What Happens at an Adult Cat's Annual Veterinary Exam

A Yearly "Well-check" Is Highly Recommended

Photo of Veterinarian Examining Cat
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Cats are not low-maintenance pets. They require the same loving care as dogs, pet birds, and exotic pets. All adult cats should be seen by their veterinarian at least once a year for a routine "well-check" examination. An annual vet check draws a baseline of the cat's normal physical condition. This allows the vet to easily spot differences in the cat's condition should illness or emergencies arise.

Despite this recommendation, a study conducted in 2010 indicated that one-third of owned cats had not been seen by a veterinarian in the past year. There are three main reasons for this: economic reasons, cats' resistance, and the internet. Many cat owners are financially strapped and simply can't afford routine veterinary care. Additionally, some cats are either too fearful, stressed, or aggressive when it's "cage time," so owners delay visits. Finally, many decide to go online instead of seeing their vet. In fact, in one +survey, "39 percent looked online before consulting a vet to see if their pet was sick or injured."

What Happens at an Annual Well-check

First, a vet tech or assistant will typically weigh your cat. Some veterinary clinics even have a scale built into the examination table. Next, the vet tech will take your cat's temperature with a rectal thermometer. You may be asked to assist with this by holding the cat's front end steady.

Then, the veterinarian will come in and manually examine your cat's key body parts: the eyes and nose, mouth and teeth, ears, heart and lungs, fur, paws and feet, and butt. Your cat's eyes will be checked for clearness and signs of inflammation or tearing, while the nostrils will be looked at for signs of congestion. Then, your vet will examine your cat's mouth and teeth for gum inflammation, signs of excess tartar, and/or any tooth abnormalities or breakage. Next, your vet will look at your cat's ears for signs of inflammation, redness, or drainage around the ear canal, along with mites.

Listening to your cat's heart and lungs will allow your vet to find any heart murmurs or abnormal sounds, such as respiratory congestion. Then, your vet will comb the cat's fur with a flea comb, looking for signs of "flea dirt." Examining the paws and feet also allows your vet to look for broken and/or damaged claws, cuts, or injury to the pad leather. Then, the anus will be checked for visual evidence of worms, and the anal gland will be looked at for potential signs of infection or impaction.

Lastly, your veterinarian will carefully palpate fingers into your cat's internal organs to feel for signs of abnormalities, such as swelling, lumps, or bumps. This is one of the most important parts of the wellness check, as your vet's fingers have the magical ability to remember how a particular cat feels normally. This makes it easy to pinpoint potential problems at future visits.

Laboratory Tests

If this is your cat's first vet visit as an adult, your veterinarian will likely run a series of lab tests. These tests will establish a "baseline" of your cat's normal health, and will make it easier to spot changes during the cat's next vet appointment. #These tests commonly include the following:

  • CBC (Complete Blood Count). This tests measures and evaluates the type of cells circulating in the blood, including red cells, white cells, and platelets. In some cases, the CBC might also isolate other microorganisms and parasites. The CBC is useful for detecting anemia, leukemia, infections, and other conditions.
  • Blood Chemistry Panel. The blood chemistry panel measures your cat’s electrolytes, enzymes, and chemical elements of blood such as calcium and phosphorous levels.
  • Urinalysis (UA). Your veterinarian may suggest this test, or you may request it, if you have cause to suspect a UTI. A urinalysis will help your veterinarian detect the presence of specific substances that normally do not appear in urine, including protein, sugar, white blood cells or blood. It may also help in the diagnosis of certain diseases.
  • Fecal Smear. A slide of fecal material will be examined for evidence of worms.

Core Vaccines Injection

Prior to the VASTF recommendations, it was common practice to give all vaccinations in the scruff of the neck. However, because of fears of Vaccine-Associated-Sarcoma (VAS), the protocols have changed. Now, the recommendations for Core Vaccines are:

  • Panleukopenia, feline herpesvirus I, and feline calicivirus on the right fore region (shoulder)
  • Rabies on the right rear leg, as far from the hip joint as possible

At the conclusion of your appointment, your veterinarian will discuss findings from the physical examination, and give you medications such as worming medicine, when indicated. You will also receive the results of the lab tests, usually by phone a few days later, along with any necessary follow-up appointments.

The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study

#AAHA (American Animal Hospitals Association