Wellness Visits – So Much More than Vaccines!
Veterinary medicine has changed a great deal over the past 40 years. As a child in the 1970s, I remember my parents taking our dog, Missy, to the vet for her “shots.” There was little focus on her overall health, and basically, she got several injections and that was it. Fortunately, we have evolved a great deal since that time. While there are certainly some vaccines that are necessary, we are at a time when the recommendations are actually tailored to the individual. The patient’s pet parent and veterinarian decide what vaccines are indicated, and the focus of the visit is less about “shots” and more about how to stay healthy and happy for as long as possible.
What to Expect During Your Pets Visit
Your pet’s health care team consists of you and your family along with your pet’s doctor and veterinary assistant. I think that it’s helpful to think of your pet’s visit in phases.
Phase 1: Taking a Good History
One of our veterinary assistants will interview you to take a thorough history. This is when we all get on the same page about what your pet is eating, what medications he or she is taking, as well as any concerns you might have. Remember, even if we have prescribed a medication, we want to be sure that it is still being given and check to see if you need refills on long term medications. You will talk about lifestyle risks, such as boarding, daycare, and visits to the dog park for dogs, and whether or not your cat is allowed to venture outside. You will also touch base about what wellness tests and vaccines are due at the time of the visit. Ultimately though, you and your pet’s veterinarian will decide what is necessary and in the best interest of your pet that day.
Phase 2: The Physical Exam
Your pet’s doctor will perform a physical exam. This involves assessing each organ system, usually starting in the front and ending in the back. Very often we do this while we are chatting with you. During the exam, we are making mental notes of what we find. Are the eyes clear? Is there evidence of dental disease? Does the patient’s heart sound normal? Whatever we find, we will then summarize at the end of the exam. We love when we can say that your pet looks great! Once the exam is completed, your pet’s doctor will administer any vaccines that were deemed necessary at the beginning of the visit.
Phase 3: Diagnostic and Treatment Recommendations
Once your pet’s doctor has assessed your friend, she or he will make recommendations for any necessary diagnostic tests and treatments. For example, if a dental cleaning is recommended, we will offer to perform pre-anesthetic blood tests. If your pet is a senior patient, we will offer to perform wellness blood and urine tests (A bit more on that later!) This is also a team effort, so be sure to ask questions and take part in this process as well.
We see your pet’s annual exam not only as a means of being sure that he or she is healthy, but also as our chance to be sure that we have all the information needed in order to help you take care of your pet as best we can for the upcoming year. It is our chance to foster, nurture, and maintain a good client-patient-doctor relationship. Here are some helpful hints to get the most out of the visit:
- Dig in with one person if possible. We have a great team of primary care doctors, and it is really wonderful if we can get to know you and your pet year after year. Continuity of care leads to the best patient care. Please don’t hesitate to ask our client care team who you saw previously if you can’t remember.
- We know that coming to the doctor is very stressful for some pets. We are striving to have a fear free hospital here at Friendship, but that is easier for some pets than it is for others. We are happy to discuss and dispense anti-anxiety medication to administer prior to the visit.
- Don’t hesitate to make a list of questions or concerns prior to your pet’s appointment. We want to be sure that all of your concerns get addressed.
- Lastly, I want to mention the value of wellness blood and urine testing. I personally lost my little Yorkshire terrier, Mr. McQueen about 1 year ago due to a rare kidney problem that caused him to lose excessive amounts of protein in his urine. Looking back on everything I learned during that time, I became firmly committed to the value of checking blood and urine tests on an annual basis. The best thing we can tell you when we get the results is that everything is normal. However, in the event that something is not normal, we generally have more options for accurate diagnosis and treatment if we find things earlier on in the disease process. It is certainly not a requirement, but it is something you and your pet’s doctor can discuss at each wellness visit. I included a picture of him, since he was such a cute little guy.
Dr. Dugan attended the University of Florida for both undergraduate studies and veterinary school, graduating from the latter in 1991. After graduation, he completed his internship at Friendship and returned in 2001 as a staff doctor until relocating to New York in 2007. In 2014 he rejoined our team once again! Dr. Dugan works in our Primary Care Service.
*Featured image courtesy of Lonoke Near Say.