The Real Value of Your Pet’s Annual Exam
By Dr. Patricia Ainsworth - Falls Road Veterinary Hospital, Potomac, MD
One way to maximize the value of this visit is to come prepared with a list of questions or observations about your pet. If you have a problem or concern, I may be able to help find a solution, even if it seems to be a behavior-related issue rather than a medical one. Sometimes these changes in your pet’s behavior, especially those related to appetite, water consumption, eliminations or sleep/wake cycles, may actually lead to the search for an underlying medical condition.
During the visit, I like to review background information about other pets, exercise, diet and lifestyle. By reviewing records from previous years, I can recheck and compare areas of particular concern or interest. Once your pet reaches “middle age,” we may decide to start including baseline blood and urine tests as a regular part of the exam visit. Once your pet is “geriatric,” one annual visit may be of insufficient frequency to monitor his changing health, so we may switch to a twice yearly checkup. All of the information gathered during these visits combines to create an early detection system for disease.
If all is going well, your annual exam provides reassurance that you are doing things right. Then the focus shifts to reinforcing these good habits, as well as educating you about what changes to watch for that may indicate problems. Unfortunately, we do occasionally discover a major problem in a seemingly healthy pet. In those circumstances, the discussion changes to finding the most effective treatment plan.
Through the easy years, the value of your annual examination visit may not seem apparent. Even if things are going right, you are using these healthy years to build a rapport with your veterinarian, or develop relationships with multiple vets in a single practice. The day eventually comes when the pet between us on the exam table is seriously ill. When it comes to discussing such topics as quality of life and treatment of serious medical conditions, it is beneficial for both you and your pet to have an established and trusted relationship with your veterinarian.