Dogs, like humans, need to be checked by a vet regularly. Now the big question is: How often should I take my dog to the vet?
Some dog owners will probably say that annual vet visits are enough, while a few may think missing a vet visit in a year is alright as long as the dog is eating a proper diet and is active. But is this really enough?
If you’re a fur parent that’s keen on knowing the truth behind veterinary care, like how often it should be done for pets to stay healthy and what to expect from every visit, read on. Dog Food Guide is here to do just that and more.
Vet Visits & Why It Is Important
Preventative care refers to the steps you take to ensure your dog's health and well-being are at their optimal. This includes giving your dog a complete and well-balanced diet, scheduled playtime or walks, and yes, regular visits to the veterinarian.
Unfortunately, among the three, annual check-ups are probably the most overlooked, especially when the dog has graduated from being a puppy and is looking healthy and happy.
But do you know what? Frequent visits to the vet may increase your dog’s chances of living a longer, sick-free life.
Routine wellness check-ups let you track your dog’s growth and development. Besides that, these can help detect underlying health concerns/issues early on. This allows you to alter your dog’s lifestyle when needed and to conduct treatment while the disease is at its early stages. Doing so increases the success rate of the treatment and helps you save money in the long run.
What Goes On During A Vet Visit?
There are a couple of things that a veterinarian checks during annual wellness exams.
Besides conducting the usual physical exam, your vet will ask you about your puppy or your dog’s diet, activity levels, and general behavior. Your vet may also inquire about your dog’s bowel movements, urination habits, and how your dog is doing with its socialization and house training.
On top of that, dogs may also get vaccine shots during their visit. After all, vaccines protect your pets against communicable, potentially deadly canine health problems like distemper and rabies.
In addition to the routine wellness exams, diagnostic tests and preventive medicine treatments might be recommended, depending on your pet’s health condition and age.
Physical Examinations & What To Expect
During an annual wellness exam, your veterinarian will gauge your pet dog's general health by administering a thorough physical exam and checking your furry friend from head to toe.
Your vet will check your dog’s general appearance and your dog’s heart and lungs using a stethoscope, aka “auscultation.” Your vet will also feel your pet dog’s lymph nodes, legs, pulse, and abdomen to check for irregularities, aka “palpation.”
When it comes to your dog’s appearance, you can expect the veterinarian to observe the following:
- Level of alertness
- Manner of walking and standing
- Coat and skin condition (dandruff, shedding, oiliness, dryness, or hair loss)
- Muscle condition (muscle wasting)
- Nose and face (symmetry, discharge, or skin folds)
- Eyes (redness, cloudiness, abnormal bumps on eyelids, excessive tearing, and discharge)
- Ears (discharge and thickening)
- Mouth and teeth (ulcers, tartar buildup, and others)
How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?
The answer depends on your dog’s age. Young puppies require the most number of vet visits compared to older dogs while an average healthy adult dog requires less. On the one hand, senior dogs will need to visit the vet more often than adult dogs but less than younger dogs.
Of course, the number of times you need to take your dog to the vet may vary depending on other factors like your dog’s breed, health condition, and where your dog lives. A dog that suffers from a chronic disease will obviously require more frequent visits to the vet.
Puppyhood: From Birth to 12 Months
Puppy vet visits should be done every 3 to 4 weeks starting when your pet dog turns 6 weeks old until it's 16 weeks old. Like all wellness visits, you can expect your puppy to go through a nose-to-tail type of physical examination.
Since most young puppies are born with parasites, your puppy needs to be dewormed when they are around 2 to 3 weeks old. Depending on your area, the veterinarian may also recommend flea and tick prevention, as well as heartworm testing and prevention. At around 6 months, your vet may offer the option of neutering or spaying your puppy.
What To Expect From First-Year Puppy Vaccinations
When your puppy is around 6 to 8 weeks, vaccinations and boosters will be given for various diseases. From thereon, they’ll get booster shots every 3 or 4 weeks until they’re around 4 months old.
In general, puppies are recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) to get 5 core vaccines. This includes shots against distemper, parvo, adenovirus or hepatitis, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis. Rabies shots are given as prescribed by the law while shots for Lyme disease, kennel cough, and influenza are considered optional.
Adult Years: 1 Year To 7-10 Years Old (Depending On Breed)
Once your puppy turns into an adult, an annual visit will suffice. Like puppies, adult dogs also go through head-to-tail physical checkups.
During the regular checkups, the vet may ask for a blood sample and stool sample. The former will be needed to check for heartworms while the latter is used to check for intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms.
Vaccinations Given To Adult Dogs
Your adult dog will be given DHPP or distemper-parvo booster shots during its first yearly checkup. Booster shots are then given every three years from thereon.
Rabies boosters, on the one hand, are also given during the first yearly checkup, but the number of times your dog has to get this varies for every state.
Senior Years: +7-10 Years Of Age
Since senior dogs are prone to geriatric health issues, it’s recommended to take your dog to the vet semi-annually once your dog is over 7-10 years old (depending on breed).
Your vet will give your senior dog a complete physical checkup while paying close attention to specific areas. This includes your dog’s teeth and eye condition. If your dog shows signs of joint pain, your veterinarian might advise you to change your dog’s diet to improve your dog’s joint health.
Besides the annual fecal and blood tests, your vet may also suggest your senior dog to undergo urine tests since their chances of getting kidney and liver problems are high. On top of that, other tests may be recommended depending on your dog’s health condition.
Vaccines Commonly Given To Senior Dogs
Like adult dogs, senior or older dogs may be given boosters every 3 years. On the other hand, short-duration vaccines (think shots for Lyme and kennel cough) are often done every 6 to 12 months. These shots, though, are all optional.
Health Issues That Call For Immediate Veterinary Assistance
Besides bringing your dog to the vet for wellness checks, some situations warrant you to contact your vet immediately. What are those? See below.
- Broken bones or immobility
- Severe pain
- Eye injuries
- Trouble breathing or choking
- Swollen abdomen
- Pale gums
- Exposure to toxic or poisonous substances (like rat poison or antifreeze)
- Bleeding or bloody discharge
- Severe diarrhea or vomiting (over 24 hours)
Now, if your dog is showing signs of discomfort and you know something is off, it doesn’t hurt to contact your vet. Vets are there to ensure that your pet stays healthy, so making use of their services whenever the need arises is A-Okay.
What To Do To Prepare For Your Pets’ Vet Visit
To avoid any unwanted hassle, you’d want to prepare everything you need before taking your dog to the vet. So, make sure to check the following when you book an appointment:
- Does your dog need to fast before the visit?
- Do you need to bring any stool or urine samples?
Aside from that, knowing all the basic information about your dog will help. So, make sure to get your dog’s book ready, and make a list of all the stuff your vet will be asking for like your dog’s brand and type of food and supplements.
It also helps to make a list of questions you’d want to ask your vet. The questions can be about anything related to your dog’s health, behavior, and habits.
Keeping your pet healthy should be every fur parent’s top priority. Unfortunately, your hugs and kisses aren’t enough to keep your dog healthy.
You’d also have to provide your dog with a nutrient-dense diet, lots of playtime, and you’ll also need to visit the vet regularly. So, make sure to spare some time to go to the vet each year. Remember, you’re doing this to improve your dog’s quality of life.
NOTE: Once you find a reputable vet that you can trust and rely on, try to build a relationship with that person. After all, you’d want to take your dog to the same vet whenever a problem arises.