Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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An Ounce of Prevention: Benefits of Yearly Veterinary Exams


Pet Column for the week of May 22, 2012


Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Susan Norris
Information Specialist

A lot can happen in a year; especially if you’re a cat or a dog. When you consider that our pets age at approximately six to seven times the rate that we do, it’s easy to see that yearly veterinary exams are important not only for vaccinations and vital statistics but also to notice any early signs of disease or other problems.

“Your veterinarian can detect changes in your pet’s health that you may not be able to see,” says Dr. Kandice Norrell, a primary care veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), a comprehensive wellness exam should cover your pet from head to toe; including nose, ears (for possible parasites or infection), mouth (for possible dental disease), eyes (for signs of anemia, infection, high blood pressure, allergies, as well as eye diseases such a glaucoma or cataracts), heart, lungs, abdomen, joints, legs, feet, lymph nodes, and of course, the largest organ of all, the skin (for possible fleas, ticks, tumors, wounds, and allergies, and as an indication of your pet’s overall health).

Your pet’s annual visit is also an important opportunity to tell your veterinarian about any concerns you’ve noticed, such as coughing, diarrhea, eating more than usual, excessive drinking of water, panting, vomiting, and weight gain or loss.

Behavior can also be a telling indicator of possible health concerns, so be prepared to discuss any changes in your pet’s daily habits. Does your pet have trouble getting up in the morning? Have you noticed signs of weakness or loss of balance? Have there been any changes in activity level or the desire to play or exercise? Are you noticing excessive scratching or inappropriate urination?

Catching problems at the outset is the best way to reduce the cost of treatment, improve the outcome for most conditions, and prevent pain and suffering for your pet and heartache for you. As your pet reaches old age—around 7 years depending on the species and breed—more frequent veterinary visits are recommended.

Dr. Norrell reminds pet owners, “The cost of a comprehensive examination is far less than the cost of treating advanced disease if not diagnosed early, not to mention the benefits that your pet receives by routine wellness.” And ultimately, it could save their lives.

Contact your local veterinarian to ensure that your pets receive annual preventive examinations.