Why It's Important to Schedule an Annual Pet Examination

Veterinarians don't just care for sick animals. They help prevent illnesses and protect your pet's well-being. Scheduling an annual wellness exam not only ensures your pet is healthy, but it also allows the vet to catch any issues that have arisen and start treatment before they become serious. The first step toward a long and healthy life for your pet starts with regular health checks at an animal care center in Jacksonville or the surrounding area.

What's Included in an Annual Exam?

Vets generally perform an annual exam during yearly vaccination visits. Much of the exam is similar to yearly health exams that humans receive from their doctor: a thorough, hands-on, methodical checkup and testing for parasites or other issues. Healthy pets have bright eyes and shiny coats, but vets check for specific issues during their examination, including:

  • Nose: The vet checks for nasal discharge, bleeding, or a dry or cracked surface.
  • Skin and coat: Open sores, patchy spots in the coat, or foul odors can indicate health issues. The vet will also look for signs of fleas or other parasites.
  • Eyes: Dull eyes, bloodshot eyes, or pupils that are unequal in size, or that fail to respond to a light source suggest cataracts or infection.
  • Ears: The vet looks for scabs, rashes, lumps or bumps, or a discharge, which could indicate an infection, ear mites or fleas, or allergies.
  • Mouth: Pale, inflamed gums, tartar accumulation, loose teeth, and bad breath are signs of periodontal disease.
  • Abdomen and internal organs: Lumps and masses aren't normal. Distension or pain found during the exam requires further examination.
  • Heart: A heartbeat that's too slow, too fast, weak, or irregular could be a sign of heart issues.
  • Temperature: Pets have higher normal temperatures than humans, but anything above 103 degrees could indicate some type of infection or illness.
  • Weight: Recent weight loss or gain can indicate a variety of health conditions.

What Health Issues Could the Vet Discover during a Yearly Exam?

Prevention is the key to a healthy, happy life with your pet. Your cat or dog doesn't always exhibit visible signs of illness, and the annual exam may be the only time your pet sees their vet during the year. Sometimes, symptoms are much more subtle. Many issues can only be discovered after a thorough physical exam and screening tests.

Pets can develop tick diseases, skin conditions, and ear infections. Diabetes commonly occurs in female dogs and male cats, especially those that are overweight. Your dog can also pick up leptospirosis, a serious condition caused by contact with water or wet ground contaminated by infected urine. If undiagnosed, it can cause kidney or liver disease and even death. Cats can get various types of cancer, upper respiratory infections, and intestinal parasites.

What Immunizations Are Performed at My Pet's Yearly Checkup?

Vaccines protect your pet against a long list of common diseases. There are essential core vaccines and discretionary vaccines that your vet may recommend due to the risk of possible exposure in the area where you live.

Most vets recommend these vaccines to protect their feline patients, including immunizations against rabies, feline distemper, feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) or herpes virus type 1, and feline caliciviral disease. Specific, noncore vaccines may be recommended as well, including those that protect your cat against feline leukemia virus, Bordetella, chlamydial conjunctivitis, and feline immunodeficiency virus.

For canines, core vaccines offer protection against rabies, hepatitis, distemper, and parvovirus. Noncore vaccines may be recommended, such as those protecting your dog from Bordetella (kennel cough), Lyme disease, and leptospirosis.

At What Age Should Yearly Pet Exams Begin?

Your veterinarian generally sets up a preventative care program with recommended guidelines for exams. Puppies and kittens require more frequent visits, due to deworming, immunizations, and other evaluations to ensure a healthy start. But, once your pet reaches six months old, the annual exam schedule begins. However, if you suspect an illness, pregnancy, or another issue with your pet, don't put off a thorough exam and evaluation from the veterinarian. Early detection can prevent a health issue from becoming more serious.

Is the Yearly Pet Exam Enough for Older Pets?

Animals age faster than humans. Plus, they can't tell you where they hurt. Once your pet starts to age, many vets recommend twice-yearly checkups. After the age of seven, your canine is more susceptible to eye problems, including glaucoma and cataracts, as well as joint issues, obesity, heart and kidney problems, and gastrointestinal issues. Many animal care experts say cats aren't usually considered to be older until they reach the age of 10. Obesity, overactive thyroids, pancreatitis, diabetes, renal disease, arthritis, and sometimes cancer are the most prevalent potential issues for felines as they age.

I'm Afraid My Pet Will Misbehave at the Vet. Should I Still Keep My Yearly Exam Appointment?

It isn't unusual for a pet to exhibit behaviors during their yearly visit to the vet that they don't usually exhibit at home. Trips to the veterinary clinic aren't only stressful for the pet but their owners as well, especially if they misbehave. Rest assured that the vet's staff deals with a wide variety of misbehaviors, from cats hissing and scratching at them to dogs growling, snapping, and or jumping on them. Pets engage in these aggressive behaviors when they're scared or exposed to unfamiliar surroundings and people. Vets and their staff have the experience and training to handle these issues. If the situation is particularly difficult, your vet will discuss ways to make the visit less stressful for you and your pet. Share your concerns with the staff when you set up the appointment if you feel your pet may not be comfortable with a trip to the vet clinic. The most important thing is that the exams and vaccinations are completed to protect your pet's well-being.

The Best Animal Hospital in Jacksonville

Your pet deserves the best care available. Forever Vets Animal Hospital is a 7-day a week animal hospital with locations in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Nocatee, St. Johns, Jacksonville Beach, and Orlando. When it's time to set up your pet's next vet checkup in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call us 7-days a week for services! For added convenience, we provide extended office hours and emergency care for your feline or canine companion. We also offer free pet exams for new clients and wellness plans with monthly payments to help you save money on the best vet health care for your pet.

Serving Jacksonville, Orlando, Nocatee, St. Johns, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and more.