BY Janice Arsenault

Spring is just around the corner which means it is time to start thinking about your pets annual vet check up.  The annual check up is an important step in maintaining and monitoring your pets ongoing health as well as addressing any changes in your pets health status and any new or ongoing behavioural issues your pet may have.  We are all aware of the need to update vaccinations annually but there are other issues that your vet will be looking for at the annual health assessment.

Your vet will do a coat and skin check for hair loss, lumps, rashes, discoloration or unusual spots.  The condition of your pets skin and coat can hold clues to any health issues that you may not have noticed.  Poor coat condition can be the result of something as simple as a poor diet that is easily corrected with dietary changes.  Poor coat condition can also be a sign of an underlying hormonal imbalances, such as excessive cortisol levels seen with Cushing’s syndrome, abnormal thyroid levels, or diabetes which can be confirmed by a blood test and controlled by medications or other veterinarian recommended treatments.

Another important part of the annual check up is to look for signs of parasites such as intestinal worms, fleas, ticks, mites and heartworms.  Ensuring that your pet is treated for parasites in a timely manner will ensure the ongoing health and comfort of your pet.  Preventative treatment for fleas, ticks and heartworm can be picked up at your annual vet visit.  Heartworm is a parasite that infects dogs and sometimes cats, although cats are more resistant to this parasite.  Heartworm is treated preventively as it is costly, time consuming and can sometimes have fatal complications in severe cases once contracted. Treating heartworm preventively also helps reduce the prevalence of heartworm in the animal population, thus limiting transmission of the disease.

The body condition of your pet will also be assessed during your visit.  Just like us, our pets sometimes over indulge and can become overweight.  An overweight pet is not a healthy pet as they are at higher risk of medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, liver disease and will also be at a higher risk of anesthetic complications if they require surgery. The annual check up is the perfect time to discuss any changes that you may need to make to your pets diet or ways to increase or maintain their activity levels at different life stages to maintain a healthy body condition.

Your pets dental health will also be checked.  Although we may not think about our pets dental health as often as we think about their physical health, it is a very important part of their overall well being.  Approximately two thirds of dogs and more than half of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease.  The most common problems seen are periodontal disease (inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth) and fractured teeth.  Left untreated periodontal disease can become infected and may cause eating to become painful for your pet.  Your vet may recommend a dental cleaning for your pet which will be done under anesthetic during a future visit.

Any behavioural issues you may be having with your pet can also be addressed with your vet during your pets annual visit.  It is important to address new behavioural issues as soon as possible before they become an ongoing issue and your vet is the perfect place to start looking for appropriate solutions and recommendations.

The annual vet visit, as you can see, is about more than just updating your pets immunizations.  Ensuring that your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life starts with making sure that any health issues are treated as soon as possible and that preventive treatments for heartworm and fleas are maintained.  The annual vet visit is an important part of keeping your pet healthy and happy.