The Importance Of An Annual Dog Checkup

Dog being held up by vet (Caption: Dog Checkups Guide)If you have a dog, then they may be like a child: you spoil them rotten and care for them deeply. Since your pet is that important to you, then their health should be just as important.

We don’t mean just taking them out on walks, feeding them a balanced diet, and pampering good dogs with toys and treats, although those are all important too. We mean being proactive and taking them to the vet regularly for checkups.

Article Overview

Why Do Annual Checkups For Dogs?

Most humans get regular health checkups, so dogs should get checkups too. Preventative care is just as important for pets as it is for their owners. Why? Because vets can help detect (and sometimes prevent) diseases and other life-threatening conditions early on, saving you money and heartache in the long run. Checking with your vet each year makes sure our pet’s vitals are in good shape. Often dogs won’t even show symptoms of a health problem, so it’s best to have a professional assess things just in case.

What To Expect At A Routine Vet Visit

Dog at the vet getting checked upMuch like a human physical exam, the vet will ask you a few questions about your dog’s overall eating (food and water consumption) and lifestyle habits (exercise levels and how often). They’ll also take a few measurements, including their weight, and check their pulse.

An annual dog checkup is an opportunity to bring up any questions and express any concerns you have about your pup (if they are not sleeping well, your dog has discolored poop, etc.). You’re paying for your visit, so you might as well make the most of your time with the expert and ask away. They might also make some suggestions based on their evaluation of your dog and recommend some wellness tips.

What’s Included In An Annual Checkup For Dogs?

Here’s a list of specific things the veterinarian might check for during an annual dog visit:

  • Vaccinations and current status of each (vaccine guide)
  • Blood tests (particularly for older dogs who are prone to more health problems)
  • Urine tests and any discharge, discoloration, etc. (You can also do at-home urine tests)
  • Fecal tests (typically for puppies)
  • Digestion, including any concerns about gas, burping, or abnormal stools
  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing, throat or nose discharge
  • Coat and skin check for hair loss, lumps, rashes, discoloration, or unusual spots (learn more about skin infections in dogs)
  • Limbs, walking, standing, and toenails
  • Ears and eyes for discharge, swelling, redness, or itching
  • Tests for intestinal parasites, like heartworms and other worms
  • Fleas, ticks, mites (plus flea and ticket prevention)
  • Dental health, including teeth and breath smell (often a sign of gum disease)
  • Organs to make sure they are not an unusual size

Video: Pet Wellness Exams (What To Expect)

Here’s a quick two-minute video on what to expect from a pet wellness checkup from a vet of over ten years. She’ll walk you through how they check a pup from head to toe to give you a better idea of what to expect at your dog’s checkup.

If all goes well, it’s pretty painless, and you and your dog should be in and out in around 30 minutes. However, if the vet does spot any potential problems, they will discuss the options with you, including further testing and diagnosis.

How Often Should You Do Checkups For Dogs?

Dog with eye glasses (caption: How To Calculate Dog Years To Human Years)It depends on the age of the dog. Puppies grow at a rapid pace and thus require more vaccinations and attention. If your dog is under one-year-old, you should expect to go to the vet more regularly for your pup’s shots and make sure they are progressing as expected (much like a newborn).

After the first year, dogs are the equivalent of a teenager or young adult, and then they grow at a much slower pace, so they only need visits annually for any necessary vaccines and routine checkups. Like people, older dogs may require more frequent monitoring since they have more health issues as they age. So you may want to discuss with your vet whether you need bi-annual visits for your older dog (7 years or older).

Bulldog with tape measure around neck (caption: Dog Breed Average Neck Size)Your dog’s size also determines how quickly they age and thus how much attention they need. Larger dogs become older quicker than smaller dogs and are usually more active, too, meaning they have more risk for physical injuries and exposure to the outdoors where pesticides and bacteria live.

The breed can also affect the frequency of vet visits as specialized breeds (e.g., bulldogs) are at a higher risk for health conditions (whereas a mutt is less susceptible).

A good rule of thumb is:

  • Puppies up to 16 weeks: every 3-4 weeks for vaccines and health
  • Puppies 6 months old: dental checkup for adult teeth (learn more about puppy tooth loss)
  • Dogs 1-7 years old: once a year (at a minimum)
  • Senior dogs 7-10+ years old: twice a year, if your vet agrees this is necessary

Vet Checkup Cost

Dog getting ear checked by vet (caption: How Much Does A Vet Visit Cost?)You might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how much will it cost?” While it might seem costly to do vet visits so frequently, most dogs only live an average of 13 years, so you won’t be paying for too many checkups over the lifetime of your pup. Keep in mind those checkups could add years to your dog’s life and can potentially save you money in the long run.

As for individual treatment costs or office visit fees, call your local vets for more details as prices vary significantly by location. You can also learn more about the average cost of vet care and common expenses.

Dog with barbell in mouth (Caption: Pet Wellness Plans)

How To Save Money On Checkups For Dogs

If you don’t already have pet insurance, you should look into getting it to help you save on unexpected pet costs like surgeries and medications. In addition to accidental and illness coverage, some pet insurance companies also offer wellness plans, which include yearly annual dog checkup costs.

And remember that a yearly exam fee is a small price to pay to potentially save you thousands down the road and extend the life of your pup. 

A Healthy Dog Is A Happy Dog

At the end of the day, your dog’s health does affect their overall well-being, which in turn can be a positive thing for you too. So make the investment, and your dog will thank you (and you’ll thank yourself) later.

Hopefully, we’ve covered everything you ever wanted to know about annual checkups for dogs and how a yearly vet visit can help keep your furry friend’s tail wagging. There are other ways you can be proactive with your dog’s health like brushing their teeth regularly. A home dog DNA test and allergy test can also help you detect potential health risks as well.

When was the last time your dog had a checkup?

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