As a dog owner, you want to do everything you can to ensure your dog stays healthy and happy. Obviously, you should take your dog to the vet if they get sick and need to visit, but what about regular check-ups?
A major part of making sure your dog stays as healthy as possible is visiting the veterinarian. So, just how often should you take your dog to the vet? Are all those checkups really necessary?
Taking your dog to the vet is an important part of being a responsible pet parent. You should take your dog in for regular check-ups, vaccinations, and other services as needed each year. While you may think that one trip to the vet per year would be enough, there are actually some very good reasons why you should consider taking your pup in more often.
Puppies need frequent vaccinations and wellness checks
Puppies need to be vaccinated and checked for signs of illness on a regular basis. Vaccines are given at specific times as preventative care against the spread of disease, while wellness checks ensure that your puppy is healthy.
The recommendation is that puppies visit the vet every four weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. This will ensure the vaccines are up to date and that they are growing and developing as they should.
Dogs should have annual checkup visits
Annual checkup visits are important for all dogs. These visits can help catch problems early and are often the first to look when something is wrong. These checkup visits also allow you to track your dog's overall health, growth, and weight.
Since your dog isn't sick, it's an opportunity to talk to your vet about things your dog needs that you can do at home to maintain their health and well-being.
What to Expect at Your Annual Wellness Visit
Your vet will give your pet a thorough physical exam.
When you visit the veterinarian, he or she will perform a thorough physical exam on your pet. The vet will check for signs of illness and ensure no changes in behavior, weight, coat and skin condition, eyesight, or hearing. He or she will also make sure that your pet is eating normally.
Your vet will ask you about how your pet has been doing.
Your vet may want to know how your pet has been doing. They'll ask you about their sleeping, eating, and socializing habits. This is because a healthy animal should be able to sleep soundly through the night without waking up for food or water, not eat too much or too little, and feel sociable towards humans and other animals in the household.
You can also expect them to ask if your pet has become sick lately—if so, they'll probably recommend some tests be done on them. These are all parts of a complete physical.
You can schedule routine blood and urine tests.
You can schedule routine tests to check your pet for signs of disease. The blood tests are performed on a single blood sample, giving you an idea of what's happening inside their body. The urine tests would be done by collecting a sample and providing it to your vet so they can check it out.
They're not diagnostic in nature—meaning they won't tell you exactly what is causing any issues, but they can help identify health issues or problems that could lead to more serious health concerns down the road.
Your vet may recommend a stool test to also check for intestinal parasites. Parasites are usually more common in a puppy vs an adult dog or a senior dog.
Make sure your pet's vaccinations are up to date.
At your annual routine wellness exam, you should make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccinations help prevent diseases by giving the body “practice” fighting the disease before it ever has a chance to attack the body. The more you get a vaccine dose, the stronger your body becomes at fighting off that particular infection.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that dogs receive core vaccines for canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), parainfluenza virus type 2 (PI-2), leptospirosis bacterin/vaccine combination, coronavirus and parvovirus serotype two every three years.
Puppies receive core vaccines against CDV and CAV-2 and bordetella bronchiseptica between six and eight weeks old during their first year of life. This is followed by annual booster shots until two years old when they can be given their first full series of adult vaccinations.
It's a good time to get flea, tick, and heartworm prevention meds.
As your pet approaches the age of three years old, their routine vet exam is a good time to get flea, tick, and heartworm prevention meds. Flea and tick meds are usually given once a month, while heartworm preventatives are given once a month for the entire year (and sometimes for two years).
Putting your adult dog on preventive flea and tick medicine can also help prevent diseases like lyme disease. If you have any questions about these preventatives or how often they should be given, don't hesitate to ask your vet!
Your vet can answer questions about your pet's diet and nutrition.
Your vet can help you choose the best food for your pet and the right amount of food to feed them. Your vet can also suggest a feeding schedule that's right for your pet so that they stay happy and healthy.
Your vet can talk to you about any concerns you have.
Your vet can help you with any concerns you have about your pet, including:
Changes you can make to improve your pet's health
Keeping your pet safe and healthy
Dogs can have anxiety about vet visits.
It’s easy to forget that dogs can be just as anxious about vet visits as we are. It’s a strange place to them, full of unfamiliar smells and sounds. And there are strangers handling them, which can make them uncomfortable in itself.
If your dog is nervous about going to the vet's office, take a moment before heading out the door to connect with them using positive reinforcement methods like petting or treats—this will help them associate good things with the experience instead of negative ones.
If your dog seems particularly uncomfortable with the visit, speak with your veterinarian about options such as sedating him for his own comfort during any procedures (such as blood work). There are also many options available for pre-visit medication to help take the edge off your dog's anxiety.
Many vets offer the opportunity to book "happy visits" or drop in when you feel like it to check your dog's weight. You can use these visits to give your dog plenty of treats and give them a positive association with the vet's office. Long term, this is the best way to reduce your dog's anxiety at the vet.
Your vet can provide you with a schedule for vet visits that are recommended
Your vet can provide you with a schedule for vet visits that are recommended. These recommended vet visits are based on your dog's age, breed, and health. They're also based on your dog's risk of developing certain diseases.
For example, suppose your Labrador Retriever is at risk for hip dysplasia due to their breed and age (they usually develop it between 6 and 9 months old). In that case, it may be necessary to bring them to the vet more often than other dogs who aren't at risk for this disease.
Your vet will also recommend visits based on your dog's lifestyle—and how to make adjustments as necessary for your dog's health and life.
Technology that can help
A great way to watch your dog more carefully is with a GPS and activity collar like the Fi Smart Collar. This device tracks how many steps your dog takes during the day. This can be helpful for your veterinarian to see and make sure your dog is getting enough activity.
The collar also tracks sleep which can be another helpful tab to have and show your veterinarian. Sleep and activity are very important in a dog's life. You can measure your stats compared to other dogs of the same breed and size.
Making sure your dog has a good diet and the proper exercise is the best way to ensure that they live a long and happy life. While you are at your vet exam with your puppy, you can talk about what is the best type of food for your puppy.
There are plenty of different types of food that is good for your dog but it would be best to consult with your vet so they can make that choice with you. You should start feeding them properly as young as soon as you can.
How often you need to see the vet with your dog is dependent on your dog’s age, lifestyle, and breed. Here are some general guidelines to follow for their health:
- Puppies should be taken to the vet every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old
- After the six months, your dog should be spayed or neutered
- For adult dogs, annual vet visits for checkups and booster shots are usually sufficient as preventative care.
- A vet may recommend a visit twice a year after older dogs reach 7-10 years – these visits will include a more in-depth wellness exam and blood work to detect health conditions that occur due to aging.
Hopefully, you now know how often you should take your dog to the vet. Puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with health conditions need to see the vet more often. Healthy adult dogs should see the vet once a year.
If you have specific questions about your check-up schedule, speak to your veterinarian directly. They can help you develop a schedule and health care plan that works for you and your dog.