While most pet owners bring their dog to their veterinarian for an annual checkup, some cat owners don’t visit veterinary offices as often, even though cats benefit from yearly checkups, too.

Since many cats live indoors, people mistakenly believe that cats aren’t exposed to as many dangers and diseases as they actually are. Regular checkups are also important for things like maintaining a healthy weight and keeping teeth and gums healthy.

Annual visits can help your veterinarian monitor your cat’s health and take preventive measures to keep your cat healthy, including:

Vaccines: Kittens need more vaccinations at an earlier age, and as your cat grows, your veterinarian will check with you on any lifestyle changes that may necessitate different vaccines. For example, if your cat has always stayed indoors, but eventually, you start to let them outside, new vaccines are recommended. Feline leukemia is only a danger for cats that are likely to come into contact with unfamiliar cats. This vaccine would become a recommended part of the health routine for any cat that goes outside.

Heartworm prevention: All cats, even an indoor cat, need a monthly preventive to guard against heartworm and fleas. It just takes one bite from a mosquito that’s snuck in an open door to cause heartworm, so it’s essential your cat sees the vet each year to stay up-to-date on heartworm prevention.

Weight: Your vet can detect increases or decreases in weight more quickly if they see your cat annually. Weight fluctuations can indicate underlying health issues and put stress on your cat’s internal organs. Excess weight can also lead to diseases like diabetes.

Dental care: Just like humans, cats can get tartar and plaque build-up on their teeth. This can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, which can be uncomfortable and cause things like inflammation or bleeding from the gums. Your vet can recommend ways to support your cat’s dental care at home, like special food or pet-friendly toothpaste, or provide dental cleanings during your visit. If your cat does develop an oral disease, your vet will recommend the necessary medical care, like prescriptions or tooth extractions.

Health concerns in older cats: As your cat ages, your vet can use their medical history and information to determine if your cat is at risk for problems like kidney or thyroid disease. Symptoms can be vague and hard for most people to catch, but your vet is specially trained to recognize signs as they start to appear.

Lopez_Rizal thumbAbout The Author: Rizal Lopez, DVM, is Chief Veterinary Officer for SPCA Tampa Bay. He and his staff have completed over 8,000 procedures since opening the St. Pete Veterinary Center in late 2016. Dr. Lopez, since joining the organization in 2011, has performed over 20,000 spay/neuter procedures for the community. He held several positions with the organization before taking the lead veterinary role at the center.