As a health-conscious humans, we know that we need to go visit our doctor yearly for a check-up. We know that they will take a careful look at everything from ears to heart to weight and address all of our health concerns. We know that everything will be addressed, and if anything is found during our physical exam, we will get a prescription or treatment recommendation or maybe even a referral to a specialist. During the course of that same year, we may stop at a flu clinic at our local pharmacy and get a flu shot. Does this visit to the flu clinic replace our annual check-up? Of course not!

So why would a pet owner consider a trip to the local vaccine clinic as a replacement for a comprehensive exam with their veterinarian? The answer is that there is no comparison. So why have vaccine clinics for pets? The reasoning is really quite similar between pets and people. Just like in people, pets can get some pretty nasty infections that can threaten their health. If we never vaccinated our pets against Rabies, then we would have to fear every little brush they had with a house mouse, skunk, or bat that got into the attic. We would have to be afraid that every pet could potentially be carrying Rabies and could spread it to the family. Thankfully we have good Rabies vaccines that are widely available to pets, even those owned on a low budget. Just like flu epidemics are dangerous to people, causing numerous deaths every year. Rabies epidemics are dangerous to pets and their human families.

Some vaccine clinics just offer a Rabies vaccine. Others offer further preventative care, such as other vaccines or dewormers, but this is not always tailored to the individual needs of the pet. Generally, a veterinarian will give a very brief assessment of the animal to ensure that the animal is healthy enough to get a shot – just like the nurse at the human flu clinic will ask a few general health questions. But most health problems will not be detected or addressed.

A comprehensive exam at a full-service veterinary clinic is a completely different in-depth assessment of your pet’s health. The veterinarian will not only ask health questions but also assess body weight and fitness. Then the examination takes place. The ears, eyes, teeth, heart, lungs, lymph nodes, glands, digestive system, skin, urinary system, musculoskeletal system, and nervous system all get a thorough exam. If there are any problems detected, then they can be addressed during the appointment. Any tests that are needed can often take place during the appointment. For many health problems, the diagnosis can be made during the appointment, and sometimes, the pet is able to be sent home with the treatment. Annual vaccines can be given at this appointment, too, which can be a huge convenience for many pet owners.

The combination of having regular comprehensive health assessments of your pet and giving appropriate preventative vaccines is the key to a long healthy life for our furry family members.