Story: Annual pet checkups are as essential as food and love

Recently, I received a notice from the Harlingen Veterinary Clinic that it’s time for Athena and Dawn to have their checkups.

Is it that time again? Already? Getting even one pet to the vet can be a logistical challenge. But when you have seven? That requires planning.

Luckily, I adopted my pets at different times of year, so they tend to be on different schedules. Usually I bring them two or three at a time.

If I can find them. Somehow, they always seem to know when there’s a trip to the vet on the horizon.

Haiku by Cat: floating whispers heard / silently I disappear / missed vet appointment


Despite Dawn’s sentiments above, I make sure we keep these appointments. Sometimes I’m a bit overdue, as schedules can get jam-packed. But checkups are important.

No matter how attentive I am, I can miss things

Here’s why: no matter how dedicated a pet parent I think I am, I miss stuff. For example, Jasper was putting on the pounds, getting a little rounder than he should be. I didn’t see it; small, incremental changes like weight gain are hard to see in your pets when you live with them every day.  According to Dr. Katy Nelson, veterinarian, spokesperson for Partners for Healthy Pets and host of The Pet Show, “The number one thing we find at checkups is fluctuations in weight.”

Why does weight matter? “Obesity is not cute,” says Dr. Katy. “There is no such thing as a big boned dog. When pets gain weight, they become unhealthy.”

When my vet told me Jasper was overweight, I was embarrassed. My dog? How could it be? She wasn’t accusing me of anything, just letting me know that he needed to trim some fat. We decided to cut his food back just a little, and ramp up the exercise. I was very pleased when a few months later, we walked into the exam room for a rabies vaccination, the first thing my vet said was, “Wow! Jasper’s looking much better. Great job!”

Downward facing dog

A thinner Jasper, practicing his yoga.

I probably added years to Jasper’s life–quality years. Overweight dogs (and humans and other creatures) are prone to a host of preventable diseases.

It’s important to have a relationship with your vet

That comment from my vet highlights another reason for checkups; it helps establish relationships between you, your pets, and the professional who takes care of them. My vet knows me–and most of my pets–by name. Not just by information on the chart. Some of that might be because a few of my animals had some serious issues in the past–Jasper and his congenitally deformed anal sacs, and Elsa Clair who was terribly sick as a tiny kitten–but it’s also because we visit frequently enough for her to know us, and for us to know the her.

Vets and pet parents work together

Another time, I had Tucker in for his checkup, and our vet discovered two cracked teeth. I had no clue. Doesn’t matter if I brush his teeth; I never saw the cracks because they were hard to see for the untrained eye. Two cracked teeth! How could he not have shown signs? Never a complaint when he ate or chewed on the antlers and bones I bought for him.

I felt so bad for him. But I was happy the vet caught it. He could have gone on for a long time, and the problem could have gotten much worse.

We made an appointment to fix his teeth, and had a discussion on what else Tucker might chew instead of the hard antlers, so he wouldn’t continue to damage his pearly whites. (And I thought I was being conscientious and all-natural by providing antlers? Who knew they were so hard that my dog would break his teeth on them? Sigh.)

That’s another reason why checkups are important. A vet is trained to detect issues that the average–or even above average–pet parent isn’t. A vet puts her trained hands on my pet and discovers what I might not see on my own. “Let us do what we’re good at,” says Dr. Katy. “We’re trained to catch things before they become painful–and expensive.”

Pet parents and vets are partners, advocates for their voiceless family members. We know our pets; they know what to look for. That combination is the best chance for our animals to live healthy, happy lives. Annual pet checkups are as essential as food and love.

For more information on the benefits of a healthy checkup, visit Healthy Pet Checkup, a website sponsored by Partners for Healthy Pets, an alliance of more than 100 veterinary associations, colleges of veterinary medicine and animal health companies committed to improving overall health for pets.

A happy coincidence

In case you’re wondering, I was not paid for this post. I believe in checkups, as my experience shows. That said, it’s possible that I was initially attracted to this organization because their dog model is a near twin to my Tucker. What do you think?

My dog looks just like the dog from Healthy Pet Check up

Don’t you think they could be related?


Do you take your pets to the vet regularly? What kinds of things have you found out from a checkup?

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10 Comments on "Story: Annual pet checkups are as essential as food and love"

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  1. easy rider says:

    That’s my fear too, that Easy could hurt his teeth when I buy him antlers. I’m glad you have such a good vet!

  2. Ann Staub says:

    I need to take Shiner in soon. Great message and information! And wow… you aren’t kidding about their model… they could be related!

  3. Mum takes us to the vet once a year (if there’s nothing special). We don’t like it, but we know it’s for our good, and Mum trusts Mr. Vet. And if we behave well, we got treats when we’re back to home ! Purrs

  4. Joyce says:

    The vet told us that our dog needed to lose weight, too, but she is thinner than most of the golden retrievers they see. Somehow these dogs tend to gain weight with age.

  5. The dogs go annually and the senior cats go less often (as needed as we are in a maintenance part of life). So far, the big things have been found between appointments (such as our angel Loki’s autoimmune disorder), however some minor dental problems have been found at annual check ups. We are so lucky to be personal friends with our vet that a trip is a visit for me!

  6. followingroy says:

    Hey guys, we have nominated you for the Shine On Award. You can read all about it here:
    Roy & Shefali

  7. We think this is especially important for cats, a species notoriously good at hiding illness and injury!

  8. Novroz says:

    I wish I can do regular check ups like you but I haven’t yet found a herp vet. It’s useless to go to a common vet because sometimes they don’t know much about herptile.

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