That Annual Postcard: Your Checkup is Due

Welcome to Paws Press Play, this first podcast aims to walk you through what an annual veterinary visit entails for your beloved pet and hopes to stress the importance of seeking these at least once per year.

Welcome everybody to Episode one of paws press play. The Annual postcard. Postcards used to be how many clinics reminded their clients that their beloved pets were due for their annual checkups and various preventative items such as vaccines, heartworm testing, or fecal samples. These annual exams are carried out by General Practice veterinarians such as myself. Now, my goal has always been to enter general practice and follow in the paths of my mentors, and to say it’s exactly what I expected would be a bit of a white lie.

Since I began practicing and throughout my veterinary education I realized that the profession that I so desired to become a part of has been drastically changing in recent years. In today’s age medical information is so readily accessible to essentially anybody with access to the internet. So the general education of pet owners and the veterinary community as a whole has increased dramatically. I’ve been amazed by the number of clients that I see who will come in with a diagnosis, a correct one half the time, already in mind. Additionally, I have been surprised at how quickly clients will find information regarding their pets’ disease and become fluent in the treatment and monitoring for it, sometimes even questioning whether I’ve arrived at the right diagnosis myself. What is good is that this stimulates discussion between the veterinarian and owner so that everybody can get back onto the same page in order to get the best care for the animal. However, where this type of information, or over-information can be bad is when we as the veterinary community lose the trust of the pet owner who feels they are being taken advantage of or manipulated to fit into a plan or fulfill some ulterior motive.

So let’s take a quick look at the visit to the veterinarian and what exactly goes on when you bring your pet in to be seen. Since many of the future podcasts will focus on various medical disorders we will focus on an exam without concerns, or an annual examination. These exams are comparable to what you or I would get each year from our own doctor. The price or the name of the visit will be different depending on where you live as well as the clinic type that you go to.  Ultimately though, the question that I often get around these exams is this: “Why do I need to bring my pet in, he or she is perfectly healthy.”

This is where I am finding much miscommunication from sources that can be found pretty diffusely throughout the internet. Many tout these exams as gimmicks or schemes to boost the bottom line. However, what is really happening when you bring an outwardly healthy dog or cat to see your vet is much, much more.

The history that you give us and the recap of the year before in the life of your animal tells us a lot on its own. For instance, changes in patterns or behaviors can be early warning signs to your vet that something may be developing in your dog or cat. For instance, if you’ve noticed that your pet has been drinking more water than usual, this can be an early indicator for numerous conditions including something minor, like urinary tract infections or may be a bit more serious like hormone based disorders, or even something like chronic kidney disease.

The history can even clue us into changes that may not be at the forefront of your mind. For instance, something very minor might trip an entirely different thought process in our brain leading us to an outcome that’s ultimately better for your dog or cat. On one occasion while discussing her dog with me, a client mentioned, “well he just seems to be licking at his paws a lot more than usual since we last saw you.” This can be an early sign of allergies and prompted us to start him on treatment that ultimately helped eliminate the problem.

Finally, let’s get to the bulk of why I want you to bring your animals in and what it does for you as the owner and your pet. These annual examinations are imperative because of the examination part. What your vet is checking at these visits are crucial components to prolonging your animal’s quality and quantity of life. While it often just look as if we are petting or playing, we are actually examining the skin for growths, the ears, eyes, nose, teeth, all the body systems looking for changes that may indicate something needs to be done. We are able to palpate, or feel the abdomen and can sometimes detect growths, areas of pain, or organ enlargement before even needing to recommend diagnostics (though we may still need them). So, I firmly believe that getting into the vet once per year with whichever pet or pets you choose to fill your house with is ultimately in your best interest. Prevention of disease is almost always cheaper than the treatment so investing $40-$60 a year can be a great way to avoid hundred or thousand dollar bills to treat a disease later in its progress. These exams are also great times to discuss preventatives for your pet, things such as flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, dental cleaning, etc. Thank you for listening to this introduction and I hope you’ll provide feedback, and stay tuned for future episodes. There are five more that were released today, so feel free to keep on going. In future podcasts where I present research or useful references, they will be included on the helpful resources tab under the episode title, so look there if you wish to find further reading or information on some of these topics.

Useful Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/pdf/2009-power-of-prevention.pdf

One Reply to “That Annual Postcard: Your Checkup is Due”

  1. I always take my fur baby to the veterinarian. After all we go to the doctor, so we must keep our pets healthy too. My little Shih Tzu has a lot of skin issues and the veterinarian that we go to has been helping her with scratching and redness on her skin. It’s a wonderful profession for anyone wanting to help the four legged babies in our lives. If you feel you can’t afford a pet, or can’t care for them in right way, don’t get one!

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