What happens at a vet appointment?
Knowing what to expect when you take your pet in for a routine exam, may help to make the experience a stress-free and enjoyable experience for both you and your pet.
When You Arrive
When you and your pet arrive at the veterinary hospital, you will either be allowed to walk into the reception area to check-in, or you may be asked to call when you arrive. The receptionist will take your name and the pet's name and ask you to wait while a room is prepared for your pet.
Once an examination room is free and clean you will be escorted into the room where a veterinary technician, veterinary nurse, or another staff member will ask you a series of questions about your dog or cat's current health and medical history. Your answers will be entered into your pet's file for the vet to review and for future reference. You may be asked about your pet's diet, exercise routine, lifestyle, thirst levels, urination bowel movements and general behavior.
The person taking your pet's medical history may or may not give your pet a casual examination in order to get further details to enter into the notes for your vet.
What happens at a checkup for dogs or cats?
Next, your veterinarian will come into the room and review the notes before beginning your pet's examination. At this time your vet may ask you further questions and will listen to your concerns regarding your pet's health, symptoms or behavior.
In some cases, you may have been asked to bring a fresh sample of your pet's feces so that a fecal exam can be performed to look for signs of intestinal parasites. Fecals, help your vet identify the presence of intestinal parasites in your pet which are otherwise very difficult to detect.
Next, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet which will typically include the following, (and often much more):
- Checking your animal's weight, stance, and gait
- Testing your pet's temperature
- Checking your pet's eyes for signs of redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for any signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
- Looking at your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Looking at your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Inspecting the pet's coat for overall condition, dandruff, or abnormal hair loss
- Examining the condition of your pet's teeth for any indications of periodontal disease, damage or decay
- Listening to your pet's heart and lungs
- Examining your dog or cat's skin for a range of issues from dryness to parasites to lumps and bumps (particularly in skin folds)
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
If your vet doesn't find any issues during your dog or cat's physical exam, the list of checks and tests they have to run will fly by quickly. Your vet may even maintain a conversation with you as they go through the process. If your vet finds anything that they are concerned about, they will be sure to take the time to explain what they have noticed and recommend what the next steps or treatments would be.
Vaccinations & Parasite Prevention
Once a physical examination has been completed your vet will review your pet's history and discuss vaccines and parasite prevention with you. If your companion animal is due for their vaccines either the vet or another qualified member of staff will administer any vaccines that your pet needs. Rest assured that in most cases pets don't even notice when they are getting a vaccine and the process is typically fast and painless.
Annual vaccinations will also be given at your pet's wellness exam, based upon the appropriate schedule for your animal.
Additional Testing Recommended for Some Pets
In addition to the basics, your vet may also recommend additional wellness testing for your pet. When making the decision about whether to have your pet undergo additional testing, it's important to remember that the early detection and treatment of a disease is always less expensive and less invasive than treating an advanced condition.
The following tests screen for a range of conditions and can help detect the very earliest signs of illness before symptoms appear:
- Complete blood count (CDC)
- Thyroid hormone testing
If your pet is a senior animal or a giant breed dog, more detailed diagnostic testing may also be recommended including x-rays and other imaging.
At The End of Your Pet's Exam
Once your vet has completed your pet's testing and examination, they will administer your pet's annual vaccines and take the time to discuss any findings they made with you.
If they have detected signs of injury or illness during the process, your veterinarian will speak with you about the details of their diagnosis and the treatment options available to you and your furry companion.
If your pet is generally healthy the discussion might focus on diet and exercise improvements, caring for your pet's oral health, and essentials such as appropriate parasite prevention for your pet.
How often should you take your pet for a wellness exam?
The recommended frequency of your physical checkups will vary based on your pet's age and prior medical history.
If your pet is perfectly healthy but has a history of illness, it may be best to take them to see your vet twice a year or more to make sure that they stay as healthy as possible. Your vet will let you know how often your pet should come in for their wellness exams.
Puppies and kittens tend to be more susceptible to diseases than adult pets. Because of this, your vet may also recommend that you bring your pet in for a puppy or kitten checkup every month for the first few months of their life. These frequent appointments will also provide your vet with the opportunity to give your young pet their complete series of vaccinations.
It is typically recommended that adult dogs and cats, without a history of illness, visit the vet for a routine wellness examination (checkup) on an annual basis. That said, some pets such as senior dogs and cats, and giant breed dogs face a higher risk of many conditions and should be seen more frequently to watch for early signs of illness. In these cases, twice-yearly wellness exams are a good idea.
How long do vet appointments take?
Depending on the species, size, breed, age and overall health of your pet a wellness exam can last anywhere between about 15 minutes to a half hour.
Other factors that can influence the amount of time your pet's appointment lasts include how many questions you ask, whether your pet is due for vaccines, and how busy the animal hospital is that day.
Keep in mind that your veterinarian wants to give your animal their utmost attention during your appointment but there are times when emergencies come into the clinic and vets get pulled away to perform life saving treatment to animals in need.
While this can be annoying, try to remember that if your pet was experiencing an emergency you'd hope that other pet parents at the clinic would be understanding.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.