When your puppy or kitten gets to about 6 months old or so, you’ll probably find that your vet invites you in for an “adolescent health check”. So why is this? And what does it involve?

Why do vets push adolescent health checks?

The simple reason is, your little puppy or kitten is now growing up! They are approaching – or may even have started – puberty, and their health concerns are rapidly becoming those of an adult. This means it’s time for The Talk (see below!); but also to review their health, their diet, their behaviour (likely to be getting more challenging around now as they enter their “teenage” phase!), and their preventative healthcare needs going forwards.

It’s also a great opportunity for your pet to come in and be made a fuss of without anything nasty happening!

So, who does these health checks?

In some practices it may be the vet; in others, a veterinary nurse. Some practices also split it up, with a vet consult and a nurse consult, back to back. But it will definitely be with a veterinary professional who knows what to ask, and can advise you about your pet’s health.

So what will happen?

Adolescent health checks generally consists of 5 phases. Although the exact order may vary, and many vets and nurses won’t follow a “tickbox” list but will conduct a more holistic consultation.

First, lots of questions!

Your veterinary professional is likely to ask lots of general questions regarding your pet’s current health, status, diet, behaviour, and preventative health (flea and worm treatment and vaccines mainly). Be sure you have as much information about your pet as possible present to give to the vet. If they haven’t seen your pet before, this may be the first opportunity to gather key information that they’ll need in the future. For example, if you’ve been given any information from the breeder or rescue centre, be sure to bring it along with you to the consult. 

Keeping track of the type and timing of flea and worming product that you have been using, if any, is important to make sure that it’s the most appropriate product and dose for their needs – and will also help monitoring drug resistance.

Next, hands on

The vet or nurse will almost always weigh your pet. This is vital for ensuring you get a parasite product that works for your pet. Your adolescent pet is still growing, so monitoring their weight is important for ensuring their growth is at a steady and appropriate rate for their breed, sex and size.

A clinical examination will be performed in which your vet will check your pet’s ears, eyes, teeth, mucous membranes, lymph nodes, abdomen and genitalia. Your vet will auscultate (listen to) the heart and lungs of your pet; this allows for any abnormal noises or rhythms to be detected. If the veterinary professionals have any concerns, they may increase the depth of their clinical exam to find out more information about certain areas of your pet’s body. They may ask further questions to guide their judgement in their clinical findings. In addition to a standard clinical exam, your vet will be looking for any congenital abnormalities. You will be made aware of all findings and things to look out for as your pet gets older. Your vet will be able to confirm the gender of your pet if you are unsure; sometimes it can be hard to tell!

The Talk

Unlike The Talk with human teenagers, this is more along the lines of “do you want to breed from your pet?” and will lead up (hopefully sensitively) to the question of neutering. Now, there are pros and cons of neutering. And nowadays most veterinary professionals will be keen for you to make an individual decision. The days of “all pets must always be neutered” are, fortunately, passing. Most vets do consider that most pets are better off neutered. And the data does seem generally to support that. But at the end, it depends on the benefits and risks to your individual pet, not dogs in general.

This is also the perfect time to ask any questions you have 

That might be regarding training, husbandry or pet health. A consultation with your veterinary surgeon will be personalised and tailored to your pet’s breed, age and needs, whilst also taking into consideration your experience as owners and concerns you may have.

Ensure you chat to your vet about any health plan offers they may have. This could save a lot of money in the long run and allow you to receive reminders guiding you to provide the best quality of care to your pet. Younger animals often need frequent vet visits to become neutered and, possibly, microchipped, so check out any package deals which may incorporate these. Most practices will include flea and worming products within these bundles too! Veterinary professionals are not allowed to advertise specific insurance companies, but please do your own research and insure your pet from a young age – you never know when your pet may become ill.

Finally, a plan for moving forward should be discussed

This will include a vaccination timetable, a neutering plan (if you’ve decided to go for neutering) and a parasite prevention regime. These are all key in ensuring your pet has the best start to their adult life. When you leave, you should feel that you are aware of when your pet next needs to be seen by a veterinary professional, at what age neutering is recommended and which anti-parasitic treatment product is needed, plus how often.

Consultations at a veterinary practice last 10 – 20 minutes, depending on the veterinary practice. Ensure you use your time wisely asking any specific questions that may benefit your pet. 

Further reading: