Are your furbabies getting their annual exam?

Today, many pet owners believe the yearly exam veterinarians recommend for their patients is just a waste of money or a way that veterinarians boost their own bank account. As a pet owner, employee at several clinics, and an aspiring veterinarian I can honestly say “yes, an annual exam is very necessary.” Prevention is always the best policy! When it comes to my four-legged family members, I treat them as though I would my two-legged family members.


Vaccinations are a necessary part of each animal’s yearly check up. They help to prevent one’s dog from contracting diseases that they are exposed to. Even if the dog “does not leave the house,” they are still very capable of acquiring a disease. Humans can bring elements home to indoor pets on their shoes and clothing that they are not even aware of.

The age, location, lifestyle, and health of the patient have an impact on what vaccination program the animal will need. For example, a dog that is used for hunting should have a different program than a dog that goes for a walk with its owner around the block a few times a week.

After receiving multiple boosters as a puppy, dogs should revisit their veterinarian annually for vaccinations. They should be administered a rabies vaccination and Distemper-Hepatitis-Parvovirus-Parainfluenza (DHPP) booster at minimum. Optional vaccinations include: Bordatella (kennel cough), Leptospirosis, and Lyme.

This is a photo I took of my two dogs, “Gertie” and “Paisley.” Each of them have similar vaccination programs, however, they are at different stages. Gertie is a Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix and is almost a year old. She has had all of her vaccines and will start annual vaccinations the following year. Paisley is a Miniature Australian Shepherd and is about 7 weeks old in this picture. She has had one DHPP booster vaccination and will be receiving a series of these before she starts her “adult” vaccinations.


Parasite Examinations

Dogs can be affected by parasites in three different ways: internally, externally, and intestinally. Just like vaccines it is always best to prevent rather than treat. Have your animal tested by bringing a small fecal sample to your appointment. Not all parasites may be seen by the human eye, therefore veterinarians/technicians must create a sample slide after centrifuging to check for any eggs under the microscope. These parasites may not show it at first, but eventually they will take a toll on your animal’s health. In addition, some may even effect you and your family also.

The internal parasite most commonly seen is heartworms. Heartworms develop after a dog has been bitten by an infected mosquito. The larvae develop in the animals heart and begin to essentially block an animals blood pathways.

External parasites include: fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Not only do they make your pet uncomfortable, itchy, and hairless, but they also can lead to other parasite infestations! For example, infected fleas that are ingested by your dog may transfer tapeworms and infected ticks can transmit Lyme disease.

Many of the common intestinal parasites include: hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Typically, most are found in the soil. Contrary to many owners beliefs, even indoor pets are in contact with soil. We drag it inside with our shoes, we take our pets on walks, we have other pets over, and we let them out in the yard to do their business. There many ways our pets may contract these parasites that we typically would not think of. For example, most puppies born usually have roundworms or hookworms. They are transferred to them by their mom, which is why it is so critical to have a fecal examination when getting a new puppy.

Prevention is key to protecting your pet from those creepy crawly parasites in the soil. In the figure above is my now, 6-month-old, miniature Australian Shepherd puppy “Paisley.” She was started on heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives when she was 7 weeks old and has been on a year-round, monthly preventative program ever since.


Dental Examinations

It is easy to overlook the dental health of a pet due to the fact we do not brush their teeth daily. However, the dental health of our pet can play a major role in the overall wellness as well. When tartar and bacteria builds up in a dogs mouth, it can lead to periodontal disease. That unbearable odor you are smelling when your dog licks you is harmful to more than just your nose. The buildup acts as a toxic agent in your animals system and can lead to your pet feeling ill.

Depending on the breed, age, lifestyle, and health of your dog they may need a dentistry. Yes, dogs need dental cleanings just like you! Most often they are put under a mild anesthesia while a veterinarian/technician cleans the animals teeth and performs any necessary extractions. Sometimes a tooth may need to be extracted due to the fact it is doing more harm to the animal than good.

Overall Health and Nutrition

An overall look at your pet by a professional in the veterinary field and different set of eyes is one of the greatest favors you can do for your pet. We are not all perfect, and thus it is easy for us to miss something that needs attended to in regards to our animal. Even working in the veterinary field, I often see veterinarians bring their own pets to be examined by other doctors they work with just in case they happened to overlook something. When you see an animal day in and day out, it is easy for your eye to become less critical when overlooking your pet.

One of the most common overlooked areas is the body condition of your pet and whether or not what you are feeding is really in the animals best interest. Your parents were not joking when they scolded you for trying to feed table scraps to the dog to get done with supper quicker. Your pets really do not need the human food we “treat” them with, nor is it good for them usually. It never hurts to brush up on your knowledge of items that are toxic to your dogs. Check out the Animal Poison Control’s list of items they say to avoid at:

This is my foster dog “Jetta,” she is a labrodor retriever  we estimate to be around 4 years old. She was abandon at an old farm outside of town, in which someone brought her to the clinic. She was a very scared and nervous dog when she first came to my house in August. Since then, we have gotten her caught up on her vaccinations, started her on heartworm/flea/tick preventatives, and introduced her to adult dog food which she loves. She has gained weight and is in much better condition now. This coming week she will be getting spayed before meeting her new owners next week at her new forever home.



fb_img_1476714947461Hello! My name is Isabella Frisk, or crazy dog lady to some. I have been passionate about animals since I was just a kid, and have never outgrew that love. I have been employed at two veterinary clinics and have had approximately five years of in-the-clinic experience. I am currently in my senior year of my Bachelors of Science degree at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. I am an aspiring veterinarian who would like to practice both small and large animal medicine in my future.



3 thoughts on “Are your furbabies getting their annual exam?

  1. jennschwerer

    I wish more people had your viewpoint on annual examinations! My fur baby is the only child I’ll be having for awhile, and I couldn’t agree more with you!


  2. turnbull95

    Taking care of your pets health is extremely important. I have a dog that had lump on his side that turned out to be cancerous and without early detection he may not be here today. More people should take their pets in for examinations and watch over their pets health themselves.


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