Most people do not think twice about scheduling routine medical checkups for themselves or family members. Responsible pet owners need to do the same for their pets and companion animals.

Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University, said animals need routine medical care throughout their lives.

“Your veterinarian is a great source of information before you even bring a new pet home,” Giedt said. “He or she can give you vital information on things such as pet behavior, diet and spaying or neutering. Routine exams, including the pet’s mouth (teeth or dental exams), can detect problems and address disease early.”

Just as our children benefit from immunizations, pets benefit from receiving a series of vaccinations to build their immunity to diseases such as parvo virus and distemper virus for dogs, and panleukopenia and respiratory viruses in cats.

Giedt said when pets are properly vaccinated, not only are they protected, but humans benefit as well.

“Vaccinating our pets against rabies not only protects the pet from the deadly disease, but also protects us and our community by helping to limit the spread of rabies,” she said. “In addition, the strategic prevention of fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites keeps pets, and us, clean from the multitude of diseases these pests can cause.”

Regular checkups are not just for vaccinating your pet. As animals age they can develop geriatric problems, including issues with their kidneys, liver and hormone systems.

Early indicators of problems can be seen in routine blood work long before your pet begins exhibiting signs of illness.

“During an annual wellness visit your veterinarian can help tailor your pet’s care to fit its life stage,” Giedt said. “If you’re getting your pet as a new puppy or kitten, or acquiring an older animal, it’s important to take your new furry family member in for a complete checkup with your veterinarian. Getting started on a healthy note will help ensure you and your four-legged friend will have a long and healthy life together.”