*Originally published on Canine Journal*
If you have a dog, then they may be like one of your children: you spoil them rotten and care for them deeply. Since your pet is that important to you, then their health should be just as important! And we don’t mean just taking them out on walks, feeding them a balanced diet and pampering good dogs with toys and treats, although those are all important too! We’re talking about being proactive and taking them to the vet regularly for checkups. Read on to learn why checkups for dogs are important, how frequently you should schedule them, what you get out of a dog health check and how much you can expect to spend (spoiler alert: it’s less than you think!).
Why Do Annual Checkups for Dogs?
Most humans get regular health checkups, so dogs should get checkups too. Preventative care is just as important for pets as it is for their owners. Why? Because vets can help detect (and sometimes prevent) diseases and other life-threatening conditions early on, saving you money and heartache in the long run. And similar to how a car gets its oil changed, tires rotated and inspections from time to time, it’s also a good idea for us to check in with the doc to make sure our pet’s vitals are in good shape and everything is running smoothly. Often dogs won’t even show symptoms of a health problem, so it’s best to have a professional assess things just in case.
What to Expect at the Routine Vet Visit
Much like a human physical exam, the vet will ask you a few questions about your dog’s overall eating and lifestyle habits (hopefully your pet does not do drugs or drink, but if they do here are seven things you should know about dogs and marijuana). They’ll also take a few measurements including their weight and check their pulse. See the list below for other things a vet looks for during the exam.
An annual dog checkup is a great opportunity to bring up any questions and express any concerns you have about your pup (they are not sleeping well, the dog has discolored poop, etc.). You’re paying for your visit, so you might as well make the most of your time with the expert and ask away. They might make some suggestions based on their evaluation of your dog and recommend some wellness tips.
What’s Included in an Annual Checkup for Dogs?
Here’s a list of specific things the veterinarian might ask about and check for during an annual dog checkup:
- Vaccinations and current status of each
- Blood tests (particularly for older dogs who are prone to more health problems)
- Urine tests and any discharge, discoloration, etc.
- Digestion, including any concerns about gas,burping or abnormal stools
- Coughing, wheezing, sneezing, throat or nose discharge
- Coat and skin check for hair loss, lumps, rashes, discoloration or unusual spots
- Limbs, walking, standing and toenails
- Ears and eyes for discharge, swelling, redness or itching
- Intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, mites and heartworms
- Dental health, including teeth and breath smell
- Water and food consumption
- Organs to make sure they are not an unusual size
- Exercise levels and how often
- Behaviors such as excessive barking or emotional instability
Video: Pet Wellness Exams
Here’s a quick two-minute video on what to expect from a pet wellness checkup from a vet of over ten years. She’ll walk you through how they check a pup from head to toe to give you a better idea of what to expect at your dog’s checkup.
If all goes well, it’s pretty painless and you and your dog should be in and out in no time. However, if the vet does spot any potential problems, they will discuss the options with you including further testing.
How Often Should You Do Checkups for Dogs?
It depends on the age of the dog. Puppies grow at a rapid pace and thus require more vaccinations and attention. So, if your dog is under one-year-old, you should expect to go to the vet more regularly for your pup’s shots and to make sure they are progressing as expected (much like a newborn). However, after the first year, dogs are the equivalent of a teenager or young adult and then they grow at a much slower pace, so they only need visits annually for any necessary vaccines and routine checkups. And just like people, older dogs may require more frequent monitoring since they have more health issues as they age. So you may want to discuss with your vet whether bi-annual visits are needed for your older dog (7 years or older).
The size of your dog also determines how quickly they “age” and thus how much attention they need. Larger dogs become older quicker than smaller dogs and are usually more active too, meaning they have more risk for physical injuries and exposure to the outdoors where pesticides and bacteria live.
The breed can also affect the frequency of vet visits as specialized breeds (e.g. bulldogs) are at a higher risk for health conditions (whereas a mutt is less susceptible).
According to WebMD, a good rule of thumb is:
- Puppies under 1: every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks old
- Dogs 1-7 years old: once a year (at a minimum)
- Senior dogs 7-10+ years old: twice a year, if your vet agrees this is necessary
Vet Check Up Cost
By now you might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how much will it cost?” While it might seem costly to do vet visits so frequently, most dogs only live an average of 13 years, so you won’t be paying for too many checkups over the lifetime of your pup. Keep in mind those checkups could add years to your dog’s life too! As for individual treatment costs or office visit fees, call your local vets for more details as costs vary greatly by location.
How to Save Money on Checkups for Dogs
If you don’t already have pet insurance, you should look into getting it to help you save on unexpected pet costs like surgeries and medications. In addition to accidental and illness coverage, some pet insurance companies also offer wellness plans which include yearly annual dog checkup costs. However, based on our experience, those plans tend to be more expensive than actually paying for the annual exam fees out of pocket. So as long as you are good at budgeting, we don’t recommend overpaying for with a wellness plan. And remember that a yearly exam fee is a small price to pay to potentially save you thousands down the road and extend the life of your pup. Read more about pet wellness plans and the in our pet wellness providers article.
A Healthy Dog Is a Happy Dog
At the end of the day, your dog’s health does affect their overall well-being, which in turn can be a positive thing for you too! So make the investment, and your dog will thank you (and you’ll thank yourself) later.
Hopefully we’ve covered everything you ever wanted to know about annual check-ups for dogs and how a yearly vet visit can help keep your furry friend’s tail wagging! But if you still have questions, feel free to let us know.
When was the last time your dog had a checkup?