Taking on the role of a pet parent is a huge responsibility. Not only do you need to ensure the happiness of your new little bundle of cute, but your job now is to ensure that your new best friend is in tip-top shape throughout their life.
When should I take my puppy to the vet?
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Like humans, your doggos need regular check-ups and vet visits to ensure they live their healthiest and best lives. Unlike humans, your dog can’t tell you when something is a little off or if they’re not feeling great. So, regular check-ups are essential in catching ailments and issues before they can become more extensive, more severe issues.
So, what’s the sweet spot? How often do you need to take your dog to the vet? What’s the ideal schedule for dog vet visits?
Recommended dog vet visit schedule
Throughout your dog’s life, its veterinary needs will vary. According to research, vet visits for puppies will be more frequent, especially in their first year, to ensure they get all their vaccinations and boosters and ensure they’re growing well and are healthy. Also, within this time, you’ll need to sterilize your pet.
As your puppy matures into adulthood (between 1 and 7 years old), you’ll likely see a slight decrease in vet visits required. A yearly visit is recommended, at least. You’ll need to stay on top of vaccines and ensure a general check-up to ensure your dog is in good shape. Dental health will be a big part of your vet’s care during this phase of life.
As your dog graduates into his senior years, you’ll need to aim for twice-yearly vet visits. During these visits, your vet will complete a physical exam and give the relevant vaccinations. As your pet gets older, your vet may want to do urine and blood tests to check hormone levels, kidney health, and liver health and address any concerns you may have.
When to take your dog to the vet
- Birth to 1 year: every 3 or 4 weeks until 16 weeks, then at six months again for sterilization;
- 1 to 7 years: Minimum of once a year for vaccinations and dental check-ups;
- 7 to 10 years and older: twice-yearly check-ups to stay on top of vaccinations and to do blood and urine test to ensure optimum health.
What happens at a vet check-up?
Whether you’re visiting your vet for a routine check-up or a specific ailment, your vet will perform a physical exam on your dog. What does your vet do during a physical exam? Well, each vet may have their routine, but generally, the following will be included:
- Observing your pet to assess their mental wellness – is the dog nervous? Does the dog appear stressed? Some dogs dislike the vet, so to avoid being bitten, this is usually the first step your vet will take in a physical exam.
- I am looking for signs of physical discomfort or weakness – a limp, signs of pain, or shakiness.
- Your vet will give your dog’s face a good look for any discharge around the eyes and nose, as well as any swelling.
- Next, your vet will check your pet’s eyes, ears, and mouth to look for signs of inflammation and infection.
- Listening to the chest – to pick up any irregularities in the heartbeat and lungs.
- Checking the belly for any painful or swollen organs.
- Looking at the skin for any sores or parasites and checking the body for any lumps.
- An orthopedic exam will help your vet check for any pain and stiffness in the joints.
- Taking your dog’s temperature.
Usually, a physical exam gives enough information for a vet to make a diagnosis, but at the very least, it will inform which further diagnostic tests need to be performed to confirm a diagnosis.
Online vet visits vs. in-person visits
We know that getting your dog to the vet can be a tricky and sometimes traumatic experience for you both. And if there’s one good thing that came from the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we’re now able to do more things online than ever before, including online vet visits.
But it’s important to know where online vet visits can fit into your life and be of benefit and when it’s better to rustle up Rover and go to the vet physically.
An online vet visit can be super useful if you have questions or queries that you’d like to ask or concerns that you’d like to discuss with your vet. For these conversations, a physical vet visit isn’t essential. Similarly, if you’ve had a physical appointment and need to follow up with the vet on your pet’s progress, a virtual vet visit can be a real-time saver.
While online vet visits can be useful, they’re certainly not a replacement for in-person visits and should not be relied upon, especially not when your dog is very unwell and needs medication or emergency care.
Read more: What To Expect From An Online Vet Visit
What vaccines do dogs need every year?
During your puppy’s first year, they’ll need a few vaccines and boosters to ensure that they have the best start in life. But vaccines aren’t a one-and-done deal. They need to be regularly re-administered or boosted at regular intervals.
If you maintain a regular schedule of check-ups, your vet will ensure that all your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
Vaccines for rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper, and canine adenovirus are considered core vaccines and are highly recommended, if not legally enforced, in many regions.
Not all of these will need to be updated annually. Some vaccines can last three years before needing to be re-administered. Check out our pet vaccinations guide for more details.
Read more: Pet Vaccinations Guide For Cats & Dogs
When to take your dog to the emergency vet?
Outside of your regular check-ups with the vet, there may be times when you need emergency care for your doggo. If you’re not sure, you can try a virtual vet visit as a form of triage to decide if your dog’s condition is serious enough to warrant an emergency visit or if it’s something you could manage at home.
The following are usually reasons for getting to the vet as soon as possible:
- Problems with breathing;
- Weakness or sudden collapse;
- Difficulty urinating, unusual stool, bloody stools, and consistent diarrhea;
- Refusal of food and water for more than a day;
- Gastric bloating and unsuccessful attempts to vomit.
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How often should I take my dog to the vet?
After your puppy’s first year, once a year is a good benchmark for how often you should take your dog to the vet. This is to ensure that all your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and you’re checking his general health and teeth.
What to expect at puppies’ first vet visit?
The following are common at your puppy’s first vet visit. They will:
- Weigh your puppy;
- Listen to his heart and lungs;
- Take his temperature (the old thermometer-up-the-butt routine – a necessary evil);
- Examine his eyes and ears and nose and feet;
- Check his skin and coat;
- Check his mouth and teeth;
- Examine his poop for worms;
- Discuss things like microchipping, feedings, general care, and sterilization;
- Schedule follow-up appointments for vaccinations;
- Prescribe any medications needed. Make sure to take notes on how much to give and when so you don’t forget.
My dog gets aggressive at the vet – what do I do?
Some dogs just really don’t like the vet. Some dogs can get aggressive and try to bite the vet or the vet staff. So, what do you do if you know your dog gets aggressive at the vet?
- Be open with the vet and staff – give them a heads-up that you’re coming in and your dog tends to be a little aggressive.
- Get a muzzle to avoid your dog causing injury to anyone.
- Get a calming collar or some calming medication.
- Ask your vet about neutering your dog if it’s male.
- Try not to make the experience traumatic, as this will reinforce the aggression.
- Consider some socialization training at a puppy school if your dog is aggressive with the other dogs and cats in the waiting room.