Why Are Wellness Exams Important?
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a client tell me that their pet has never been to the vet or, at least, not since their first round of vaccines or spay/neuter appointment. Every time I hear this, a little part of me dies inside. While I know that most clients love their pets dearly and correlate not seeing a veterinarian as some measure of success toward their efforts of caring for their pet’s overall health, more times than not, there is a lot they are missing.
What some folks fail to understand, is that by nature, most animals instinctively hide their illness, pain and discomfort. It isn’t until the disease or illness has been left to cause unchecked havoc on our patients, are we as veterinarian, then called in to try and help. Sometimes, we can help, other times it is too late.
I don’t think the blame lies solely on the pet parent. Many times, we as veterinarians rush through our appointments (certainly not intentionally). We perform our exams, make recommendations, mark in our charts and schedule your next appointment. We have been scheduled a full day of appointments, surgery and walk-in emergencies that make it so that we have a very finite time with you. There is simply not enough time during our 15-minute appointment to explain why it is so important for you to follow our recommendation for annual exams, heartworm and other preventative therapies, immunizations, oral health evaluations and so on. We simply hope and pray that you do. (Why Pick A Mobile Vet)
So here’s the truth. Wellness and preventative care is essential for making sure your pet not only appears healthy, but IS healthy. Annual exams help your veterinarian monitor for the subtle signs you may not be aware of. The physical exam we perform, which seems so routine, is by far, routine. We learn so much about your pet’s overall health status in those few moments we place our hands and a stethoscope on them. So much can be gained from the physical exam as we are using all of our senses during that time to evaluate your pet. Is your pet underweight/overweight? Are his eyes cloudy? Are her lymph nodes normal size? What is that smell in her ears? Is he struggling to rise when he greets me? How long has that mass with no hair been present? Is her coat patchy?
And those teeth? When was the last time you looked at your pet’s teeth? Yes, pets will have an odor sometimes not pleasant to humans, but there is a big difference between having dog breath and having oral disease. Overall, your pet’s mouth should not smell repulsive to you and their teeth should still be some shade of recognizable white or off-white. Not yellow, green or brown! Just like us, oral disease not only leads to oral pain, decay and loss of teeth, but also cardiac and kidney disease. Oral health checks during a annual exam is essential to a good wellness program.
And what is the story about preventative immunizations or medications for heartworm disease, ticks and fleas? I’ll tell you a little secret! It’s just a way for us to pad the bill and make more money!! Of course not! Contrary to popular belief, we recommend these preventatives because the cost associated with treating the actually disease is exponentially more expensive. Not to mention the diseases they prevent are often fatal! I promise, big pharma is not padding our pockets every time we recommend these products. If fact, most veterinary practices make very little, if anything at all, on the sell of these preventative medications. We, as a profession, know the value of preventative care and how it can save lives. I can tell you first hand watching a patient or pet die from a very preventable disease is one of the most heartbreaking experiences a pet parent and veterinary team experiences. And while I'd like to say this day in age we don't see many cases like this, it is sadly not the case.
Wellness programs help us as veterinarians teach you as pet parents to be vigilant about the subtle changes that you may not be aware of. Exams, annual blood work, oral health checks, nutrition and exercise talks, preventative medications and appropriate vaccines are all so important to a complete wellness program. These programs not only improve your pet’s overall quality of life; they help us to catch signs of early disease which can often prolong your pet’s life significantly.