What is involved in a dog wellness exam?

If you bring your dog in for a wellness check-up, we're going to do a complete physical exam on your pet, starting with their weight. We'll also get their body temperature. And then I'm going to look at the dog from the tip of its nose to the tip of their tail, checking all of the body systems, looking in their mouth, eyes, ears, nose, listening to their heart and chest, feeling their abdomen, looking under their tail, checking their skin. It's a full, complete wellness exam.

Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

How does dog wellness impact the longevity of my pet?

Many times, dogs will pretend that they're okay, or they might be hiding something under the surface. During an exam, we should hopefully pick that up and diagnose a problem sooner rather than later.

If we can help get that pet treatment earlier on in the disease, we will help that dog live longer and catch problems sooner. Diseases are easier to treat sooner rather than later. It should help with the longevity of your pet to catch those problems sooner.

How soon should I bring my pet in to see a veterinarian for a wellness exam?

We recommend an exam immediately after getting your pet, whether it's a puppy or an adult dog. That way, we can have a document of how they started when they came to your home. And then, from there, we plan accordingly. The age of the pet determines how often we should see them. A puppy is going to need to come in much more frequently than a three-year-old dog. We'll set those follow-ups with you after that initial visit, but you should bring the dog in right away.

Will additional testing be needed beyond a wellness exam?

That also depends on the age of the pet. We often recommend blood work, either as a baseline, to make sure they're healthy as a puppy, or if they're a senior pet, we use it to check their organ function, as they age more quickly. We may recommend wellness exams up to every six months, but it depends on that particular pet's circumstances.

How will a veterinarian assess dog wellness?

During the physical exam, we're going to be checking multiple body systems and hopefully finding a problem if one exists and trying to figure out what it is, and then making a treatment plan for that. That's why the physical exam is so vital, versus just like a phone call or a telehealth type of thing, because the dog can't talk and tell us what's wrong. So it is all about getting our hands on the pets to examine them.

What are some dog wellness recommendations my vet is likely to make?

At the wellness exam, we're going to talk about diet. Is the dog getting too much or not enough food? We'll also talk about the type of food they're eating, which may include a diet recommendation. Also, if there's going to be a recommendation for a dental procedure or prophylaxis at home, and perhaps training you how to do something to your pet as far as grooming goes. If it's an adult dog, we will do an annual heartworm test and stool check for internal parasites. We'll surely make recommendations depending on your dog.

What are some possible environmental factors that can affect dog wellness?

Many behavioral concerns come down to what happens in the home and how the pet is treated, so that would be one. Also, obesity is another huge issue. We can control what they eat, but a lot of times, with those little puppy eyes, they're begging. You're going to overfeed them. Home environments can affect their body condition score, whether they're overweight or underweight.

And then the dog's coat will be another discussion. It takes a lot of care to do grooming in certain breeds. So that's going to be dependent on how you care for them at home too.

Why is early detection of health issues in my dog so important?

We talked about this a little earlier. Finding a problem sooner rather than later is going to help with the prognosis. So if it's a tumor that's the size of a pea versus the tumor that's the size of a volleyball, there's going to be a better outcome if it's small.

For sure, if it's a malignant type of tumor that we find, if we can catch it before it spreads somewhere, the prognosis is going to be better.

How often should my older dog come in for screening?

We consider a dog older once they turn eight. Sometimes we might consider a giant breed dog, like a Great Dane, a senior as young as five or six years of age.

Once they become a senior, we recommend coming in every six months for a wellness exam. We call that a biannual exam. But if they're sick for some reason, we would need to see them even sooner than that.

Will my vet suggest allergy testing for my dog?

If your pet comes in and we suspect an allergy, of course, we're going to have that conversation. Often, there isn't a specific test that we can run to see what the dog is allergic to, but there are some treatments that we follow to help determine the cause of the allergy.

If it's a very involved case, sometimes we refer them to a dermatologist for specific skin testing of allergens. But a lot of times, it's touch-and-go or trying to figure out what symptoms we can manage with medications, and a bit of trial and error too.

If it's a diet that we're assuming is affecting the allergy, we would be doing a diet trial. And that's part of allergy testing as well.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Wellness Exams - FAQs

Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

What does a veterinarian look for during a dog wellness exam?

During the wellness exam, we're going to be doing a complete physical exam on your pet. So we're going to start with getting the dog's body weight on the scale and then take them into the exam room. I'm going to do a complete exam, checking everything from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail. We take their temperature, listen to their heart, look at their eyes and ears, and all of that, so it's a full physical exam.

What do I need to bring to a wellness exam?

Well, you need to bring your dog! Ideally, you'd also bring a stool sample. I know that sounds kind of weird, but it would be beneficial if the dog's due for a fecal check that you would bring that sample along. That way, we don't have to have you come back again to drop off a stool sample. That would probably be it.

Are wellness exams for dogs optional?

Well, they're not required. No law says you have to bring your dog in for an exam, but we consider them vital to maintaining the pet's health. So the more frequently we're going to see your dog, we're going to be able to diagnose diseases early on.

How long do your dog wellness exams usually take?

You should plan to be here for about 30 minutes. It's going to start with the technician asking you many questions about diet and the dog's history, getting an idea of whether you have questions specifically for the doctor. The tech will also get the dog's weight on the scale, take you into the room, and then have the physical exam done with the doctor. If there are any other tests that we recommend, we would need to draw blood, potentially take an x-ray, or other things like that. I would say the average is about 30 minutes.

How did dog wellness exams influence subsequent treatments?

If we find a problem during the exam, we're going to talk about the treatment options and how often the dog needs to come back. These things would depend on what we found on the exam.

What are baseline diagnostic tests, and how do they help my dog?

I would consider a baseline diagnostic test with a blood panel, checking their organ function, blood sugar, a complete blood cell count, and I'd look at all of the red and white cells. That's something that we recommend as a baseline, even in puppies. And then, depending on if they're on long-term medication, we might need to do that more frequently. That would be what I would consider a baseline. Depending on a puppy's breed, we also sometimes recommend a baseline hip x-ray, looking for hip dysplasia or other orthopedic problems that might come up.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.