• Make the most of your dog’s annual medical checkup by being prepared.

    An annual visit to the vet not only helps to keep your dog healthy, it’s also the best tool for preventing and/or mitigating any serious health problems that may surface during her lifetime. Add to that her more rapid aging process – approximately seven years to your one year – and it becomes easy to understand the importance of regular medical checkups.

    Pre-visit checklist

    Your visit to the vet will go more smoothly if you’re prepared. Here’s a list of items you’ll want to consider bringing with you:

    • Your dog’s collar and license tag;
    • A leash/harness (or small cage if appropriate);
    • A muzzle if your dog barks or bites;
    • A favorite toy or a few treats (especially if your dog gets anxious during
      her visit);
    • Health care information if you’re switching vets or were seen by a different vet since your last visit
    • Stool sample to test for intestinal parasites
    • List of questions or concerns to ask the veterinarian, and;
    • Insurance card (if you have pet insurance).
    Well-visit checklist

    An annual health assessment will ensure that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and give you an opportunity to raise any behavioral or health issues that may be of concern. Don’t be shy about asking questions; seven “dog years” is a long time between appointments so you’ll want to make the most of your visit.

    Vaccinations: Keeping your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date is important to her health, and can prevent her from contracting illnesses. Diseases that can affect your pet may be airborne or can be acquired through contact with a parasite, a virus, or fecal matter brought inside on your shoes, so even indoor pets should be vaccinated. Age, health, lifestyle, environment and geography; all will affect your dog’s vaccination schedule so be sure to ask your veterinarian what is appropriate for your dog.

    Parasites: Left untreated, flea, tick and worm infestations can put your dog at
    risk for serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. Flea larvae, for example, can live in your house year-round and can transmit a tapeworm infection if your dog swallows even a single flea. Lyme disease, now widespread in some parts of
    the country, is transmitted primarily by deer ticks and can cause your dog to become sick or lame if left untreated. Your vet can offer suggestions on how to prevent and/or control parasites and show you how to check for parasites on a regular basis.

    Dental Care: A dental check should be part of your dog’s well-visit check-up. Proper nutrition, regular brushing and chew toys/treats designed to rid your dog’s teeth of tartar buildup all contribute to good oral hygiene and will help keep her mouth (and body) healthy. Your vet can show you proper brushing techniques and also determine if your dog needs a dental cleaning.

    Behavior: Age, breed, nutrition, environment and exercise all play a vital role in the development of your dog’s personality and behavior. Talk to your vet if your dog’s behavior is unusual or if she is chewing, biting, barking excessively or showing aggressive tendencies. Generally, canine misbehavior can be mitigated or stopped if addressed early.

    Nutrition/Exercise: It is estimated that nearly one out of every two dogs in the U.S. is either overweight or obese. Those extra pounds can lead to a host of medical problems and impact your dog’s quality and length of life. Well-visits are an opportunity to keep track of her weight and address problems before they affect her health. If necessary, your vet can advise you of an appropriate diet/exercise regime that will safely help her achieve a healthy weight.

    Don’t wait until your dog is sick

    Make it a point to visit the vet before your dog becomes ill. A yearly wellness exam is ideal if your dog is generally healthy, but may be needed more often if your dog is 7+ years or has special medical needs.

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    Keep a small bound notebook for notes about your dog's medical care and don’t be afraid to ask questions.