While working in veterinary medicine, I had countless conversations regarding the importance of annual exams.
Let me tell you a little story…
At one vet clinic, there was a 10 year old spaniel mix that came in for her annual exam and vaccines. During her physical exam, the doctor looked in her mouth to check her teeth (FYI doctors are noting the amount of calculus, or plaque build-up, there is on their teeth), and he noticed that her gums were pale. Pale gums (grey colored) can indicated a number of things, but most importantly its an indicator that something is wrong. The doctor took a blood sample to check her values (overall blood chemistry can be very indicative of what is going on in the body). When some of her values seemed high, the doctor recommended X-rays. We took full body X-rays (meaning 2 views of the chest and the stomach), and it turned out that Ms.Lucy had a tumor on her spleen that needed to be surgically removed. Lucy’s mom hadn’t seen any decrease in her overall energy or appetite. To any owner she would have seemed like a perfectly healthy pet.
Within the week, Lucy had her surgery. If I recall correctly, the tumor weighed between 8-10 pounds, and was starving her body of necessary nutrients. She recovered well from her surgery, and went on to live another 7 months despite the tumor being cancerous. All this would have been overlooked had Lucy’s owner not brought her in for her annual exam, and those last few months could have been lost.
Moral of the story….Annual Exams are very important.
1) Our pets age much faster than we do. You know the old saying, Dog Years are Human years x7. Well that means they have aged an equivalent of 7 years between each doctors appointment, do YOU wait 7 years before going to the doctor?
2) Also, there is A LOT of misleading information available on the internet, and this gives you a chance to sit down with your veterinaries, and get answers to questions you have been having. Let me tell you, it is RARE when someone hasn’t come up with a question about their pet, or pets in general, in a years time.
3) Most medication refills require an annual exam. This includes flea and heartworm preventatives as well. Therefore, make is easy on yourself to keep up with these preventatives by bringing your pet in once a year. You can even schedule your pets so that they can come in together, making it easier on you and your family.
4) Physical exams allow for things to be documented. A classic example is the appearance of growths and lumps. As pets get older, they begin to develop lumps and bumps that should be documented in their medical record. Why? Because it allows for reference, when you think you notice a bump or lump is growing or changing colors.