Why Does My Pet Need Routine Exams in Oklahoma City, OK?

Routine annual or biannual wellness exams are the best way for your veterinarian to keep close tabs on your pet’s health. To some owners it might seem like a waste of time and money- dragging your pet to the vet EVERY year, year after year for their whole life, just so the doctor can do an exam and say, “everything looks normal.” So why are routine wellness exams for pets in Oklahoma City, OK important?

Dogs Age Faster than Humans

All dogs age significantly faster than humans do. While the idea of “7 dog years to 1 human year” has been largely debunked as inaccurate, it’s true that the average dog can be considered geriatric before age 10. For humans, geriatric is generally after 70 years of age. Because they age faster, age related changes happen at an escalated rate.

Significant changes like organ failure and cancer are not uncommon in dogs 10 years or older, and the first signs of those are often not obvious. An annual exam, especially through adulthood and senior years, can be the difference between successful management of geriatric disease (which can extend longevity and quality of life by years), and an imminent need for euthanasia (because no intervention was done to delay advanced stage disease).

Pet Wellness Exam in Oklahoma City, OK

Wellness Exams Detect Subtle Changes

Owners are often not aware of subtle changes present in their pet’s physical appearance, bodily functions, or even behavior. Because they see the same animal every day, day after day, and their pets aren’t telling them that something is wrong, changes like an increase in thirst and urinations aren’t often detected until the change appears extreme (dogs are chugging down water so fast they vomit, or they’re producing so much urine that they start having accidents in the house).

Even changes in body condition are subtle and not often recognized, or they’re disregarded as “normal aging” by owners. While slight changes in muscle composition can be normal with age, muscle wasting (significant loss of muscle mass) is not. Additionally, dogs that are already overweight or obese might not seem to change weight, but the muscle under the fat could be disappearing.

With annual wellness exams for your pets, your veterinarian will be able to detect things like dehydration, dental disease, muscle wasting, weight loss, changes in heart rate and rhythm or breathing, and changes in abdominal palpation (feeling the abdominal organs) that can all paint a picture of your dog’s health. In older dogs, your vet might even recommend annual lab work to find early declines in organ function.

Vaccinations Are Essential in Oklahoma City, OK

Rabies and many distemper vaccines can be given as far apart as 3 years provided the owner/dog stays on schedule at all times, however, in endemic areas like the one where we live, yearly vaccination is recommended. An exam every 3 years for a dog is like getting an exam every 20 years as a human being- you can miss a lot in that period of time.

There are other vaccines that must be administered on an annual basis to provide adequate protection and may be recommended depending on your pet’s lifestyle or your geographic region. To administer any treatment, vaccine, or medication, your pet must be up to date on their exam- it is illegal for veterinarians to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for a patient they haven’t seen within the past year. To keep your pet up to date on their annual vaccines, a routine annual appointment is imperative.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has been detected in nearly every US state, and could be considered prevalent in nearly 50% of them. It is extremely problematic in humans and for them, detection isn’t easy, a vaccine isn’t available, monthly topical or oral tick prevention doesn’t exist, the disease itself is dangerous and debilitating, and treatment can be complicated. It’s a different story for dogs. Veterinarians have, for the last decade or more, had access to an easy in-house test that can detect Lyme disease with as little as 3 drops of blood. There is also a plethora of topical or oral tick prevention products. And most importantly- we have a vaccine against it. Dogs should be tested for Lyme before starting the Lyme vaccine, and the Lyme vaccine must be given every 12 months to be effective.


Leptospirosis is less prevalent than Lyme, but it is no less dangerous. It’s a spirochete (a type of bacteria) that is found most often in the urine of wildlife- from field mice to whitetail deer. Dogs can be exposed by walking through contaminated grass or drinking from a contaminated puddle of water. The Leptospirosis vaccine must be given every 12 months to provide adequate protection, and vaccinating is especially important because infected dogs can easily pass this disease to any humans they encounter. Leptospirosis can cause liver and kidney failure, and extended hospitalization is required to have a good outcome. Even if a patient (animal or human) recovers from the disease, it’s possible they’ll have life-long liver and kidney issues.


Bordetella (kennel cough) and Influenza are both common respiratory viruses that affect dogs. Both respiratory viruses are potentially dangerous and are recommended for dogs who are at risk. To maintain protection, they must be given every 12 months.

Parasite Detection

Internal parasites are largely undetectable by humans, except with some worms, if the parasite load is heavy and animals start passing them in stool. But some parasites will never be detectable at home, and annual testing is important so your pet’s health can be maintained.

Erlichia, Anaplasma, and Lyme are all tick-borne diseases that are only detectable with a blood test. Heartworm is also only detectable with a blood test. It’s important to screen for these annually, and there is no at-home test available.

Fecal testing is also important, since most canine intestinal parasites can also be passed to their humans! Especially if there are children, geriatrics, or immune-compromised people living with them. There is no accurate at-home test that can be done, and not all dewormers cover all intestinal parasites, so even if you find a dewormer at a pet store or farm supply store, there’s not guarantee it’s actually taking care of all the critters that might be crawling around in your dog’s gut. A fecal sample should be tested by your vet every year to make sure they’re not caring around unsightly parasites!

Preventing or Treating Parasites

Quality flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention products, are only available through your veterinarian or with a prescription. Most products that you would find over the counter are poor quality and are proven less effective than what your veterinarian can provide. This means if you buy something at a grocery store, you could be wasting your money on something that won’t work. While some name-brand over-the-counter flea and tick products might work (if purchased from a licensed retailer like a big-box pet store), there are no heartworm prevention products available over the counter, and if you somehow find yourself able to purchase one, you can be certain it is counterfeit and won’t work.

Prescription Medications and Prescription Diets

To keep your pet healthy, a prescription medication or prescription diet may be needed. Anything preceded by the word “prescription” means your veterinarian has to authorize it’s dispensing. Legally, for your veterinarian to prescribe any medication, they must have a valid client/patient- doctor relationship. This means they must have examined your pet within the last 12 months. This isn’t something that veterinarians made up to get more money, it is pharmacy law that was put in place to prevent prescription abuse and ensure your pet is receiving adequate care prior to prescribing.

Is Your Pet Due for a Wellness Exam in Oklahoma City, OK?

There is a plethora of reasons routine wellness exams for pets are required and highly recommended. It’s in your pet’s best interest to have regular exams to monitor their health status and receive any vaccinations or medications that may be recommended to maintain their health. If it’s been a while since your pet was examined, call (405) 7735557  to talk with your veterinarian in Oklahoma City, OK at Hefner Road Animal Hospital or make an appointment online today!

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About Hefner Road Animal Hospital

The bond shared between people and their companion animals is a bond that endures. At Hefner Road Animal Hospital, we have seen this firsthand since our veterinarians began serving the Oklahoma City community in 1998. It is our privilege and our pleasure to be able to contribute to that bond by delivering excellent veterinary medical care and compassionate service to area families. Many of our staff members have been with us since the very beginning and are dedicated to making our animal hospital a place of healing, comfort, and respect for animal welfare.