Dog Wellness Exams - How Wellness Exams Impact Your Dog's Health

What is involved in a dog wellness exam?

I could leave the term "wellness" out of it because, to me, an examination is where you look from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail and check every single thing on a dog. I typically try to start at the front and work my way back so I don't miss anything. We check the teeth quality, the gum color, the eyes, the ears, the skin, the lymph nodes, the heart, the lungs, on and on until we've put our hands on every single part of that dog. We've listened to it, looked in the ears, and looked in the eyes. It is a complete and comprehensive physical exam.

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

How soon should I bring my pet in to see the doctor for a wellness exam?

In general, examinations will start at a very young age. We usually get puppies in at about six to seven weeks old for their first exam. You could argue, is that a wellness exam? The answer to that is yes because most six or seven-week-old puppies are not coming in because they're sick, so we're doing a wellness exam to make sure that we're starting off on the right foot. We will see that pet periodically every month or so for booster vaccines, but we don't always do an exam on every single visit. What most people think or envision when we say a wellness exam is an annual exam. When dogs come in for their annual vaccines, that's typically when we do a good comprehensive examination on each one of those visits.

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

In general, the key to increasing a dog's longevity is early detection of anything. If we're doing these wellness exams, a lot of people will think, "Well, he's fine. He's had no issues here," but as a veterinarian, we pick up on an ear problem that the owner wouldn't have known about. Maybe it's something more significant than that or, perhaps we conduct a urinalysis, and we find out that the dog's not concentrating their urine. At that point, we have to dig a bit more and find out why the dog's not concentrating their urine. It could be because their kidneys are not functioning correctly.

Starting with a basic physical exam can key you into a much more significant diagnosis or systemic problem that's going on. We've all heard the expression an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can prevent those diseases from progressing quickly or even stop them in their tracks because you detected them early, you're going to have a much better prognosis in the long run.

How do dog wellness exams influence subsequent treatment?

Let's say, for example, you diagnose a dog with kidney disease. How often are you going to need to see that dog? I might want to repeat examinations every two or three months, or perhaps repeat blood work or urinalysis every two or three months. Those are prime examples of how doing a wellness exam and detecting something early will affect subsequent visits down the road.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Dog Wellness Exams - FAQs

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

What do I need to bring to a wellness exam?

If it's the first time that this particular veterinarian sees your dog, then you're going to want to bring as much as you can. So what does that mean? You're going to want to bring previous records (including vaccinations) from the former veterinarian, a stool sample, the latter of which is a good thing to bring whether it's a new vet or your current vet that you've seen for years. A stool sample is often something they want to look at.

Ask the office first whether they want a urine sample. You might also consider bringing a previous rabies tag if you're unsure or you don't have the rest of the records with you. And then the other thing I would bring is a list of medications. Again, if you're seeing this veterinarian currently and have been for a while, they should have a list of those medications because they're probably the ones prescribing it to you. But if you moved or you're switching veterinarians, bring a list of all current medications that your dog has taken.

Are there health issues I can watch out for at home?

I don't know if there are health issues you can watch at home, but there are certainly health signs that you can watch for at home to point you to a more significant problem. What am I talking about? Specifically, when I hear this question, the one that comes to my mind is a dog that's reluctant to jump on and off of things now. I have a couple of small dogs at home, and they're like little jumping beans—they want on and off everything. What happens if one day they want to jump on you, but they don't? Or they want to jump on the couch, but they don't? They sit there, and they pause. They're like, "Ooh." As subtle as that seems, you might think, "Oh, they're just tired today." It could be that they have a hurt back as well. Or maybe they have a cruciate problem, a kneecap or something like that. Little subtle changes in their activity level can lead us to much bigger pictures.

Also, watch how much they drink, how much they urinate and check their bowel movements from time to time. I'm not saying you've got to stay around them every single day and time that they go. I have diagnosed many dogs with diabetes or kidney problems, even thyroid issues, just because of water intake and urination habits. All of those things factor in, and it's all little subtle things that you can look for and keep watch for at home.

What can I do to provide my dog with the best nutrition possible?

What is the best nutrition possible? If you know, please email me at The Waggin' Train, and we can figure this out together. Nobody knows what that is. If you're feeding high-quality dog food, you're on the right track. What's a good quality diet? Everyone has different opinions. I'm not going to stand on a soapbox and tell you it's got to be this or this. But if you stick with one of the big four or five major food manufacturers, such as IAMS, Eukanuba, Royal Canin, or Purina One, you should be fine. Science Diet is one of my favorites. There are other companies, but those are the big ones that I look at. I know the research behind those foods. I know the companies. Most of those that I just referenced there have medical or veterinary lines to them as well.

The second part of that answer is if your animal does have an ongoing medical condition, you may have to alter their diets. For example, you might have to choose a diet that aids in kidney function. Let's say you have an animal with kidney problems. You're going to want to feed a low protein, low phosphorus, a magnesium-type diet so that you don't make the kidneys have to work harder than they need to.

How can I maintain a healthy weight for my dog?

Go off of the feeding recommendations of the dog food that you're using. Pick up the bag you buy and turn it around. They're going to have a guide that says, "Oh, a 20-pound dog should get two cups a day. A 40-pound dog gets X amount of cups." If you follow that, you're going to be pretty close. There are a couple of exceptions. The first is that you want to feed them off their target weight, not what they currently weigh. And I'm only saying that because many dogs that we see are overweight, if I can put it politely. If you have a Labrador who weighs 100 pounds, but he's supposed to weigh 75 pounds, you want to feed him based on what a 75-pound dog should eat and not continue to maintain them at a hundred pounds.

The other consideration also depends on the activity level of the dog. I have friends that hunt with their dogs multiple days a week. Some of them almost every day of the week. They're running numerous miles a day in the field. That's an athletic dog. They're going to require more energy and likely more food.

Third, if you have a dog that spends a lot of time outdoors when it's colder, they require a higher calorie content in their food. Their metabolism is going to speed up. It takes energy to keep your body warm. And it's a proven fact that in the summertime dogs eating the same amount will tend to put on weight, whereas in the wintertime they will drop weight, so their food depends on all those factors—activity level, diet, and medical conditions.

How important is regular exercise to my dog's wellness?

Dog exercise is vitally important. It's the same for us. The more active you are, it's healthier for you in almost every capacity you can imagine—maintaining weight, maintaining the joints' health, and muscle firmness and tone.

Dogs are also pack animals. By their very nature, dogs are pack animals who in the wild would be roaming and searching and all day long; they're either eating, sleeping, or hunting. And we try to domesticate them and ask them to stay in a house or a kennel, and we think they're going to be just fine. Well, most of them are. They adapt quite well, but they thrive in an environment where they can use that energy and use their senses and go out searching and exploring, so mentally, it's a big deal for them—even if it's merely taking a walk morning and evening, or playing outside if you have a big yard. I don't have time for walks, but I have a giant yard where I can let them go and run and play fetch. And we play little scent games with my little Dachshunds, as those are exercises that use their minds and create a healthier dog in general. I strongly encourage mental and physical activities for your dogs.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.