading to diarrhea and weight loss. 
  • Urinalysis — Your pet’s urine may be evaluated to test for issues such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, and urinary crystals.

Regular wellness screenings are an important part of your pet’s health care, to keep them as happy and healthy as possible. If you would like to schedule a wellness exam for your pet, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Liberty Veterinary Hospital, so we can help maintain their optimal quality of life.