Happy, Healthy Dogs
Your canine companions need to see a veterinarian at least once a year.
Your dog seems happy and healthy. He’s full of energy, eats all his dinner and always has a bright look in his eye. So why stress him out by putting him in the car and taking him to the vet?
While it might seem that the only time you should take your dog to the vet is when he’s sick, the truth is that regular vet visits—at least once a year—are as important as giving him good food, daily exercise and a warm place to sleep.
Chances are your medical doctor recommends a yearly checkup to make sure your body stays in good working order. The same rule applies to dogs. By taking your dog to the veterinarian once a year for a wellness exam, you are helping to keep him happy and healthy.
Here is what your dog’s vet will be checking for when you take him in for a yearly exam:
- Body condition. Your vet will determine if your dog is of a healthy weight, and will make suggestions to correct any issues she might see. She might also perform an exam on your dog’s joints to look for early signs of arthritis.
- Healthy skin. An exam of your dog’s skin will reveal any issues with allergies or parasites, such as fleas and ticks.
- Healthy teeth and gums. Infected teeth or gums can lead to serious illness in a dog. The vet will examine your dog’s mouth thoroughly, looking for gum disease or loose or infected teeth.
- Normal heartbeat. By listening to your dog’s heart with a stethoscope, your vet will determine if your dog has a heart murmur or any other irregular rhythm.
- Normal breathing. Using a stethoscope, your vet will listen to your dog’s breathing to ensure his lungs are clear and his respiration normal.
- Healthy eyes. Your vet will look into your dog’s eyes with a light to check for signs of cataracts or other issues. She will also examine the area around the eyes for signs of infection or injury.
- Healthy ears. Your vet will look into your dog’s ears to check for parasites, infection or other issues.
- Your dog’s records will indicate if he is in need of vaccines. Puppies require several vaccines during their first six months of life to help protect them against serious illness. Adult dogs need regular boosters to help them stay healthy.
If your dog is a senior—6 years old or older, in most breeds—your vet might suggest blood work to evaluate the function of your dog’s kidney, liver and other body systems.
At the time you set up your dog’s exam, the veterinarian’s office might request that you bring in a fresh stool sample from your dog. Tests will be run on the sample to look for parasites such as roundworms and pinworms, which could be occupying your dog’s digestive system.
When taking your dog to your vet for an exam, be prepared to answer some questions. Your vet will ask you about your dog’s behavior, appetite and bowel movements. She will want to know what you are feeding your dog, and might want to discuss nutrition and exercise with you.
Depending on what your veterinarian finds during the exam, she might recommend changes in your dog’s lifestyle. If any serious issues are discovered, your vet will discuss options with you and provide your dog with treatment, or referral to a specialist.
If your vet finds any health issues with your dog, you’ll be glad you caught them early. The chances of your dog making a complete recovery will be much greater.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.