Even if you keep a close eye on your dog's health, an annual visit to the vet for a thorough check up means extra peace of mind. Apart from helping identify any newly emerging problems before they become serious, regular health assessments will give you the chance to keep your dog's vaccinations up-to-date, accurately weigh your dog and find out more about any issues that may be worrying you.
‘Check up’ visits are critical for detecting subtle changes in your pet's physical health. Ideally, dogs should be seen at least once every year, or more frequently as they get older or have special medical needs. Regular visits to the vet play a huge part in the 'prevention is better than cure' approach, so don't just wait until it's obvious your dog needs medical attention. Your vet will check your dog over, including listening to his/her heart and lungs, palpating his/her abdomen, checking for skin/coat problems and checking eyes and ears for example.
A regular visit to your local veterinary surgery will provide the perfect opportunity to make sure your dog's vaccinations are up-to-date. Vaccinations may include distemper, leptospirosis, adenovirus, parvovirus as well as parainfluenza and Bordetella (kennel cough) with frequency of vaccination as recommended by your vet. Rabies vaccination will be required as part of the ‘Pet Passport’ scheme if you wish to take your dog outside the UK.
Fleas, ticks and worms
Another subject you should discuss with your vet is the control of fleas and ticks. Remember that fleas, or at least their larvae, can live year-round in your home and garden and ticks can transmit nasty diseases. Vets can advise on tape and roundworm prevention and if necessary, lungworm treatment and prevention.
Take the opportunity at your dog's annual assessment to discuss unusual behaviour. Whether that takes the form of excessive barking, biting or destroying shoes in your absence, misbehaviour can usually be managed if caught in the early stages. Your vet may recommend your dog is referred to a trained behaviourist. If you have a puppy, your vet may offer puppy training classes that you can join.
Most adult dogs have been neutered but if you have a puppy or an un-neutered older dog your vet can advise you about the health benefits of neutering and advise you on aftercare including diet to help avoid your neutered dog becoming overweight.
Your vet will also have a good look at your dog's teeth to determine whether or not dental cleaning is required and, if so, when. This is particularly important in older dogs. This is also a good time to evaluate your at-home dental care program with your vet as home teeth cleaning is the best way to prevent dental problems in the future.
Weight and body condition
Obesity is a common problem in dogs so take this opportunity to weigh your dog on the vet’s scales and discuss his body condition. If your dog is overweight you can talk about a diet and exercise plan or perhaps joining a weight loss scheme run by your veterinary practice, if available. Equally if your dog has lost weight since he/she was last weighed, this could be a sign of a health problem.
If your dog is getting older, more regular check ups are recommended. You can talk about any problems you have noticed, however small with your vet. Discuss food and water intake, activity level and any other concerns. Just like people, senior dogs may suffer from various organ system problems, osteoarthritis, loss of vision or hearing, and even memory loss or dementia. Luckily, many problems can be successfully managed with medication or simple changes to their lifestyle.