The Importance of a Yearly Veterinary Exam

Pet Care & Safety
woman with cat at veterinarian office

Yearly check-ups for your pet are very important, even if your pet seems healthy. Pets cannot talk, and they will not necessarily tell you when they are experiencing an issue. Your veterinarian is trained to look for clues of illness by asking you specific questions and performing a thorough physical examination. It is extremely common for vets to discover an underlying health issue that a pet owner was not aware of during the yearly check-up.

Did you know? Wellness Rewards from Embrace Pet Insurance reimburses for your pet's yearly exam (and so much more).


Your veterinarian knows the right questions to ask you to determine if something unusual is going on with your pet. This is called taking a history. Some of your pet’s symptoms of illness may be happening so gradually that you don’t notice a problem. Sometimes pets have symptoms that you may not even realize are occurring. Examples of common history questions are:

  • How is your pet’s appetite?

  • Is your pet drinking more water than usual?

  • Is your pet moving around more slowly, or becoming slower at rising or laying down?

  • Is your pet using the bathroom normally?

  • Is your pet itchy?

These types of questions highlight potential issues about your pet. For example, drinking more water can be caused by numerous issues which may not be obvious with just an exam such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease, or diabetes. Moving more slowly can be a sign of pain such as with arthritis. Itching or scratching frequently can be a symptom of infection, fleas, or allergies.

Physical Examination

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination during the yearly check-up. Common issues your vet can check for that you may not notice include:

  • Dental disease or tooth infections

  • Ear infections

  • Cataracts

  • Heart disease

  • Arthritis

  • Tumors or cancer

  • External parasites (e.g. fleas)

  • Skin infections

Because pets don’t talk, these types of issues are not always obvious without a thorough physical exam. Seeing fleas, tumors, or skin problems in pets with long hair can be difficult to the untrained eye. In addition to good training, veterinarians also have tools like special lights for checking the eyes and ear canals, as well as a stethoscope for listening to the heart and lungs. These tools make finding ongoing problems during the check-up easier.

Catching Issues Early

The good news about finding a medical issue during the yearly check-up is that you often discover a problem early. If your pet is getting a check-up every year, this means your veterinarian knows how healthy your pet was last year and is picking up on new issues sooner than if you wait until your pet acts sick. Catching problems earlier means you can potentially help your pet feel better sooner and prevent the issue from becoming more complicated or severe. A great example of this is finding and removing a cancerous tumor before it has the chance to spread and cause more problems.

Further Testing

If your vet finds an issue during a check-up, more testing may be necessary to get to the root of the problem. A common example of this is diabetes. If your pet is drinking and eating more, but has lost weight at his or her check-up, your veterinarian may recommend lab work to test for diabetes. Catching diabetes early can help you improve your pet’s symptoms and can prevent diabetic complications from occurring. Without a check-up, you may not have known your pet had a problem until he or she became extremely ill.

Yearly check-ups are a great way to ensure your pet’s longevity and quality of life. Catching problems early can help decrease potential suffering or distress on your pet. Call your veterinarian if you are unsure if your pet’s check-up is due, or any time your pet begins to experience new or unusual symptoms.