Just like you go for an annual check-up with your physician, your dog needs to be checked annually by their physician for health problems that may have developed, screening for issues that are common to dogs, and to receive required vaccinations and antiparasitics.
Routine monitoring of your dog’s health to discover medical conditions or disease at an early stage is beneficial, as medical treatment is usually more effective when applied to conditions in a timely fashion, before complications begin to occur. Preventative treatments, such as vaccinations and parasite control, will help your dog to stay healthy and avoid debilitating medical conditions. Not only will your dog benefit from improved health, but your pocketbook will benefit, as regular health monitoring, early treatment, and preventative measures are far less expensive than treatment for conditions that have been allowed to develop and progress. Read on for information on what you and your veterinarian should be regularly monitoring with regard to your dog’s health.
While pet owners are advised to routinely monitor their dog’s health on an ongoing basis and obtain veterinary advice if concerns manifest, you should also take your dog to your veterinarian annually for a routine health exam. During this health exam, your veterinarian will check your dog for several conditions, investigate any concerns, and provide vaccinations and antiparasitics as necessary. Your veterinarian will check for and perform the following services at the annual health check:
Routine booster vaccinations such as canine distemper, parvovirus and rabies have traditionally been administered annually. Questions arise as to whether annual boosters are necessary, and many veterinarians are reducing the vaccination schedule to every other year to avoid over-vaccinating, which can stress your dog's immune system. In addition, some optional vaccinations, such as the Bordetella vaccine, may be required if your dog frequents kennels or grooming salons, that require this vaccination be updated. Discuss with your veterinarian which vaccination boosters are appropriate and due for your dog, and have them administered at your dog’s annual appointment.
Questions and Concerns
If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s health, bring these up with your veterinarian at the annual exam. Be prepared to answer your veterinarian's questions regarding diet, activity, and other health concerns.
Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination of your dog to look for routine health issues and discover any anomalies that might indicate a medical condition that requires further investigation. The physical exam will usually consist of taking your dog’s weight, temperature, and heart rate, examining mucous membranes, skin, eyes and ears, and palpating your dog's abdomen to determine if concerns with organs exist. Your dog’s gait and joint movement will be assessed. If indication of disease or disorders are present, blood and urine tests may be ordered to provide more information. As your dog gets older, a physical exam will be more important, as your dog will be more susceptible to medical conditions and degenerative conditions associated with aging.
If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, reproductive health issues will need to be investigated, and if your dog is not part of a breeding program, spaying or neutering your dog will be encouraged to prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce reproductive health conditions that can manifest in intact dogs.
Parasite control should be discussed and administered annually and arrangements made for pet owners to provide antiparasitics as required throughout the year. Your veterinarian will look for signs of parasites and may request a stool sample to look for internal parasites. Ticks, fleas, heartworm, roundworms, and tapeworms are common parasites affecting dogs that need to be controlled to prevent serious diseases and other health conditions.
Dental issues are frequently an issue for dogs. A dental examination to determine if professional cleaning is required to remove tartar, and assess periodontal disease if present. Recommended routine dental care should be provided by your veterinarian.
Dogs frequently suffer from disorders such as parasites and fungal infections in their ears. Your veterinarian will routinely exam your dog's ears for signs that indicate your dog's ear health needs addressing.
Weight and Nutrition
Your dog's weight and diet should be discussed annually. Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate high quality diet, discuss any concerns with weight and make recommendations regarding necessary diet changes, supplements and exercise if necessary.
Coat condition is a good indicator of your dog's overall health. Hair loss or poor coat condition can indicate poor health, including parasites, metabolic disorder, malnutrition, and several other health issues. Your veterinarian will examine your dog's fur to determine if any deficiencies or skin conditions are present that may need to be further investigated.
The annual veterinary examination is an ideal time to discuss with your veterinarian if any behavior issues are present.
Staying On Top of Your Dog’s Health
An annual health check with your veterinarian is important to ensure that vaccinations and parasite control are administered as required to ensure your dog’s continued health. Routine physical examination, and discussion of your dog's health with your veterinarian is also important to ensure that conditions are prevented, or addressed, as quickly as possible so that unnecessary complications do not manifest from an untreated condition. By addressing health concerns and conditions regularly you will not only alleviate unnecessary health issues for your dog, but early detection and prevention of disease is far less expensive than addressing conditions after they have had time to develop and progress, and successful treatment of many disorders depends on early detection. An annual or semi-annual veterinary examination, along with routine monitoring by pet owners is recommended for all dogs.