Ensuring your dog lives a long and healthy life involves paying close attention to their wellness, from visiting your veterinarian for annual exams and maintaining a proper diet to staying on top of preventatives and taking note of any changes that could indicate illness. If you’ve noticed changes in your dog, we would recommend you consider scheduling an appointment to have your dog seen. Of course you may have questions, and that is why we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions here.
If you have further questions about dog wellness care and are in the San Francisco, CA area, give us a call at (415) 333-0813 to schedule an appointment.
What is involved in a dog wellness exam?
A wellness examination is when a veterinarian looks at your dog from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail, checking everything along the way. It is a complete and comprehensive physical exam to gauge the dog’s overall health and wellness.
During a dog wellness exam, a veterinarian will check:
- Teeth quality
- Gum color
- Skin condition
- Lymph nodes
- Body condition and weight
- Body temperature
The American Animal Hospital Association provides in-depth details about precisely what a veterinarian is looking for when they conduct a wellness exam.
How soon should I bring my dog in to see a veterinarian for a wellness exam?
Examinations should start at a very young age, with puppies seen for the first time at about 6-7 weeks old. Your veterinarian will do a wellness exam to ensure that we're starting on the right foot. From there, you’ll bring your puppy in every month for booster vaccines, which will also include an exam. Once their initial vaccine series is complete at four months of age, your dog will see their veterinarian for annual vaccines, during which they will conduct a comprehensive examination.
If you’re bringing home an older dog that you’ve adopted, you should bring them in to see your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure they’re healthy. This is especially important if you have other pets to avoid transmission of any diseases.
How do dog wellness visits impact the longevity of my pet's life?
The key to increasing a dog's longevity is early detection of any disease or illness. Dog owners often think their dog is okay if there are no outward signs, but wellness exams allow a veterinarian to pick up on a problem the owner likely didn’t notice. It could be something relatively insignificant, or perhaps a urinalysis reveals that the dog is not concentrating their urine and may have a kidney issue, for example.
We've all heard the expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you can prevent diseases from progressing or even stop them in their tracks because you detected them early, you're going to have a much better prognosis. Prevention is better than treating medical issues. For instance, it's far easier to prevent heartworm disease than to treat it. When a veterinarian hears abnormal heart sounds in a dog, they can intervene with surgery before it develops into full-fledged heart failure. As for cancer, recognizing it early is far better than diagnosing it in its later stages. These are just a few examples of why wellness visits are critical.
How do dog wellness exams influence subsequent treatment?
If your dog is diagnosed with a progressive illness, such as kidney disease, your veterinarian will want to repeat examinations every two or three months. They will also want to repeat blood work or urinalysis as part of that exam to monitor your dog’s response to treatment, and make adjustments if needed. That is a prime example of how doing a wellness exam and detecting something early affects subsequent visits down the road.
Will additional testing be needed beyond a wellness exam, and what are those tests?
Your veterinarian will recommend heartworm testing and fecal checks during a routine wellness exam. There will also be baseline blood work to understand their overall wellness and to gauge against future blood work.
Additional tests will depend on what they find — if anything — such as a lump, something abnormal felt in the belly, or a heart murmur.
Testing also depends on the age of the pet. In older dogs, your veterinarian will recommend more extensive testing, such as a urinalysis or blood work, to check against their baseline for organ function. They may recommend wellness exams every six months, depending on your dog’s particular circumstances.
How does my veterinarian assess my dog's wellness?
At Animal Farm Pet Hospital , we’re looking to establish your dog’s baselines and understand what is normal for them. We know certain milestones should be happening, such as growth in a puppy, and we’re looking for things that we can use as a comparison later. There are a lot of situations that require blood work, and it’s easier to understand what’s abnormal when we have a baseline against which to check. Something typical for your dog might be unusual for others, so it helps us know when to worry and when not to.
What are some dog wellness recommendations my veterinarian is likely to make?
Veterinarians make many recommendations to dog owners, each playing a specific role in your dog’s overall health and wellness.
Wellness recommendations your veterinarian will make include:
- Core vaccines
- Non-core vaccines depending on their lifestyle and environment
- Heartworm testing and prevention
- Flea and tick prevention
- Diet and weight recommendations
- Volume and type of food
- Dental health and regular cleanings
- Monitoring for behavioral changes
- Grooming and hair coat health
What are some possible environmental factors that can affect the health of my dog?
Many things in the environment can affect your dog, including how many pets you have, how they're housed, cleanliness, and more. Whether you keep your dog indoors or outdoors is a significant factor, with a specific non-core vaccine recommended for dogs that are outdoors often and exposed to wildlife. Household safety is also an environmental factor to consider, such as the location of cleaning products and toxins.
What is geriatric dog screening?
There are many diseases that geriatric dogs become prone to that aren’t often a concern for younger dogs. For that reason, your veterinarian will do more blood panels and urine testing on a senior dog to detect any lurking issues. They will check their blood pressure frequently, as various diseases can cause hypertension. They’ll also do tear testing on them, as many small breed dogs start to develop dry eyes. All of these things are considered part of wellness care for older dogs.
How often should my older dog come in for screening?
We consider dogs to be senior (or geriatric) once they turn eight years old. Sometimes, we deem a giant breed dog such as a Great Dane a senior as young as five or six years of age. Once your dog becomes a senior, your veterinarian will recommend coming in every six months for a wellness exam. However, if they're showing changes or signs of anything, don’t wait until their exam to bring them in.
If you have further questions about dog wellness, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near San Francisco, CA, we’d love to see your dog for their annual wellness exam. Please give us a call at (415) 333-0813.