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If you spend any time on dog owner forums, you’ll notice a regular question. Do I need to take my dog for its annual health check?
If you want the short answer, it’s yes. So, go make that appointment. So, if you want to know what is covered in the check for Fido, Spot and Rover and why you should go – then read on!
The annual health check is exactly that, it gives your veterinarian an opportunity to check over your dog.
What is an Annual Health Check?
If you are one of the lucky pet owners, you may rarely attend the veterinarians, which is great.
The downside of this; even the best-intentioned owners may miss out small, subtle changes or symptoms that could be indicative of a bigger health concern. If they are behaviors or nuances that your dog carries out daily you may have stopped noticing them, or simply not recognize the importance of them.
Not only that but it gives you and your veterinarian an opportunity to discuss the care needs of your dog. For example, your veterinarian can monitor your dog’s weight.
Obesity in Dogs
Obesity is one of the most serious health concerns facing dogs in the US. In 2018, a whopping 55% of dogs were classified as clinically overweight. This means that an estimated 50 million dogs are too heavy and are at risk of a range of obesity related health issues.
Some owners may not understand the appropriate weight for their dog, so by attending the annual checkup you can be sure you are on target with your dog.
During the annual check-up your veterinarian will check whether your dog is up to date with their vaccinations and also whether any other medications they are on need reviewing.
Different practices vary, but your Veterinarian may ask about or carry out tests for the following:
Blood tests – especially for older dogs
Limbs – walking and their gait
Ears and eyes
Alongside these, your Veterinarian may check your dog’s teeth and dental hygiene. As an owner you should be regularly brushing your dog’s teeth to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. Studies have shown that brushing a dog’s teeth is only effective if carried out multiple times per week. If you are keen to offer your dog chews to maintain their dental hygiene, as with everything, some are more effective than others.
You veterinarian will
also check your dog’s skin and coat.
Allergies are common
culprits for dry skin or dull looking coats, along with poor nutrition.
Ensure you maintain a
regular grooming schedule so you can keep on top of their coat and notice any
issues as they arise.
Whilst checking their
coat, Veterinarians will check for fleas and ticks – this is especially
important if you live-in high-risk areas. It’s worth getting into the habit
yourself of combing your dog’s coat with a flea comb, especially after walking
in brash areas.
If your veterinarian
notices any issues with any of the above, they will either advise or discuss
further tests/treatment options.
The Importance of Annual Checkups for Dogs with Mobility Problems
Dogs with chronic health conditions need regular checkups to monitor how their condition is progressing. A pet dealing with mobility loss, paralysis, or a serious medical condition will likely require more than one veterinary visit per year. Senior dogs will also need more frequent health checks than a younger pup.
Pet parents should not rely solely on their veterinarian to notice changes in behavior, routine, or mobility. Always note any significant changes in your dog’s routine or behavior. How frequently does it occur? Sleeping more often, a change in your pet’s appetite, frequent urination, and even drinking more water can indicate a change in a dog’s health. This information should be noted and given to your vet during the exam. These types of observations are critical to diagnosing your pet and making sure they are getting the medical care they need.
How Frequently Should Your Dog Have a Checkup
mentioned an annual health check, this depends largely on the age and size of
your dog. Puppies will obviously attend more regularly (usually for their
vaccination schedule and then a 6-monthly check). Generally healthy adult dogs
will usually attend an annual appointment but older dogs or those with current
health issues may attend 2-3 times per year. Larger breeds or more active
breeds may also attend more regularly.
All dogs are
different. Your veterinarian will be best placed to advise on how often you
should attend check-ups. But remember it’s not just about your Veterinarian
gathering information about your dog, if you have questions about the health or
care of your dog, then ask! If you have a lot of questions, you may need to
book a double appointment, but if you plan this in advance, most Veterinarians
are happy to help, as much and where they can.
In answer to the question, your dog should absolutely attend their annual check. Much like you’d get yourself checked over, that’s exactly what you’re doing for your dog.
Not only is it a way to review any current issues or medications, it’s a valuable way to potentially prevent future health concerns.
It’s mutual – your veterinarian is gaining information about your dog, but it is also a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the health and care of your dog.
Obviously, if your dog is exhibiting symptoms at any other time of the year, pop to see your veterinarian anyway; never wait for an annual checkup to share concerns.