What's the Difference between Annual Exams and Wellness Exams?

Annual or wellness exams - is there a difference?

When Keep the Tail Wagging rose this question, I was surprised. There is a difference? I always thought it was just a different way of referring to the same thing.However, the article even includes Dr. Karen Becker's video explaining the difference between the two.

My dog health advocacy consists of two stages.

Stage one, at the dawn of my dog health care advocacy, was a time when I thought that bringing my dog to a vet was all I even had to do. I confess I don't even remember what was or wasn't done during the annual visits at that time.

Then Jasmine's health problems started piling up. We switched vets a few times until we found Jasmine's vet. It was the time when I started taking matters into my own hands; the beginning of stage two.

Today, when I take my dog to a vet, I know exactly what I expect to happen.

If hubby was taking Jasmine, I always made a list. Jasmine's vet got so used to it, that when hubby showed up, he'd just ask, "So what are we doing today?" And hubby would pull out the list.

I even make a list when I'm going to be present myself, whether we're going in with a specific health concern or for a wellness exam.

I realized that even since we started working with Jasmine's vet, we never took our dogs for an annual exam.

We call it an annual or semiannual exam, but as it turns out, we were going for wellness exams. That's because the scope of what we did was way beyond the definition of what constitutes annual exam.

Tomato, tomahto, what difference does it make?

It doesn't. Well, it doesn't matter what you call things. When I call to make an appointment, I usually still ask for an annual exam or even annual check-up. At the same time, though, I explain what exactly I expect to happen.

Some things are automatic, such as a weigh in, physical examination.Though it seems that annual exam only includes the examination of eyes, ears, and teeth ... huh? What about the rest of the body? I don't know about you, but my dog comes with more parts than that.

Yet, apparently, according to their definitions, only the wellness exam includes examining the rest of the body. Looking at what the annual exam covers, is it completely inadequate.

Regardless of what my vet or I might call it, this is what I expect from such visit:

  • weigh in
  • fecal
  • urinalysis
  • discussion of any health concerns and review of medical history
  • discussion of preventive medicine
  • review of diet and supplements
  • physical examination of all body parts
  • blood work

Because we now work with an integrative vet, I also always ask for both conventional as well as TCVM exam.

Things that our annual/semiannual visit may or may not include:

  • deworming (I don't believe in treating problems that don't exist; I only deworm if my dog actually has worms, which only happened twice throughout all those years)
  • vaccinations

We vaccinate very conservatively.

I do believe in vaccinating, but I believe in vaccinating conservatively. Which means that other than legislated rabies vaccine everything else is open to discussion.

After their initial distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus (DAP) shots, we choose to titer rather than blindly booster. And even if we did booster, it wouldn't happen more often than every three years.

Some vaccines do need to be boostered annually, such as lepto. We are still on the fence about that one though might decide to do it this spring.

I provide detailed instructions on what I want to happen with the drawn blood.

Only a couple of times we did a "pre-op" panel, which includes only a few basic values. We were looking for specific things, and there was no need to go for the whole shebang.

Normally, every time we draw blood we have full comprehensive blood panel (blood count and chemistry), and then we check for other things depending on the situation or the time of year.

Besides a full comprehensive blood panel we might include specialized tests:

  • heartworm test
  • tick-borne disease test
  • thyroid test
  • other specialized tests as needed

I do let the vet's office know what I want to have done beforehand so they can figure out how much blood they need to take and what they might need to have prepared for some of the specialized tests.

If you know what you want, and let your veterinarian know what you want, it doesn't matter what you call it.