What is a pet wellness exam?
Early detection of diseases and conditions early through routine check-up allows for treatment at the early stages, and can help prevent future complications that may be more severe down the road. As our pets age much faster than us, their health conditions can change drastically over a short period of time.
Hence, the need for routine health checkups is of critical importance for their well being. If you live within the Vancouver area, be sure to schedule an appointment for a pet wellness exam with our pet vet – we will work along with you to create a wellness program for your pet, which will include pet vaccinations and a prevention schedule.
Vancouver Pet Hospital has provided some information below to answer some of the common questions that pet owners have regarding pet wellness exam facts and pet vaccinations services.
How often should I go for pet wellness visits?
The frequency of routine checkups will depend on your pet’s current age and health condition. During early kittenhood or puppyhood, we recommend scheduling for his or her first exam as soon as possible, and to conduct wellness exams on a monthly basis until they reach the age of 1. For most adult cats and dogs, a regular pet wellness checkup on an annual basis would be appropriate, while mature and geriatric pets should have semi-annual wellness examinations. As the needs for each dog or cat is different, our seasoned veterinarians will be in the best position to assess your pet’s condition and recommend how often he or she should have a routine exam.
Some animals, and cats in particular, are notorious for being masters at hiding their illness and symptoms, hence be sure to maintain a regular pet wellness examination schedule for timely thorough checkups, even if your pet seems perfectly healthy.
Why do kittens and puppies need more attention and checkups?
In the early ages, especially before they reach the age of 1, kittens and puppies are highly susceptible to many serious yet preventable diseases. They are also prone to parasites, which are common in young cats and dogs. At Vancouver Animal Hospital, we will run comprehensive tests to evaluate your pet’s overall health status, and will proceed with the necessary pet vaccinations. Depending on your puppy or kitten’s conditions and lifestyle, we may suggest additional vaccinations as protection against other common diseases. For example, an outdoor cat or dog may require certain non-core vaccinations as additional protection against diseases.
We will also have your pet tested and treated for parasites, which is an important step to keeping both your new pet healthy and your family safe. Most kittens and puppies have roundworms, which can be transmitted from animals to people. Roundworms live and reside in the intestines, and can upset your pet in various ways:
- Roundworms can cause gastrointestinal conditions, vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, although some dogs may not exhibit any symptoms.
- Cats with roundworms can induce coughing and weight loss, and may give the cat a potbellied appearance. Some cats have worms without showing any symptoms.
More information regarding the importance of pet wellness exams and guidelines for responsible pet ownership can be found at the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Many vaccines can be administered to your pets by the time they reach 6 weeks old, so be sure to book an appointment at our Vancouver vet clinic to discuss the best vaccination schedule for your cat or dog.
What happens during a pet wellness examination?
During a routine wellness exam, our veterinarian will ask questions regarding your cat or dog’s behaviour, exercise and diet patterns, elimination routines and other general health-related observations. We will perform a detailed physical examination to assess the pet’s overall health, and provide recommendations for preventative measures, such as dental care, nutrition, vaccination and parasite control.
Typically, our veterinarian will inspect various aspects of your pet, such as:
- Your cat or dog’s level of alertness and interest in its surrounding environment.
- His or her overall body condition, such as body weight.
- Condition of his or her haircoat – whether there are signs of dandruff, excessive dryness or oiliness, abnormal shedding or hair loss.
- Condition of the pet’s skin – whether there are signs of bumps or lumps, areas of unusual thickening, dryness or oiliness, presence of dandruff.
- Whether the eyes have discharge or excessive tearing, show signs of redness or cloudiness, or have abnormal bumps on the eyelids.
- Whether there are signs of problems in the ears, such as discharge, hair loss, or thickening.
- The breathing patterns of your pet, whether there are discharges from the nose.
- Whether there is plaque and tartar buildup in the mouth and teeth, and whether other dental-related problems are found. Refer to our article on dental problems and the importance of pet dental care.
- Signs of abnormal heart rhythm, heart rates or heart murmurs.
- Checking the pulse in the pet’s hind legs and listen to the chest.
- Examining the lymph nodes for evidence of pain or swelling around the head, neck and hind legs.
- Inspecting your pet’s legs for signs of lameness, problems with the nails or paws, and muscle or nerve-related issues.
- Feeling different parts of the abdomen for subtle signs of abnormality or discomfort.
- For cats, the throat will be checked for signs of abnormalities in the thyroid glands.
In addition, our veterinarian may also suggest fecal and blood tests, as well as radiographs, which may be necessary to identify potential health issues before your pet shows any outward symptoms of disease. In the case of fecal tests, our vet may recommend taking a fresh stool sample from your pet which will be processed and tested for whether parasite eggs are present. Monthly fecal tests are particularly important for kittens and puppies, as many of them will have intestinal parasites.
How do I prepare my pet for a wellness examination?
When you make an appointment, please ask whether your cat will need to fast before visiting the vet clinic, as well as whether you will need to bring fresh fecal and/or urine samples for analysis.
Be sure to bring with you some basic information for the wellness visit, such as the brand of pet food that your cat or dog eats, whether you or other family members have noticed changes in behaviour or other aspects that may be of concern. As your pets cannot express their pains and feelings verbally, keeping a watchful eye and making detailed notes of your observations can help the veterinarian with diagnosing potential problems.
This is also the perfect time for you to note down concerns that you may have and inquire into ways to provide optimal healthcare for your loving pet.
Are dog vaccinations required?
It is just as important, if not even more so, to vaccinate your dogs compared to cats! Although rabies is the only vaccine that is often required by law in many countries, it is not the only core vaccine that your dog should have. In fact, vaccinating your pet is considered one of the simplest ways to ensure a long and healthy life! Dogs typically have regular walks as part of their daily routine, whether it be as a form of regular exercise or a necessity for them to perform their toileting habits. This means that they are frequently exposed to diseases that may both be serious yet completely preventable through vaccinations.
There are 12 common diseases that you can help protect your dog against with vaccination and deworming:
- Rabies – a contagious disease that can spread to people
- Canine parvovirus (parvo)
- Canine distemper
- Canine enteric coronavirus
- Canine adenovirus-2
- Canine parainfluenza
- Canine influenza
- Lyme disease
- Bordetellosis (kennel cough)
- Heartworm disease
- Intestinal worms (such as hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms – some of which are contagious and can infect people)
We note that although indoor dogs are less exposed to such diseases as they have less interaction with the outdoor environment, they are still susceptible to some of the diseases and are recommended to take the core vaccines at the minimum. For example, canine parvovirus and distemper are particularly common in pet shop puppies. Dogs with different lifestyles and environments will require different vaccines to give them an optimal level of protection against diseases. Consult with one of our experienced veterinarians to design a vaccination program that is most appropriate for your dog today!
Are cat vaccinations necessary? What do cat vaccinations prevent?
Yes! It is of critical importance that your cat to be vaccinated, as it will serve as protection against various highly contagious and often fatal diseases. For example, upper respiratory tract viruses, such as feline calicivirus and feline viral rhinotracheitis, also collectively known as ‘cat flu’, kill many untreated kittens every year.
In some cases, vaccines can help your cat become completely immune to future infections, and in other cases, it can lessen the severity of the disease if contracted.
For cats, there are 8 common diseases that can be effectively prevented with deworming and vaccination:
- Rabies – a disease that is contagious and can be transferred to humans
Feline distemper (panleukopenia)
- Feline herpesvirus
- Feline calicivirus
- Feline leukemia (also known as FeLV)
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (also known as FIV)
- Intestinal worms (such as roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, hookworms – some are contagious and can be spread to people)
How long do vaccinations last? How often should my pets be revaccinated?
Traditionally, pets are recommended to be revaccinated on an annual basis. We note that different vaccines will induce immunity that last for differing timeframes, some will last for less than one year, and others lasting well beyond one year. Nevertheless, there is no way of knowing with certainty what your cat or dog’s immunity status is for such diseases at any given point in time. As such, you and the veterinarian can only make an educated guess.
Typically, we suggest taking the precautionary step to revaccinate for diseases on an annual basis to minimize the chances of an infection. To provide your pet with the best protection against disease, we will review and customize your pet’s vaccination program based on the needs of your pet and and the changes in lifestyle.
How much do pet vaccinations cost?
When it comes to pet wellness, we may be overly focused on vaccination costs. These can vary depending on the types and number of vaccines that are required for your pet.
Nevertheless, vaccines are typically very affordable and worth the investment, especially when taking your pet’s overall health and well being into account!
We note that the cost of complications resulting from diseases due to not vaccinating can be significant, and the stress placed onto your cat or dog during treatment can also be a heartbreaking experience.
We strive to provide comprehensive care for your loving pets in Vancouver, BC, at a low and affordable cost – call to schedule an appointment for a pet wellness examination, and have our experienced veterinarians design a suitable vaccination schedule for your pet today!
Are there adverse side effects to pet vaccinations?
Pet wellness is very important to us so we list some side effects to look for. Common side effects that pets may experience after having received their vaccinations and what to expect after the vaccination. Some common symptoms that your pet may experience include:
- Decreased appetite and level of activity
- Local swelling and discomfort in the area where the vaccination was administered
- Mild fever
- If your pet has received an intra-nasal vaccine, mild coughing, sneezing, ‘snotty nose’ and other respiratory signs may emerge after 2-5 days
Usually your pet can begin experiencing some of these mild side effects within a few hours of vaccination. If these symptoms persist for more than two days, we recommend contacting our veterinarians for a follow-up consultation to ensure that your pet is attended to.
It is of critical importance that you inform our veterinarians of any prior reactions to any medication or vaccines in the past. Some side effects that are less common, but more serious, may be medical emergencies and can be life-threatening. It is crucial to take immediate action and seek veterinary care and a thorough pet wellness exam should any of the following signs occur:
- Severe coughing or difficulty in breathing
- Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
- Swelling of the pet’s muzzle, around the face, eyes or neck
- Itchy, bumpy-looking skin (hives)
- Pet collapsing and/or became unconscious
As a precautionary measure, you can wait for 30-60 minutes in our vet clinic after your pet has been vaccinated before taking him or her home. This will ensure that problems can be immediately addressed in the case that your pet develops an adverse reaction. Our staff are friendly Vancouver residents that will keep both you and your loving pets company!
Are pet vaccinations safe? What are the risks associated with vaccination?
Although all medical procedures carry some degree of risk, our veterinarians minimize such risks by carefully choosing vaccines based on the individual needs of each pet, and by choosing appropriate areas to administer the injection.
We note that vaccines have protected millions of pets and animals from serious illness and death caused by preventable diseases, and therefore the benefits typically outweigh the risks for a scheduled pet wellness exam.
Many of the common adverse reactions are short-term and mild in nature. A pet wellness exam will normally find any issues that may arise. But when in doubt, the best course of action is to contact our veterinarians and let us know of any signs of abnormalities you have noticed after having received pet vaccinations and a pet wellness exam didn’t detect abnormalities.