Wellness Wednesday: How Often Should My Pet Go to the Vet?

I'll admit it... I am sometimes derelict about getting myself into the doctor for my personal yearly exam. I have also been lax at scheduling my pets for checkups as well. I tell myself that regular checkups could prevent a more serious and expensive problem from developing but, unfortunately, I still often rely on those friendly reminders from the vet's and doctor's offices that say I need to schedule a checkup.

Why Wait?

Let's be real here. There are legitimate and not so legitimate reasons why pet owners have concerns about taking their pets to the vet. These might include:

  1. Fear of unexpected expense.
  2. Concerns that the little symptom could be something serious.
  3. Previous bad experiences at the vet.
  4. A pet's anxiety over car rides and/or vet offices.
These are common concerns that many pet owners struggle with. Personally, my biggest hangup is that my tiny dogs have terrible reactions to the required vaccinations, and my suspicions about the medical community as a whole have trickled down to concerns about over medicating/vaccinating my pets. After all, my cats are indoor cats, and I handle my own dog grooming. Any pet sitting is handled at home with a neighbor, so exposures to other animals are minimal.

Advice from the Pros

Vets recommend at least a yearly visit for both cats and dogs, even if they appear healthy, and even if you share some of the concerns outlined above. This is due to the fact that animals are unable to communicate if something is wrong, so these visits are important. This is especially true for cats, who often hide signs of illness. By the time a cat is showing signs of something being wrong, the sickness could be quite advanced.

When to Get Help

If your pet has any of the following issues, you'll need to visit a vet more than yearly:

  1. Your pet shows signs of illness or pain.
  2. Your pet is older.
  3. Your pet has chronic illnesses that require maintenance.
  4. Very young animals.
Young animals require early visits for deworming and vaccinations. But adult pets also need regular checkups and routine blood work to maintain good health and ensure a full life span.

Your dog might need veterinary attention if he/she:

  • Has trouble getting around, appears to have painful movements
  • Acts differently behaviorally/mentally
  • Is coughing or has difficulty breathing
  • Has a decreased or increased appetite or thirst
  • Has lost weight or gained weight
  • Is drinking more, eating more, and still losing weight
  • Has blood in the urine
  • Has urinary incontinence, accidents in the house
  • Has changes in vision
  • Has a lump or other skin changes
  • Has been bitten by another animal

Photo by HeyRocker.

Your cat might need veterinary attention if he/she:

  • Isn't grooming well
  • Has changes in appetite or thirst
  • Has lost weight
  • Is eating/drinking more and still loses weight
  • Has blood in the urine
  • Is unable to urinate/defecate
  • Has changes in litter box habits
  • Has a lump
  • Has breathing issues or coughing
  • Has been bitten by another animal
As for concerns about veterinary expenses, these are genuine concerns, especially with escalating prices with advances in veterinary care. Your local shelters may offer low-cost clinics for routine care such as spaying/neutering and vaccinations. Also consider investing in pet insurance to help defray unexpected costs. Many programs cover yearly exams, which could help ensure catching any disease processes early.

Featured image by Therese Kopiwoda.

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