You bring Fluffy in to the vet for her routine exam. Things are going well and Fluffy appears to be healthy, but your vet wants to see Fluffy back in 6 months. Why? You don’t go to the doctor every 6 months, so why would your pet need to?
There are some important differences between animals and humans that make semi-annual wellness exams crucial for your pet’s health and wellness.
1) Pets can’t tell you when there is a problem.
Think about it… when your spouse or children don’t feel well, they can tell you about their belly pains or toothaches. Your pet can’t verbally tell you those things. You may see some small changes in their behavior or appetite, but you may not know why. You might not realize your pet has a major medical problem until much later. And, most problems are best fixed early on rather than after they’ve had time to grow or worsen. Semi-annual examinations allows us, as veterinarians, to look for signs of problems that you may not be able to see. During these exams, we often find broken teeth, lumps/growths, or heart murmurs that a pet owner didn’t even notice.
2) Pets age much more rapidly than humans.
People often say that one year of an animal’s life is the equivalent to 7 years of a human’s life. Although this “rule of thumb” is not completely accurate, it is true that pets age more rapidly than we do. Other factors, like breed and size, also affect a pet’s aging process. Now with that in mind, imagine not taking your children to the doctor or the dentist for 4-7 years at a time. Most of us would never think of such a thing! But if you are only taking your pet for annual vet visits, that is what you are doing to your furry friend.
3) It’s easier to try to slow down a problem early rather than after it’s long-progressed.
Some problems, like a limp, will show you that your pet is in pain. Other problems (some of which can be life-threatening) are “silent” problems. “Silent” problems mean that your pet may not directly show signs of a health issue, but internally there are significant changes happening. Disease may be progressing. Some examples of “silent” problems are kidney or liver disease or early Lyme disease. It isn’t typically until later (and sometimes at irreversible stages of the disease) that your pet will show on the outside that something is wrong.
We all want to do what’s best for our pets and to have them live long and happy lives. As veterinarians, we want these things for our own pets, and we want them for your animals as well. Semi-annual exams help us find potential problems early on so that you and your pet can have the longest, healthiest time together.