Pet Health and Wellbeing: why regular checkups matter

Your pet seems healthy, so why should you bring them in for regular checkups?

There are three main reasons why we advise regular checkups:

1) To prevent health problems,
2) To detect any new problems as early as possible,
3) To monitor any existing conditions and maintain good health.

To give you an example of how regular checkups have really helped an animal, here’s the story of a little dog called Mouse.

Last year Mouse came in for her vaccination and checkup. Based on her examination, there was nothing wrong with her, which was good news! During the appointment, her vet asked about Mouse’s worming schedule and looked at her records to see which one she usually gets and when it was next due. These aren’t unusual questions for a vet to ask, but then Mouse’s vet is concerned about lungworm and goes on to explain that this is a new kind of worm, which has slowly travelled around the country and has come close to where Mouse lives. This new worm can grow inside Mouse’s lungs and make her cough, or even cause very serious, life-threatening problems. But they can also protect Mouse from it if they switch her wormer to a different one. So, by simply changed her old tablets to a different product, they have a way to prevent a potentially fatal disease from ever happening.

After changing her wormer, Mouse seems to be doing well – she loves her food; she loves to play. Every day she gives her owners the look. We all know “the look” from our pets, the one that asks, “c’mon where’s my breakfast?”.

But as many times as we feel like we know what our pets are thinking, the truth is they can’t talk to us. This means that as owners, there are limits to what we can know is happening with their health and wellbeing. So lots of diseases can be “hidden” for a long time, simply because we can’t talk to our pets. Many of these problems from kidney disease, to cancer, could be treated much more effectively if we can only catch them early.

So, Mouse seems fine, but she can’t tell her owners that her elbow feels sore after she’s chased her ball around, so as far as her owners can tell, there’s nothing to worry about it. During Mouse’s recent check-up, they are gently reminded that she is getting older. In the past, her vet has talked to her owners about all sorts of things, including how Mouse is one of those dogs that get “the zoomies”. (If you haven’t seen “the zoomies” before – it’s a sudden burst of energy and excitement where dogs ‘zoom’ around their environment.) During the checkup, Mouse’s vet asks about if she still bounces on and off the bed. The question takes her owner by surprise a bit, but when they think about it, Mouse still zooms around the floor, but she doesn’t jump up and down anymore.

As the vet continues with her examination, she spends a little extra time feeling Mouse’s spine and then moving her back legs around. After a few minutes of what looks from the outside like it might be “Doggy Yoga”, she reports that Mouse is a little stiff with her left elbow, and when it bends it’s not quite able to move like her right leg. These could be signs of arthritis starting, so she gives some advice on what they can do to help and starts Mouse on a medicine trial for two weeks.

Two weeks later Mouse is back, and her owners reported that after a few days of medicine they noticed a change; Mouse had gotten brighter – like she’s gotten a couple of years younger. In fact, when they had given her a bath, Mouse got “the zoomies” again, and now she was back to jumping on and off the bed! The vet rechecks Mouse and finds she is less stiff when they bend her elbow. They talk some more about what they can do to help keep Mouse comfortable with her arthritis and they schedule another checkup for a few months’ time.

Now they know that Mouse has arthritis in her elbow, and they’ve got it under control today, but they also know things will change. Hopefully by doing everything they can they will slow those changes down. Maybe in a few months’ time, they will find that things have changed, and they need to change Mouse’s medication. Maybe they will find that Mouse’s arthritis hasn’t changed, and they just need to schedule their next check. Or maybe they’ll find something different they need to manage and treat too.

Whatever we find, these regular checks are essential to help prevent problems before they can occur, to help find any conditions as early as possible and do something about them, and to keep on top of any long-term conditions.

Simply put, regular checkups are the best way to help you and your vet keep your pets as healthy and happy as possible, for as long as possible.