You love your pet like a son or daughter. But how often should they be taken to the doctor?

According to veterinarian Peter Falk, a spokesman or the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, your pet should be taken for a wellness visit at least once a year. But there are exceptions.

“If pets are older or have an ongoing condition, it’s not unusual to have exams every six months.”

Falk said pets age faster than people, so changes in their health can appear more rapidly.

He said when a pet goes in for an annual checkup, it will get checked out from nose to tail.

“This way they’ll check the eyes, the ears, the teeth. They can listen to the heart with a stethoscope. They can check the eyes with an ophthalmoscope.”

And they may also need updated vaccinations.

“In dogs, we pay a lot of attention to Lyme disease but also there’s there’s leptospirosis.”

He said it’s important to discuss any lifestyle changes your pet may be experiencing, such as sending a dog to doggie daycare because that may require a canine flu vaccine.

Falk pointed out dogs may put on weight in later years, causing arthritis, so it’s important to review how the animal is behaving and what their quality of life is. Sometimes, a change in their diet or exercise routine may be helpful.

He noted it’s not only dogs and cats that should get a once-a-year checkup.

“We see lots of small mammals, like guinea pigs, rats, mice and hamsters," he sad. “We also see a lot of birds, lizards, reptiles, turtles.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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