Is an annual physical exam essential for my pet’s health?
Just like us, our furry friends need annual healthcare check-ups too in order to make sure that they are fit, happy and healthy, but most pet owners don't really know how often they need to take their pet to the vet, we dive into the facts you need to know.
In this blog, you’ll learn exactly how often you should be taking your furry friend for a wellness exam, the basic healthcare checks in every pet physical and how much you can expect each appointment to cost.
What is an annual exam?
An annual exam is a standard check-up performed by your vet once every year to keep tabs on your pet’s health and wellbeing. These wellness evaluations, along with tests to follow up on any problems, are essential to catching any health issues early on and preventing any serious medical conditions from developing.
A head-to-tail physical usually includes these 6 basic healthcare inspections:
- Body weight and size: vets will weigh your pet to compare your pup with the average size of a dog his/her age. A severe surplus or deficiency of weight gain over time may indicate a developmental growth disorder. Abnormal posture, bowed legs, severe obesity, painful joints, and difficulty walking may also suggest growth issues, so it’s important for vets to keep an eye out for any of these early warning signs.
- Your pet’s pearly whites: your vet will usually inspect your pet’s teeth and gums for brown tartar buildup, redness along the gums or excessively bad breath. Any unusual lumps on the gums, under/on the tongue or near the teeth roots may be cause for concern too, so they’ll be sure to have a look at that.
- Paws and claws: overgrown nails could grow right around your pets paw and become embedded in the pad. This is super painful for a dog and could cause a lot of discomfort. It is standard for vets to give your dog or cat’s paw pads a thorough inspection to see if they are cracked, torn or if there is swelling and redness between the toes.
- Eyes: vets will check that the whites of your dog’s eyes are not bloodshot or a pinky colour. This could indicate irritation or infection. There shouldn’t be any swelling or discharge and if your dog is squinting or closing one of its eyes, this may be an indication that your pet is in pain.
- Ears: excessive ear wax or sticky discharge in your pet’s ears is often a sign of a bacterial infection. If your pup is scratching its ears more, or there is a strange smell or unusual swelling, that's also something you might want to mention to your vet during the physical exam.
- Vaccination updates: your vet will give your pup or kitten any additional shots that they have not yet received. For small pups or kittens, this will be a lot more frequent as most pets receive the majority of their vaccines before the age of one. For older pet’s, the vaccines will typically be once a year and coincide with their annual checkup.
Other tests may also include:
- Taking blood samples from your dog to check for heartworms.
- A full-body check for flea and ticks
- A vet may also check your dog's heartbeat to ensure that it falls within 70-120 bpm and has a regular rhythm
A few helpful tips
Before you take a trip to the vet, it might also be a good idea to go through these 6 handy at-home check ups so that you can inform your vet about any issues you may have picked up beforehand.
Also, be sure to mention any unusual changes you've seen in your pet lately. For example, any change in their normal behaviour of eating habits may be an indication of a larger health issue.
Expert Tip: To get your pet more comfortable with going in a carrier to the vet, keep the carrier in your normal home space (the living room, kitchen or bedroom) and put your cat's or dog's food and toys in it for a few days.
This will encourage your pet to get in the carrier when it’s time to go for the physical exam and lessen some of their nervousness while you travel to the vet.
Do all pets need annual check ups?
All pets should have a standard health checkup at least once yearly. However, the age of your pet, as well as their health status, may affect how often you should be taking your pet to the vet.
If your pet is in the older age bracket (around 7- 10 years old), it may be a good idea to do more frequent checkups as older pups and cats are more susceptible to illnesses and conditions such as cancer, heart issues and joint problems.
Because their bodies start to weaken at around seven years old, vets suggest at least two checkups per year for older pets. Remember, it's important to maintain health and safety guidelines when taking your pet to the vet as COVID-19 regulations still encourage social distancing.
For younger pups and kittens who are still under one years old, they’ll need a physical exam a lot more often during their first year.
The vet will examine your pup or kitten to make sure he's growing well and shows no signs of illness. They may also check to see how housebreaking, training, and socialisation are going.
You will also have to visit the vet every 3 to 4 weeks for vaccinations. These can be expensive, so be sure to find yourself the right animal insurance for dogs.
How much do pet exams cost?
A thorough exam is important, but it can be pricey. A wellness examination (also known as a pet physical) can cost around R285 for a single consultation. But that’s not all; there are other costs too. Should any health-related problems come up, your annual exam could end up costing you a lot more than you initially thought.
If your pup is found to have ticks or fleas during the exam, parasite control treatment will set you back another R80 to R150. Any necessary medication for an illness found during the checkup can cost anything between R150 and R250. Updated vaccination could cost between R240 and R445 per shot.
So, while the initial annual exam may be affordable, it’s important to find an affordable pet insurance provider who will lend a helping hand when the costs start to pile up. With a Oneplan pet insurance plan, they’ll put money in your pocket before you see the vet for your pet’s annual exam, so that there's no need to worry about anything except the health of your precious pet.
How can you make an annual exam more affordable?
If you take a look at this blog, you’ll see that insurance really pays off in the long run for cost-wise pet owners. If you consider the amount of money that pet insurance could save you over time, it may even change the way you look at pet insurance. It’s important to compare animal health insurance providers to find the best possible insurance for your pets.
In my opinion, Oneplan is the only way to go. Oneplan knows that looking after the health and wellbeing of your pet is always your number one priority - which is why they want to help pet owners everywhere handle the healthcare costs of their pawsome pup or kitten. Oneplan’s animal friendly pet insurance ensures that you receive the most affordable cover with excellent customer care. Oneplan’s Pet Classic Plan and Pet Super Plan will cover R1200 and R1 450 respectively for a single vet visit for up to 4 visits a year - and that includes your annual checkup.
Hopefully, by now, you’re all clued-up about the ins and outs of annual exams and the expected cost of pet physicals. If you have any more queries, take a look at our fact-filled blog page for more information about pets, vets and finding the right animal medical insurance.
Until next time,
The Pet Insurance Team