What is a Wellness Examination?
A wellness examination is a routine medical examination of a patient that is apparently healthy, as opposed to an examination of a patient that is ill. A wellness examination may also be called a ‘check-up’ or a ‘physical examination’. The focus of a wellness visit is the maintenance of optimal health.
How often should my dog have a wellness examination?
The answer to this question depends on your pet’s age and current health status. During early puppyhood wellness exams are recommended on a monthly basis, while for the average adult dog annual wellness examinations are the norm, and for middle aged or geriatric dogs semi-annual examinations are recommended.
Pets age at a faster rate than people. It is a popular misconception that one calendar year equates to seven years in a dog’s life. In actual fact, in one calendar year a dog may age the equivalent of four to fifteen years in a human’s life. The reason for this dramatic difference is that puppies reach maturity very quickly, and are essentially adolescents or young adults by a year of age – thus they are considered to be the equivalent of a 15 year old by their first birthday. During the second year, the rate of aging slows down a little so that the average dog is considered to be the equivalent of a 24-25 year old by their second birthday. After that, the rate of aging is estimated to be 4-5 dog years per calendar year, depending on the size and breed. Large breed dogs age relatively more quickly than small breed dogs. By the time your dog reaches its 6th birthday, it will be either middle-aged (if a small or medium breed dog) or geriatric (if a large breed dog).
Your veterinarian is in the best position to recommend how often your dog should have a wellness examination, based on its specific breed, health status and lifestyle.
What will my veterinarian check during a wellness examination?
During a routine wellness examination, your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s diet, exercise, thirst, breathing, behavior, habits, elimination patterns (i.e., bowel movements and urination), lifestyle, and general health. Your veterinarian will also perform a physical examination of your dog. Based on your pet’s history and physical examination, your veterinarian will then make recommendations for specific preventive medicine treatments such as vaccination, parasite control (including preventive treatments for fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites and heartworms), nutrition, skin and coat care, weight management or dental care. In addition, your veterinarian will discuss your pet’s individual circumstances and decide whether any other life-stage or lifestyle recommendations would be appropriate.
What does my veterinarian check during a physical examination?
A physical examination involves observing the general appearance of the dog, listening to the chest with a stethoscope (“auscultation”), and “palpation”, or feeling specific areas of the body.
Your veterinarian will observe or inspect:
- How your dog walks and stands
- Whether your dog is bright and alert
- Your dog’s general body condition – whether your pet has an appropriate body weight and body condition (neither too fat nor too thin)
- The haircoat – looking for excessive dryness, excessive oiliness, evidence of dandruff, excessive shedding, or abnormal hair loss
- The skin – looking for oiliness, dryness, dandruff, lumps or bumps, areas of abnormal thickening, etc.
- The eyes – looking for redness, discharge, evidence of excessive tearing, abnormal lumps or bumps on the eyelids, how well the eyelids close, cloudiness, or any other abnormalities.
- The ears – looking for discharges, thickening, hair loss, or any other signs of problems.
- The nose and face – looking for symmetry, discharges, how well the pet breathes, whether there are any problems related to skin folds or other apparent problems.
- Mouth and teeth – looking for tartar build-up, periodontal disease, retained baby teeth, broken teeth, excessive salivation, staining around the lips, ulcers in or around the mouth, etc.