Diseases are easier to prevent than they are to treat. With that in mind, routine examinations on pets that are apparently healthy or not [yet] showing any active signs of illness is the mainstay of a good preventive health maintenance program. Dogs and cats have several recognized life stages, each of which come with their own unique set of needs. Together with your veterinarian, you will come up with an individualized plan that will best meet your pet’s needs as they mature through these life stages.
Puppies and kittens are usually seen every 3-4 weeks until they are at least four months of age in order to complete their vaccination series. They are also seen at least once when they are 5 to 7 months of age if they are to be castrated, or one year after their last set of juvenile vaccines have been completed. Because of the multiple sets of vaccines needed to immunize—puppies and kittens benefit from multiple exams. But for those puppies and kittens for whom the owner does not wish to castrate, or who were castrated at an early age at a shelter, owners often wonder when they should be seen next after completion of their puppy/kitten vaccine series. Shortening the length of time between the last puppy vaccine visit and the start of adult vaccines is recommended so your veterinarian can ensure your pet has developed appropriately and ensure your pet stays on a good ectoparasite program. Additionally, certain breeds that are predisposed to certain conditions may benefit from more frequent physical examinations.
Healthy young adult cats and dogs should be seen at least annually. Some places divide up preventive health services as to encourage semi-annual visits. Seeing young adults semi-annually also has the added benefit of reinforcing positive experiences for your pet and allows the veterinarian to better understand the pet’s individual needs and establish a baseline of how the pet reacts when it is feeling well. Going to the vet can be a stressful time for a pet, especially if each visit they are being poked or prodded. Breaking up this cycle can lead to pets who look forward to coming to the vet office and uncomplicate physical examinations on otherwise panicked pets.
Geriatric and senior pets should be seen more frequently than once a year because these are the life stages in which disease processes are most prevalent. In keeping with the concept of preventive medicine, these older pets will also benefit from annual blood work once they enter these later life stages. You and your veterinarian will come up with a plan focusing on your pet’s individual needs and circumstances. Senior and geriatric pets often need to be started on adjunctive therapy to support bone, joint and cognitive functions. When starting new medications and nutraceuticals, your veterinarian may require more frequent blood level checks to ensure your pet is able to tolerate the new products and make dose adjustments as medically indicated.
In summary, pet’s needs are highly individualized and change depending on what life stage they are in. More frequent exams on healthy pets has the extra benefit of normalizing vet visits for pets by disassociating the pet feeling sick with being at the vet office. Other possible benefits include catching early signs of disease in senior and geriatric pets and ensuring proper development in younger pets.