Most pet owners are aware that dogs and cats require an annual veterinary visit. The fact is that every pet should be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year. Whether they’re furred, winged or scaled, every animal is at risk of developing health problems. Many of these issues can be prevented by routine care and evaluations.
The first step is to find a veterinarian who is experienced with your type of pet. Not all vets will treat all species. Species-specific rescues can be a good source of information. You can also contact local veterinary offices and ask if they have experience with your type of pet. If they don’t, they may be able to guide you to someone who does. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important to feel comfortable with the person/office you’re entrusting your pet’s health to.
While the veterinary office can be a good source of information regarding your pet’s needs, you should do some research of your own. Every owner should be aware of the general health care requirements for their type of pet. This is especially true when you own exotic animals. Exotics are relatively new as companion animals and not all veterinarians will have the same level of knowledge and experience with these different species. It is important that you know normal behavior and appearance, as well as common medical issues, for your type of pet so that you may work with your veterinarian in providing proper care.
An annual well visit should include:
Pet History: Be prepared to provide information such as pet’s age, medications, diet fed, previous illnesses, injuries or surgeries, reactions to medications or vaccinations, and recent health concerns (diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, etc) or changes in behavior.
Physical Examination: Your pet will be weighed and, depending on the species, a temperature taken. The veterinarian will check the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, skin/coat, palpate for masses and listen to the heart and lungs. A thorough dental exam should be included as animals can suffer from periodontal disease. Dental problems can quickly escalate and cause your pet pain, difficulty eating and a decline of overall health.
Fecal Tests: This is the ONLY way to detect parasites. Every pet is susceptible to parasite infection and it is possible to get a false negative result. The larger and fresher the fecal sample, the better the chances of detection. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend having the sample sent to an outside laboratory for a more detailed scan.
Other Diagnostics/Vaccinations: Depending on your type of pet and their level of health, your veterinarian may recommend further testing, including bloodwork, urinalysis, and x-rays. For animals requiring vaccinations, be sure to discuss your pet’s lifestyle with your vet so the most appropriate vaccinations and preventative medications can be recommended.
This yearly visit is vital for all animals. By comparing notes from previous visits, your veterinarian may detect the early stages of illness or disease. As owners, it’s easy to overlook gradual changes in our pets’ appearance. Those few pounds lost, the thinning of feathers or change in stool color may not be apparent to us, but to our veterinarian, they are a sign of health issues. By the time symptoms are obvious, our pets may be in serious trouble. Early detection is critical in many exotic species as their instinct is to mask signs of distress as long as they are able. The annual well visit with the veterinarian is their lifeline.