An annual vet exam, also known as a wellness exam, is important for a dog’s overall health. The exam allows your vet to thoroughly examine your dog, perform health screenings (e.g., heartworm test, fecal exam), and administer important preventative health treatments, like vaccines and medicines that kill intestinal parasites. The exam also gives you a chance to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your dog’s health. Properly preparing for your dog’s annual vet exam will ensure that you and your dog get the most out of the exam.
Part One of Four:
Scheduling the ExamEdit
1Select a date and time for the exam. Depending on your dog’s age and health, the annual vet exam could take a long time. For example, if your dog has a chronic disease (e.g., diabetes) or multiple health problems, it may take longer for your vet to examine your dog and perform testing. Or, if your vet suspects a new health problem during the exam, your dog may need additional testing during the appointment.
- When you schedule the appointment, choose a date and time when you will not have any time constraints.
2Ask the receptionist what you should bring to the exam. When you call the vet’s office, ask if you will need to bring medical documents or samples (fecal, urine) with you to the appointment. If you know ahead of time what you will need to bring, you will be better prepared for the exam.
3Confirm whether you should fast your dog before the exam. Blood work is part of a dog’s annual vet exam. Fasting helps ensure the test results are accurate and not affected by what your dog eats before the blood draw. Also, certain blood tests, like a bile acid test, require a dog be fasted for 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.
- Fasting can involve withholding only food or withholding both food and water. If you need to fast your dog, your vet’s office will give you specific instructions on how to perform the fast.
- A bile acid test is a way to detect liver problems in dogs.
4Inquire about the cost of the exam. Because annual vet exams involve the assessment of many aspects of your dog’s health, the cost of the exam could be high. When you schedule the exam, ask the receptionist for an estimate of the exam’s cost. The actual cost may be different, but knowing an approximate cost beforehand will prevent sticker shock when the exam is over. Approximate costs for an annual vet exam are listed below:
- Office visit (cost of appointment and physical exam): $45‒$55
- Vaccinations: about $20 each
- Heartworm test: $45‒$50
- Fecal exam: $25‒$45
- Geriatric screening (for dogs seven years or older): $85‒$110
Part Two of Four:
Collecting a Fecal SampleEdit
1Collect a fresh fecal sample. For your dog’s annual vet exam, your vet will test your dog’s feces for intestinal parasites. Prior to the exam, you will probably need to collect a fecal sample. This sample should be fresh—less than twelve hours old. A fresh sample will provide the most accurate results, since the eggs and larvae from some intestinal parasites can become unrecognizable in old fecal samples.
2Pick up the sample. Although picking up dog poop is never fun, collecting a sample will help you prepare for your dog’s annual exam. Pick up a sample with a doggie bag or a pooper scooper. If you use a doggie bag, turn it inside out so your hand is on the outside of the bag. Pick up a sample, use your free hand to turn the bag right side out, and tie a knot at the top of the bag. Doing it this way will keep your hands from getting dirty.
- If you use a pooper scooper, pick up the sample with the scooper and empty the sample into a plastic bag. Tie a knot once the sample is in the bag.
- It’s okay if you pick up grass, leaves, or other material on the ground when you collect a fecal sample.
- You do not need to collect a large sample. One or two pieces of feces should be enough.
3Package the fecal sample. If you collect the fecal sample more than twelve hours before your dog’s annual exam, you can keep it fresh by putting it in your refrigerator. First, transfer the sample to a sealable plastic bag. Then, place the sealable bag into another bag to prevent your refrigerator from getting dirty.
- If you don’t want to transfer the sample to the sealable plastic bag, simply place the doggie bag inside the sealable bag. This way, the sample will still be double bagged, without the mess (and stink) of transferring the sample from one bag to the other.
- Place the fecal sample as far away from the foods and beverages as possible. After you take the sample out, clean that area of the refrigerator.
- If the thought of putting dog poop in your fridge doesn’t sit well with you, collect the fecal sample within 12 hours of the appointment and do not put it in your refrigerator.
Part Three of Four:
Collecting a Urine SampleEdit
1Collect a fresh sample. As with a fecal sample, a urine sample should be as fresh as possible. Ideally, collect the sample within a few hours of the annual exam. The urine should be in a sterile, sealable plastic container. If you decide to collect the urine yourself, try to stop by your vet’s office before the appointment to pick up a sterile container.
- If you are not comfortable collecting the sample, the staff at the vet's office can collect the sample during the appointment. To keep your dog from peeing before the appointment, do not let it go outside unattended and do not let it stop to sniff the bushes when you arrive at the vet’s office.
2Select a container in which to collect the urine. If you are not able to pick up a sterile container from your vet’s office, use a plastic container that you have at home. Make sure it is a container that you do not plan to use again. Examples of plastic containers are empty butter containers or a small food storage container.
- Wash the container with soap and water before you use it to collect the urine sample. Let it dry completely.
- To keep the urine from spilling out, select a container with a lid.
3Pick a time to collect the urine. It will be easier to collect a urine sample when your dog’s bladder is full. Usually, dogs will need to urinate after they wake up in the morning and after they eat. Dogs also urinate during walks or when they exercise. Pick a time when your dog is most likely to urinate.
- Having your dog on a leash will also make it easier to collect the urine sample.
4Place the plastic container in your dog’s urine stream. While you are out with your dog, keep a watchful eye on its movements so you know when it is about to urinate. When your dog starts to urinate, slowly and gently position the plastic container in the urine stream, near your dog’s back end. It is important to be slow and gentle so you don’t startle your dog.
- You will need to collect only about one tablespoon of urine. It’s not a problem if you end collecting up more than that.
- After collecting the urine and putting the lid on the container, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Don’t worry if your dog stops peeing before you are able to get a sample. The staff at your vet’s clinic can collect the sample during the annual exam.
5Keep the urine cool. If you are not going to your vet’s office within one hour of collecting the urine sample, keep the sample cool by placing it in your refrigerator. It can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to twelve hours. If you place the urine sample in the refrigerator, keep the container far away from foods and beverages and clean the area after you take the container out of the refrigerator.Advertisement
Part Four of Four:
Organizing Your Paperwork Before the ExamEdit
1Gather your dog’s medical files. If you are taking your dog to a new vet, bring your dog’s medical paperwork with you to the appointment. Important paperwork includes vaccination history, results of previous heartworm tests and fecal exams, and any treatment your dog has received (e.g., surgeries, treatment for chronic diseases like diabetes). Also, bring paperwork that lists medicines your dog has taken or is currently taking, such as preventative medicines (e.g., flea and tick, heartworm).
- The more information you can provide the new vet, the better they will be able to examine your dog and assess its health.
- If you are going to a vet that has seen your dog before, they will already have your dog’s medical history.
2Take note of your dog’s diet. During the annual exam, your vet will want to know about your dog’s diet. Before the exam, write down everything your dog eats, including treats and supplements. If you occasionally feed your dog table scraps, write that down as well. What your dog eats can affect its health, so your vet will need to know the details of its diet.
3Write down questions and concerns about your dog’s health. The annual vet exam is a great time to discuss questions and concerns about your dog’s health with your vet. For example, if your dog isn’t moving around as well as it used to, or is getting older and you’re wondering if you need to change its diet, bring up these topics with your vet. The more information you receive from your vet about your dog’s health and wellbeing, the better you will be able to care for your dog.Advertisement
- Although your dog’s annual vet exam may be expensive, think of it as a necessary expense to keep your dog healthy and happy.
- If you are concerned about the cost of an annual vet exam, consider purchasing pet insurance.
- If you have an elderly dog, it may need wellness exams twice a year. Your vet will let you know how often your dog will need a wellness exam.
- The tests performed during an annual vet exam will vary between dogs, based on an individual dog’s health status and health history.
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