At Harvest Pointe Animal Hospital, we believe that regular wellness exams are an important part of your pet’s health care.  This is your chance to ask your veterinarian all your questions about your pet’s specific care and discuss any concerns you have with their health.  At a wellness exam, we can discuss strategies to help identify and treat health concerns early so your pet can live a happy and healthy life.

What Is a Wellness Exam?

A wellness exam is an examination and consultation with your veterinarian that is done as part of your pet’s routine care.  Just like your physician wants to see you each year, your veterinarian also would like to see your pet regularly.  For most pets we recommend an annual visit, but for senior pets or pets with health concerns more frequent visits may be recommended.

Throughout this article we will discuss what to expect at your pet’s wellness exam.  Keep in mind that your pet’s health care plan should be tailored to their individual needs and is best developed with open and honest dialogue with your veterinarian.

Nutrition counselling

The saying “you are what you eat” applies to your pet as well.  A healthy and balanced diet has been scientifically proven to help your pet live a long and healthy life.

During your wellness visit we will discuss your pet’s current diet.  We will ensure the diet is meeting your pet’s nutritional needs.  If your pet’s diet is deficient in nutrients, we can recommend an alternative.  We know pets can be fussy eaters so we can also discuss strategies to best transition your pet to their new diet.

Some health conditions can also be managed through diet.  For example, a dog with arthritis may benefit from a prescription joint diet with therapeutic levels of joint supplements built into their balanced nutrition or a bird with a heart condition may benefit from a low fat diet.  Your veterinarian can prescribe an appropriate diet for your pet’s health status.

On the other hand, a diet that is deficient in nutrients may lead to health concerns.  This is unfortunately common in reptiles that are not eating enough calcium.  A diet low in calcium causes decreased bone density and the pet may be more prone to breaking a bone.

In addition to nutrients, it is also important to consider the amount of food a pet is eating.  During your pet’s exam we will assess their body condition score.  This is a tool we use to assess their fat and muscle levels to determine if an animal is at an ideal weight.

Obesity can lead to a number of health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and arthritis.  Identifying and treating overweight pets quickly can prevent these conditions.  We can discuss a weight loss plan that is both safe and effective for your pet, if needed.

Dental examination

Dental health is an important part of your pet’s overall health.  At your pet’s wellness examination, your veterinarian will perform a thorough oral examination.

Your veterinarian will be looking for signs of dental disease, such as tartar and gingivitis.  If there is a significant amount of tartar, they may recommend your pet is scheduled for a dental cleaning and treatment.  This helps address bacteria under the gumline to prevent tooth infection.  If tooth infections develop, the tooth unfortunately needs to be removed to prevent further spread of the infection.

Rabbits and rodents have continuously growing teeth that they wear down over time.  If they do not wear down their teeth properly, they can develop sharp points that can be painful.  In severe cases, this can cause them to stop eating even.  If your veterinarian identifies these sharp points, they may recommend a dental treatment to file down the teeth to the correct alignment.

We will also discuss routine dental home care as well.  This can include specific diets, dental treats, water additives, and a tooth brushing routine.  There are many tools to help keep teeth healthy at home, so we will work to develop a program that makes sense for you and your pets and is effective.

Vaccination schedule

At your pet’s wellness exam we will also discuss what vaccinations are recommended for your pet.  The best vaccine schedule for your pet is one that is tailored to your pet’s specific needs.

To determine your pet’s disease risk level we will first talk about your pet’s lifestyle.  Some questions we may ask include:

  • Does your pet go outside?
  • Does your pet have contact with other animals? For example, do they go to a daycare, groomer, or boarding facility?
  • Does your pet travel with you?
  • Does your pet attend any shows or sporting events?
  • Does your pet have any medical conditions? In particular, we will assess if there are conditions that affect your pet’s immune system or that may increase the risk of side effects from vaccines.
  • Does your pet have contact with immunocompromised people or young children?

Once we discuss your pet’s risk level, we will work together to establish a vaccination schedule for your pet.  We will take into consideration what protection your pet needs, the potential side effects of the vaccine, and the risk of disease transmission for your pet to the people in their life.

In some cases, it can also be beneficial to perform vaccine titer testing prior to boosting a pet’s vaccine.  This is a test that determines your pet’s level of protection from their previous vaccinations to determine if a booster vaccine is needed to re-establish their protection.

Parasite prevention

Pets can be affected by both internal parasites (such as worms) and external parasites (such as fleas, mites, and ticks).  Your pet’s risk of parasites also varies with their lifestyle.  Just like their vaccination schedule should be tailored to their own needs, your pet’s parasite prevention plan should also be unique.

Pets that spend time in wooded areas or travel with you are at a higher risk for external parasites, such as ticks.  However, ticks have become increasingly common in our area with the warmer weather we have been experiencing.  Pets that may have been low risk for external parasites before may now need protection.

Animals that eat live prey, such as cats that hunt mice or bearded dragons that eat crickets, are at a higher risk for internal parasites.  Often these parasites spend part of their life cycle within these prey animals.  When your pet ingests their prey, the parasite then moves into their new host.

Parasites can also be transmitted in the feces of other animals.  For example, dogs can be exposed to parasites in the droppings of other dogs, coyotes, or rabbits.  Some types of parasites can even be transmitted to people.

A parasite prevention plan that is tailored to your pet may include preventatives for external parasites, regular deworming medication for internal parasites, or routine fecal parasite tests to identify if your pet has parasites and what type of parasites.

Routine lab work

Your veterinarian may recommend routine lab work at your pet’s visit.  In particular, this is often done in senior pets or to monitor pets with health concerns.

Routine blood work typically includes a Complete Blood Count.  This will help your veterinarian assess your pet for anemia (low numbers of red blood cells) and for early signs of infectious diseases.

The other portion of routine blood work is the Blood Chemistry.  This provides information on organ function, electrolytes, and proteins.  Your veterinarian can look for early indicators of kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes mellitus, among other things.

Additional tests may be recommended depending on your pet’s specific needs.  For example, senior cats have a higher risk of having an overactive thyroid gland which can be identified on blood work or a new bird to your flock may benefit from testing for infectious diseases that they could potentially spread to their new family.

Just like diet, vaccinations, and parasite prevention, routine lab work testing will be tailored to your pet’s individual needs.

In conclusion

Your pet’s Wellness Exam encompasses many aspects of their health care.  Your veterinarian will discuss with you a plan that makes sense for both you and your pet.  We also welcome questions so be sure to make a list of all the things you want to cover with your veterinarian.

We look forward to seeing you and your pet!  If you have any questions about your pet’s Wellness Exam, please contact us at (587) 735-6677.