Your dog depends on you for many things: food, water, walks and affection, to name a few. But perhaps more importantly, they rely on you for health care, and that includes regular visits to the vet. “A year in the life of a dog can be equivalent to five to seven years in the life of a human,” explains Heather Berst, DVM, veterinarian and medical manager at Zoetis. “So a lot of things can change that year.” But if your dog seems healthy, it can be easy to think a checkup isn’t necessary. According to veterinarians, however, you should never skip your dog’s annual appointment. Read on to find out the most important reasons why this annual vet visit is so important. You don’t have any in the books? Schedule it as soon as possible to ensure your pup lives his happiest, healthiest, and longest life.
READ THIS NEXT: The 7 best dogs for beginners, say vets.
Vaccines are just as important for dogs as they are for humans. “Dogs should attend their annual vet visit because annual vaccines protect against harmful and life-threatening diseases, which all dogs are at risk for,” says Berst. “Some diseases, such as leptospirosis and rabies, can even be transmitted to humans.” And with many people traveling and socializing with their dogs more than ever, Berst notes that it’s especially important to vaccinate your dog against diseases like bordetella, kennel cough and canine flu. “Your veterinarian will be able to tell you about the best vaccines to protect your dog and keep him healthy,” Berst adds.
Although veterinarians vary in how often they recommend specific screenings, a stool screening is common at many annual appointments. “It looks for any parasites, abnormal bacteria, or cells, including blood cells, in the fecal sample,” explains Sarah Wooten, DVM, veterinary expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance. “This is important because dogs can often carry occult, ie hidden, infestations of intestinal parasites, including hookworms, roundworms, coccidia and Giardia.” Since some of these parasites are infectious to humans, you need to make sure your dog is regularly worm-free. “Also, if there are issues with the intestines, a fecal screening can catch issues early before they become more prominent,” says Wooten.
READ THIS NEXT: If your dog plays with it, take it away immediately.
Annual listening with the trusty stethoscope can help keep your pup healthy. “Your vet will listen to your dog’s heart and may hear things like heart murmurs or irregular heartbeats,” says Berst. “These can be quite common as dogs get older, and giving them medication can help them stay healthy longer.” You see, it’s all about preventative care.
This is a test that may not occur at every annual wellness screening, but should occur regularly. For older dogs, it is suggested annually. “This test will screen for infection and the possibility of bladder stones,” explains Jamie Whittenburg, DVM, Chief Veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers. “He will also test for glucose in the urine, which may signal that the dog has diabetes mellitus, and the urinalysis will give an indication of the dog’s kidney function.”
For more pet tips straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Many veterinarians will perform blood tests annually on dogs over the age of six. “These tests will examine red and white blood cells, looking for anemia, infections, blood cancers and other diseases,” says Whittenburg. “In addition, organ function tests will assess the functioning of the dog’s thyroid, liver, kidneys, and pancreas, as well as blood sugar, protein, cholesterol, and electrolytes.”
In particular, for osteoarthritis, the early signs of which “may be subtle but can still cause your dog pain,” says Berst. “Your vet can examine your dog for signs and talk to you about what to look for at home.” There are medications and other methods to manage this pain in dogs, so you need to make sure you are aware of the problem. This way you can make your pup as comfortable as possible.
Since there is no such thing as a dog dentist, this task falls within the domain of your veterinarian. “Dogs can live longer and feel better with good dental health,” Berst says. “During the exam, your vet will check for gingivitis, plaque, and tartar.” They may recommend a dental cleaning if they think it will benefit your pup.