Your dog is your best friend, who can always be counted on to be by your side as you hike your favorite trails, suffer through a nasty cold, or soak up the bright sunshine. You want to ensure that your incredible companion is happy and healthy for many years, to create a lifetime of wonderful memories, and investing in routine wellness care is the best way to keep your furry pal in tip-top shape. But, what really happens during your pup’s annual wellness exam? Listen in on a fictitious patient’s exam, and discover the importance of routine wellness visits for your pooch.

Clover’s wellness care visit

Clover is a 5-year-old Saint Bernard who is nearing her giant-breed golden years. Her devoted owner, Miss E, wants to keep her best friend as healthy as possible, and always schedules Clover’s annual wellness visit on time. 

Miss E: “Oh, Clover, it’s getting more and more difficult for me to boost you into the car for trips. Maybe Dr. Schild will have some tips on how to help get you loaded up during your wellness visit today.”

At Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital, Clover delightedly covers her favorite veterinary team with slobbery kisses, as they coerce her onto the scale with baby talk and tasty treats.

Veterinary technician Lisa: “Goodness, Clover! Your mom has been feeding you well since your last appointment. You’ve gained 21 pounds!”

Miss E: “Clover is a big girl, but I thought that was extra fluff, not fat. Those additional pounds are probably why it’s such a struggle to get her into the car. I’ll definitely have to talk to Dr. Schild about her diet.”

Dr. Schild: “Good afternoon, ladies! How’s my favorite four-legged Clover doing?”

Miss E: “Hi, Dr. Schild! Clover is doing well, but when Lisa weighed Clover, she told me my girl had packed on 21 pounds since last year. I’ve noticed she’s a bit more reluctant to go on long walks, and she’s certainly more difficult to get into the car.”

Dr. Schild: “Well, we’ll take a look at Clover, and see if we can detect any orthopedic disease that may be slowing her down. As a Saint Bernard, she’s prone to developing a variety of bone and joint conditions, especially as she ages. Plus, that extra weight is not doing her joints any favors. Fortunately, you’re still feeding Clover large-breed adult dog food with added glucosamine for joint health, which will help her keep moving.”

Miss E: “I also give Clover her daily joint-health supplement that you recommended last year. You mentioned she was reaching middle age as a giant breed, and we needed to preserve her joint cartilage, and keep her active and mobile.”

Dr. Schild: “That’s great! We can help keep giant-breed dogs comfortable as they age with a proper diet and supplements, but they may need additional support, since they have so much pressure on their joints—especially if they’re overweight like Clover.” 

Dr. Schild performs her physical exam on Clover, starting with her vital signs, and ending with an orthopedic exam. 

Dr. Schild: “Well, Miss E, Clover has developed a few issues since last year. She’s nearing senior-dog status as a giant breed, so I recommend biannual wellness visits to watch her more closely. During today’s exam, her heart and lungs sound healthy, so there does not appear to be any relation between cardiac disease and her decreased activity. However, I noticed that she does not have a full range of motion in her left hind leg—did you see that she couldn’t fully extend it like her right leg? I recommend taking X-rays to check for hip dysplasia, arthritis, or any other bony abnormality that may be causing that discomfort. Her increased weight also appears to be causing entropion, which is where the eyelids roll in and rub on the corneas. We typically see entropion in younger dogs, but Clover’s weight gain is pushing her eyelids into unnatural positions. If she can lose the extra weight, I believe this issue will resolve itself.”

Miss E: “Oh goodness! I had noticed Clover had watery eyes, but I thought she had seasonal allergies like me. We’ll need some help with a diet and exercise plan to shed those extra pounds.”

Dr. Schild: “I’ll work on Clover’s new diet and exercise plan while my technicians take her X-rays. I’m also going to add a thyroid panel to Clover’s routine annual blood work, to check her thyroid level. Older dogs commonly develop hypothyroidism, and their poorly functioning thyroid gland results in weight gain and joint issues. We’ll also ensure she doesn’t have kidney or liver disease, in case she needs an anti-inflammatory medication to help ease her aching joints.”

While Miss E waits for Clover’s blood work results and X-rays, she stocks up on heartworm, flea, and tick preventives. They routinely hike through Tynehead Park, making parasite prevention a must for this thick-coated pup.

Dr. Schild: “Based on Clover’s results, she appears to be developing early arthritis in her hip and knee, but her blood work is in normal reference ranges. While you’ve been doing a great job with her diet and joint supplements, she needs to lose those extra pounds, to help her joints more. Fortunately, we won’t also be battling hypothyroidism, and we caught this orthopedic issue early. If Clover didn’t visit us regularly every year, you may have not noticed a problem until she couldn’t walk well, and much of her joint cartilage was destroyed. Let’s discuss her new diet and exercise plan, booster her vaccinations to protect her from wildlife while hiking, and then schedule a follow-up wellness visit in six months.”

Although wellness care may not seem important if your pet shows no signs of illness or pain, you can now see that routine preventive care is vital for keeping your dog happy and healthy for as many years as possible. Ensure your best friend enjoys a lifetime of love and devotion at your side with regular wellness care—call us, and schedule your dog’s appointment.