What is involved in a dog wellness exam?

At our practice, a dog wellness exam starts with a comprehensive physical examination. That includes looking at the mouth, the color of the gums, the teeth, the ears, and the eyes, listening to the heart, feeling the body for lymph node enlargement and any enlarged organs, and checking the legs, feet, toes, tail, and pretty much everything else. We check them from head to tail during a physical exam.

Dr. Marty Greer
Checkout Veterinary

How does dog wellness impact the longevity of my pet?

Early detection is important in our pets, just as it is in us. So if we find anything of concern related to wellness during a physical exam, we're going to know that we need to do some additional testing. If we hear a heart murmur, we may want to schedule chest x-rays. If we feel enlarged lymph nodes, we will do some additional testing. If we see anything abnormal, we'll follow that up with some additional testing. Early detection and being able to initiate treatment early is always the best practice to achieve better longevity.

How soon should I bring my pet in to see a veterinarian for a wellness exam?

That's a great question. We start our wellness exams at the very first puppy visit. When a breeder brings a puppy of about six to eight weeks in, we'll start having wellness visits. We'll give the puppy a comprehensive physical exam, head to tail. The puppy visits are typically followed up at around 12 and 16 weeks. About a year later, we want to see them back and then, on an annual basis, look at these guys to ensure everything looks fine. Once we see a pet in the geriatric age category, which is when they're in the last quarter of the three-quarters of their life expectancy, we may want to see them twice a year or more often for follow-up exams based on what we've found at previous visits.

Will additional testing be needed beyond a wellness exam?

We recommend twice-a-year fecal exams and once-a-year testing for heartworm disease and tickborne diseases, which we see a lot of in Wisconsin. Tickborne diseases include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia. Those tests are blood tests that we do annually. It's very important that we keep that up to date. Typically, vaccination boosters are due once a year or every three years, depending on the vaccine. At that wellness visit, we can keep them updated on vaccines.

How will a veterinarian assess dog wellness?

We'll look at your dog's body weight to see if it's changed up or down. We'll look at body condition, the condition of the hair coat, the mouth, the eyes, the ears, the heart, and the lungs, which we'll listen to. We're going to feel the abdomen and check lymph nodes, and we'll check their genitals if they're present. All those things are part of the wellness exam. We'll also feel for lumps and bumps in the skin. It's remarkable how many things we can find during a physical exam. Sometimes owners are very aware of what's going on. They come in with a list of things they're concerned about, such as the lumps, the bumps, and the other things they've found. Sometimes veterinarians will find things the owner had no idea were going on. That's our job as a veterinarian. Doing a comprehensive physical exam means picking up any early subtle changes that you may not be aware of so that we can get early treatments started.

What are some dog wellness recommendations my veterinarian is likely to make?

Regular dental screening is important, and if we find an advancing dental disease, we recommend dental cleanings, which require anesthesia. We can do that for you at Nature's Preserve or at Veterinary Village. We don't do anesthesia at Checkout, but regular dental cleanings are important, especially for small-breed dogs. Vaccinations may be done annually or every three years, depending on your pet's lifestyle and what vaccines they are best suited to have, and we'll assess that based on their lifestyles, like whether your pet goes to the dog park, the groomer, or dog shows. Preventive care, of course, will include heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives, along with vaccinations. We want to keep your pet as healthy as possible and prevent parasites, both internal parasites and external parasites, such as worms, ticks, fleas, and heartworm, which are all critical to good long-term health.

What are some possible environmental factors that can affect my dog's wellness?

Environmental factors will include things like diet and nutrition, lifestyle, where the pet lives, where they spend their time, and whether they're hunting dogs or couch potato dogs, all of those things will affect their lifestyle and their wellness. We're going to tailor their vaccine and preventive needs based on their lifestyle and environment.

Why is early detection of health issues in my dog so important?

Just like for us, early detection is critical. If we pick up early kidney disease or heart disease, early initiation of treatment can make a big difference in the longevity of your pet. If we find heartworm disease, Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, or Ehrlichia, early detection and treatment of those diseases before they cause damage to organs is essential. Years ago, when I graduated from veterinary school, dogs diagnosed with a heart murmur might live six months after that diagnosis. Now, with early detection and some of the new medications, we have the ability to echo dogs, do an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, see a cardiologist, and get some interventions. We see those dogs living for three to four years. It's truly remarkable what early detection and new medicine have been able to do for the longevity of our pets.

What is geriatric dog screening?

Geriatric dog screening will include a little bit more in-depth blood tests. We'll do basic blood work before we anesthetize even the youngest patient for our procedures. For our geriatric dogs, we'll check their liver, kidneys, and blood counts, we'll check for thyroid disease, observe their adrenal function and listen to their heart. If they have an eye problem, we'll check their intraocular pressures. There are a lot of things that we'll do for a geriatric patient. We might check blood pressure, which by the way, is not as easy as it is for people. All of those things are essential in early detection and interventions for longevity.

Will my veterinarian suggest allergy testing for my dog?

Allergy testing is done on a case-by-case basis. So if your dog is suspected of having allergies, from inhaled pollens to fleas to foods, then yes, we may very well suggest allergy testing or refer you to an allergy specialist. That may be the case, but it depends greatly on your dog. If your dog has absolutely no symptoms of allergies, then we're not going to talk about allergy testing. It depends on your pet's physical exam findings and the history you bring to us about your pet's lifestyle.

If pet owners have more questions regarding dog wellness, what should they do?

They should give us a call at (608) 318-6700. We're happy to help. We can get you in for an appointment and get those blood tests scheduled, get the physical exam done, and we can really help you ensure your pet's getting the best care for the greatest longevity and long-term health.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (608) 318-6700, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media https://www.facebook.com/Checkout-Veterinary-100856988730575, https://www.instagram.com/checkoutveterinary/