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How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?
Posted: 11/18/2022 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Pet care , Top Tips , Vets
You know you need to feed your dog two times a day and walk them at least once daily. But you may be wondering, “How often should I take my dog to the vet?”
That’s a great question that requires a bit of detail when answering. While most people may assume they should take their dog to the vet only once a year for an annual check-up, it really depends on your dog’s stage of life and overall health.
Healthy adult dogs may only need an annual check-up, while puppies and senior dogs will require more frequent vet visits. The following are some guidelines to help you understand how often to see the vet. (We also recommend speaking to your vet to see what they recommend.)
In the first few months of a puppy’s new life, they must visit the vet frequently. In addition to listening to your pup’s heart and lungs and checking their eyes, ears, and teeth, your vet will want a stool sample to rule out parasites.
Most of your puppy’s first few vet visits will be for vaccinations. If you adopted your puppy around the 8 to 12-week mark, they would have most likely already received their first vaccine. Sharing all adoption paperwork from the breeder or rescue shelter with your vet is essential.
After this initial vaccination, your new puppy will need to receive vaccines (usually two) every three to four weeks until they are roughly 16 to 20 weeks of age.
Your puppy’s vaccines and boosters will protect them against the following contagious illnesses:
- Kennel Cough
If you live in North America, we have a law that states puppies must also receive a rabies vaccination. Each state has its own timing of when these shots must occur, so speak to your vet for more guidance.
Depending on where you live and what your lifestyle is, your vet may also recommend non-core vaccines for your puppy. For instance, if you live in a rural area or plan to take your dog on many wilderness hikes, your vet may recommend a leptospirosis vaccine and one for Lyme disease. It should be noted that studies have called into question the efficacy of the Lyme vaccine. Speak to your vet about whether or not this is really necessary. They may only recommend it if you live in a heavily endemic area with ticks and this disease.
Diet and Preventative Measures
These initial vet visits are a great time to speak with your vet about the proper diet for your pup. Each breed has different nutritional needs. For instance, a Great Dane puppy requires different nutrition than a Chihuahua puppy and additional calories. You want to be sure your puppy is getting the right amount of food and nutrients so they can grow into the adult dog they are meant to be.
During these initial visits, you’ll also want to speak with your vet about ensuring your pup’s dental health. The cleaner their mouth, the better their overall health as they age. Also, inquire about the best flea and tick prevention and when is the right time to have your pup spayed or neutered if they haven’t been already.
Make it a Pawsitive Experience
Of course, you want these first few vet visits to be as positive as possible for your new fur baby. It would help if you looked for vets and vet clinics that use fear-free practices. Be patient with your pup, encourage them with a calming voice and bring plenty of treats.
Adult Dog Checkups
Dogs over 12 months typically won’t need to see the vet as often. Adult dogs usually only need DHPP and rabies vaccinations every one to three years. These timings vary based on where you live, the type of vaccine, and whether your vet performs a titer test. This test checks the number of antibodies of the previous vaccine to see if it’s still providing appropriate levels of immunity.
Even if your dog is older and does not need multiple vaccinations, they must get in each year for a wellness exam. These yearly check-ups will help to prevent some common health issues for dogs.
For instance, countless dogs are diagnosed with obesity and dental disease yearly. Both of these can lead to other severe health conditions. While you may not notice your dog has gained a little weight or they have some tarter buildup, your vet will be able to see subtle changes.
In addition to checking for fluctuations in your dogs’ weight and looking at their teeth and gums, your vet will also look in their ears and examine their eyes. They will also look and feel around their body for any unusual growths, listen to their heart and lungs, and potentially run some bloodwork and check stool for worms.
If you have any questions for your vet, be sure to jot them down so you can take them with you and ask them during the appointment. It’s also important to write down any changes you’ve noticed over the past year. You are your pup’s eyes and ears and advocate. The more you participate in their health, the better you and your vet will work together for positive health outcomes.
Dogs Hide Pain
Another reason why it is essential to take your dog in for a yearly exam is that dogs are notorious for hiding pain. In their wild days, packs of dogs would attack the weakest link, the dog that was too old or sick to be part of the pack. And so today’s modern dog still tries to hide pain and illness. And because they hide it so well, you may not notice subtle changes. But again, your vet is trained to ask the right questions, perform the proper tests and look with keen eyes. If anything is going on with your fur baby, these wellness exams are where symptoms can be spotted.
Senior Dog Checkups
Just like humans, older dogs are prone to developing more health problems. And that’s why it’s crucial to get your senior dog to the vet twice a year for check-ups. And the general rule of thumb is the larger your dog, the earlier things can start to go wrong. So, for instance, you may want to start bringing your Great Dane in twice a year when he is five years old, whereas you may not need to bring a little Corgi in twice a year until they are nine years old.
That being said, the aging process is individual, so it’s best to work closely with your vet to get your senior dog in as often as they feel is best.
Along with routine physical exams and vaccinations, your vet will most likely want to perform bloodwork twice a year and perhaps some X-rays to get a clear indication of any changes from baseline health. X-rays are needed to check for common diseases older dogs develop, like arthritis and cancer. The bloodwork can give you and your vet a good indication of how organs such as the kidneys and liver are working.
These senior wellness exams are a great time to discuss any changes to your pup’s diet with your vet. Dogs have different nutritional needs at every stage of life, and your senior dog may need some adjustments in the kind of food and how much.
If your dog should develop arthritis, you and your vet can also discuss pain management options.
End of Life Care
As senior dogs approach the end of their life, they often require more care and visits to the vet. For instance, some dogs may need to see the vet every three to four months to check pain medication dosages and ensure their quality of life.
During this time, your vet can be an important second set of eyes and ears and help you know when it’s time to make that tough end-of-life decision.
It can be incredibly difficult for us to come to terms with the fact that our beloved fur baby is at the end of their life. Many of us just can’t accept this reality. We want to do what’s best for them, yet we struggle to let go.
And this is why it’s so important to choose a vet that you feel comfortable with early on in your baby’s life. Choose someone who listens and really takes their time with your pup.
The goal is to form a solid relationship with your vet so that when your baby becomes a senior dog, you truly trust this person when they feel it’s time to say goodbye.
When to See the Vet Right Away
The previous guidelines are general guidelines. There may be those times when a sudden, unexpected emergency comes up. Recognizing the signs and symptoms that indicate a trip to the vet or emergency clinic is essential.
The following are signs that you need to take your dog to the vet immediately:
- They have been hit by a car or another blunt object
- They have fallen more than a few feet
- They are unconscious and won’t wake up
- They are choking or having trouble breathing
- They have been vomiting or had diarrhea for more than 24 hours or are vomiting blood
- You think they may have sustained broken bones
- They are having a seizure
- They have pale gums
- They ingested something toxic such as antifreeze, rat poison, household cleaners, chocolate, etc.
- They are showing signs of extreme pain (whining, shaking, or refusing to socialize)
- They suddenly collapse and can’t stand
- They become suddenly disoriented
- They have a swollen, hard abdomen
How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?
What we’ve outlined here are general guidelines. Typically, puppies and older dogs need to see the vet multiple times per year, whereas a healthy adult dog should only need to see the vet once a year.
Having said this, you are your dog’s advocate, and you know them best. Pay close attention to your pup and trust your instinct. If you think something is off with them, call your vet for an appointment.
And one final note: some pet parents may try and save money and not take their dog to the vet every year. They may think if their dog is acting fine, they are healthy.
But the reality is that preventative health care will keep your dog healthy as they age, decreasing their chances of developing chronic health conditions that will be costly down the road.
A Pet Health Insurance Plan Can Help You Keep Your Pup Happy and Healthy
As pet parents, we don’t think of our dogs as just dogs; we think of them as furry (and sometimes stinky) family members. We love them as we do our human family members, and we want to do everything we can to make sure they live long and happy lives.
But that can be challenging. While veterinary care has come a long way, and some advancements can keep our fur babies alive for years and years, these medical treatments come at a high cost. Should your pup become seriously ill or injured, will you be able to pay thousands of dollars?
Most pet parents can’t. And that’s why pet insurance is so important. You would never consider not being insured or not having your child insured. So why leave your fur baby uninsured?
Pet insurance plans, like human insurance plans, help you cover a portion of the vet bills so you can help your precious pup without going bankrupt. Did you know some plans will reimburse you for up to 90% of the vet bill?
Get the peace of mind you deserve while giving your pup the care they deserve. Search for a pet insurance plan today.
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- Lotz, K. (2022) “How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?,” Retrieved from: https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/how-often-should-i-take-my-dog-to-the-vet
- Dr. Marty Becker, “Identifying Pet Emergencies: When to See a Vet, Stat!” Retrieved from: https://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/identifying-pet-emergencies-when-to-see-a-vet-stat