Why Are Regular Veterinary Visits Important?

Visiting the veterinarian regularly is an important part of maintaining your pet’s health. Although your pet may look healthy, diseases often cause no obvious signs in their early stages. Wellness exams and screening tests allow your veterinary team to detect diseases before they progress and begin treatments that will extend your pet’s healthy years by your side.

Why wellness care matters for pets

AAHA recommends all pets visit their veterinarian for routine care at least once per year. Senior pets and pets with chronic health issues will need more frequent appointments. Pets can develop diseases at any age, although the likelihood increases as pets get older. Pets instinctively hide pain and illness signs, which can prevent pet owners from realizing their furry friend is sick.

Routine veterinary visits allow you and your pet to develop a strong relationship with your veterinary team, which helps them provide better care over time. Additional benefits of routine veterinary visits include:

  • Establishing a baseline — By scheduling routine visits when your pet is young, you help your veterinary team determine your pet’s normal parameters.
  • Detecting early disease signs — Wellness visits can uncover early disease signs, so your veterinary team can address problems before they progress to unmanageable or life-threatening conditions.
  • Detecting aging changes — Your pet’s body will change with age, and your veterinary team can recommend lifestyle changes or products that can help your furry pal continue to enjoy life well into their golden years.

Pet wellness exam basics

Vet listening to dog's heart

During your pet’s annual wellness exam, your veterinarian examines them from head to tail and looks for changes or signs that could indicate a problem. Body systems that are examined and common findings include:

  • Eyes — Pets of all ages can develop eye issues that may threaten their comfort or vision. Eyelid disorders, cataracts, glaucoma, ulcers, and eye inflammation are common problems that require prompt attention.
  • Ears — Ear infections are one of the most common reasons pets—especially dogs—visit the veterinarian. Routine ear checks can help your veterinarian identify problems that may lead to future infections.
  • Mouth — Dental disease is one of the most common health problems in dogs and cats. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s dental health and let you know if they are due for a professional cleaning.
  • Skin and coat — Flaky, itchy, red skin or a dull hair coat can indicate a skin issue or a more severe problem with your pet’s systemic health.
  • Heart and lungs — Heart murmurs and abnormal rhythms are often discovered during routine veterinary visits, long before other heart disease signs become evident. If an abnormality is detected, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) or heart ultrasound.
  • Abdomen — Your veterinarian will feel your pet’s abdomen to check for masses, pain, or enlarged organs that could indicate a problem.
  • Joints — A thorough exam can uncover joint problems, arthritis, or pain you didn’t realize your pet was experiencing. Arthritis is common in senior dogs and cats; however, many owners assume their pet’s decreased activity is simply due to normal aging changes.
  • Nervous system — Your veterinarian will check your pet’s basic reflexes and ask questions about their behavior to evaluate their nervous system.

Benefits of pet health screening tests

Your veterinarian may recommend health screening tests during your pet’s wellness visit. Screening tests evaluate aspects of your pet’s health that aren’t apparent during a physical exam, such as kidney function or blood cell counts. Regular screening tests allow your veterinarian to compare your pet’s results year over year, track trends, and identify subtle issues as soon as they arise.

Recommended tests are tailored to your pet’s species, age, and lifestyle. Possible recommendations may include:

  • Blood work — Blood panels evaluate a wide range of internal health parameters such as organ function, hydration status, blood cell counts, and immune function.
  • Urinalysis — During a urinalysis, your veterinarian measures chemicals in your pet’s urine and examines the urine under a microscope to further assess your pet’s kidney function.
  • Heartworm screening — Heartworms are parasitic worms that cause life-threatening heart failure. All pets, even those who receive year-round heartworm prevention, should be tested annually to ensure they are heartworm-free.
  • Feline viral test — Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can suppress your cat’s immune system and potentially shorten their life. Knowing your cat’s viral status is crucial to caring for them properly and preventing disease spread to other cats.
  • Fecal testing — Your pet’s feces will be examined under a microscope for intestinal worms and parasites.

Routine veterinary care helps your pet remain healthy well into their senior years. By choosing an AAHA-accredited veterinarian, you can rest assured that your pet will receive the highest standard of care and that every routine wellness visit is a step toward a healthy future.



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