Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Last year, in a much-discussed New York Times article titled "Let’s (Not) Get Physicals," a physician reporter named Elisabeth Rosenthal argued that annual physical examinations for human patients are pointless. She cited a Canadian government task force recommendation to abandon annual physical examinations because they are “nonspecific,” “inefficient” and “potentially harmful” (in that they may lead to unnecessary tests). The task force said examinations should be replaced with intermittent screening tests for age- and risk-specific conditions (mammograms, Pap tests, etc.). Dr. Rosenthal argued that this logic is sound in the United States as well.
Scrutiny of annual physical examinations for people does not come as a surprise. Health care costs are soaring, and research consistently shows annual physicals don’t save lives. Most treatment is started because a patient feels sick and comes to the doctor — not because of findings in a routine examination.
So, do these human-side rumblings mean that we should re-evaluate the annual or biannual examinations that veterinarians recommend for pets? Are those trips to the vet with seemingly happy, healthy pets really worth the stress and effort for all involved? I’ve asked myself those questions repeatedly. Here are the key points I always return to.
The strongest argument I have heard for continuing annual physical examinations on the human side of medicine has nothing to do with taking temperatures, running lab tests, listening to chests or asking patients to turn their heads and cough. The single most important reason for a physical examination is making time to review patients’ medical histories and to discuss health risks associated with their individual lifestyles and activities.
Likewise, these discussions in regard to pets have great benefit, I believe. Vaccination decisions, food choices, exercise routines, parasite control products and behavioral training measures should all be based on each pet’s lifestyle. The activities that your pet participates in, the environment where he or she lives and his or her specific health risks all change over time and with age. These issues need to be reviewed with a veterinarian on a regular basis to help ensure long-term wellness.
Understanding what is “normal” for a pet is of great importance when veterinarians are faced with potentially abnormal findings. When I treat patients who have not been to a veterinarian for extended periods of time, I find myself wondering things like “Is this pet losing weight? If so, how much?” and “Are these blood chemistry levels increasing?” The unfortunate truth is that if no one has investigated or recorded these values previously, I don’t have any basis for comparison. That makes finding meaningful health trends more difficult. Having routine examinations helps establish a normal baseline for each pet, making it much more obvious when something happens that is abnormal.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
A Dachshund mix is lucky to be alive after
leaping 150 feet from a Jacksonville,
Florida, bridge into the St. Johns…
From walking and swimming to playing
fetch and even dancing, you can stay in
shape with your canine workout partner.
Don't expect the Australian Shepherd to
spend all day on the couch with you. This
Herding dog usually likes to be…
In honor of Mother’s Day, we take a look
at amazing animal mamas, and others
who make you look like Mother Teresa.
Our expert sings the praises of
food-dispensing toys and drops some
helpful hints for choosing the right one.
Mother's Day is coming up, so we're
showing our appreciation for the amazing
moms who care for their fur children.
This energetic herding dog hails from
Hungary and is beloved for his generally
curious, cheerful and attentive…
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.