Ensuring your dog lives a long and healthy life involves paying close attention to their wellness, from visiting your veterinarian for annual exams and maintaining a proper diet to staying on top of preventatives and taking note of any changes that could indicate illness. If you’ve noticed changes in your dog, we would recommend you consider scheduling an appointment to have your dog examined. Of course you may have questions, and that is why we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions here.

If you have further questions about dog wellness care and are in the Owings Mills, MD area, give us a call at (410) 807-8193 to schedule an appointment. 

What is involved in a dog wellness exam?

During a wellness examination, a veterinarian looks at your dog from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail, checking everything along the way. It is a complete and comprehensive physical exam to gauge the dog’s overall health and wellness.

During a dog wellness exam, a veterinarian will check:

  • Teeth quality
  • Gum color
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Skin condition
  • Lymph nodes
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Joints
  • Body condition and weight
  • Body temperature

The American Animal Hospital Association provides in-depth details about precisely what a veterinarian is looking for when they conduct a wellness exam. 

How soon should I bring my dog in to see a veterinarian for a wellness exam?

Examinations should start at a very young age, with puppies seen for the first time at about 6-7 weeks old to check for congenital disease and make sure your puppy if off to a great start. From there, you’ll bring your puppy in every month for booster vaccines, which will also include a growth exam to make sure your pup is developing normally. Once their initial vaccine series is complete around four months of age, your dog will see their veterinarian for annual vaccines, during which they will conduct a comprehensive examination.

If you’re bringing home an older dog that you’ve adopted, you should bring them in to see your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure they’re healthy. This is especially important if you have other pets to avoid transmission of any diseases. 

How do dog wellness visits impact the longevity of my pet's life?

The key to increasing a dog's longevity is early disease detection. It's tempting to think your dog is healthy if there are no overt outward signs, but wellness exams allow a veterinarian to pick up on issues that may not be immediately obvious to the untrained eye. It could be something relatively insignificant but worth monitoring, or perhaps something more serious like a urinalysis revealing a sub-clinical urinary tract infection or evidence of kidney disease.

We've all heard the expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you can prevent diseases from progressing or even stop them in their tracks because of early detection, there's likely to be a much more favorable prognosis for your dog. For instance, it's far easier to prevent heartworm disease with regular preventative medication than to treat a heartworm infestation, and abnormal heart sounds or detection of a mass within your dog's abdomen could lead to more immediate intervention and hopefully healthier longevity.

How do dog wellness exams influence subsequent treatment?

If your dog is diagnosed with a progressive illness, such as kidney disease, during routine examination, your veterinarian would recommend appropriate intervention and/or monitoring for future maintenance of your pet's health. This may mean more frequent examinations, at least at first, as well as repeat blood work or urinalysis to monitor your dog’s response to any initiated treatment.

Will additional testing be needed beyond a wellness exam, and what are those tests? 

Your veterinarian will recommend heartworm testing and fecal checks during a routine wellness exam. There may also be baseline blood work to understand their overall systemic wellness or as a baseline for comparison with future diagnostics as your pet ages.

Additional tests will depend on what they find — if anything — such as a high respiratory rate, something abnormal felt in the belly, or a heart murmur. 

Testing also depends on the age of the pet. In older dogs, your veterinarian may recommend more extensive testing, such as a urinalysis or blood work, to assess baseline organ function. They may also recommend wellness exams every six months, depending on your dog’s particular circumstances.

How does my veterinarian assess my dog's wellness?

At Owings Mills Veterinary Center, we feel it's important to establish your dog’s baselines and understand their "normal". There are many instances in which bloodwork may be required, like prior to a surgical procedure or with use of chronic medication, and it can be easier to understand what’s abnormal when we have a healthy baseline for comparison. Something typical for your dog might be unusual for others, so wellness baselines are pivotal in assessing health throughout your pet's lifetime.

What are some dog wellness recommendations my veterinarian is likely to make?

Veterinarians make many recommendations to dog owners, each playing a specific role in your dog’s overall health and wellness. 

Wellness recommendations your veterinarian will make include:

  • Core vaccines
  • Non-core vaccines depending on their lifestyle and environment
  • Heartworm testing and prevention
  • Diet and weight recommendations
  • Volume and type of food
  • Dental health and regular cleanings
  • Monitoring for behavioral changes
  • Grooming and hair coat health

What are some possible environmental factors that can affect the health of my dog?

Many aspects of the environment can affect your dog, including how many pets you have, how they're housed, cleanliness, and more. For example, certain non-core vaccines are recommended only for dogs exposed to the outdoors, so if your pet lives on the 10th floor of a high rise and never sees the grass, recommendations may change. There are also a number of potential toxins in the average home environment, thus education and careful restriction of access to these toxins is important.

What is geriatric dog screening? 

There are many diseases common to geriatric dogs that aren’t usually a concern for younger dogs. For that reason, your veterinarian will likely recommend more blood panels and urine testing on a senior dog to detect any lurking issues. They may also measure blood pressure more frequently, as various diseases can cause hypertension. Some smaller breeds are prone to eye conditions as they age, so your veterinarian may pay closer attention to measuring tear production, for example. These are just a few examples of additional diagnostics that your veterinarian may consider part of routine wellness care for older dogs.

How often should my older dog come in for screening? 

A dog is usually considered to be a senior (or geriatric) around 8 years of age. Certain giant breeds, like Great Danes, may be considered to be geriatric as early as 5 or 6 years of age. Once your dog becomes a senior, your veterinarian may recommend coming in every six months for a wellness exam, or sooner if your pet develops new or unusual symptoms.

If you have further questions about dog wellness, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near Owings Mills, MD, we’d love to see your dog for their annual wellness exam. Please give us a call at (410) 807-8193.