Assuming your dog isn’t sick, it can be difficult to discern when and for what you should be taking your dog to the vet for.
Just like people, prevention and early detection of problems are important for your dog. All dogs should have an annual exam, but depending on your dog’s age, you may need to go more than once a year.
This is intended to be for prevention and routine maintenance. Your vet will do a full-body check-up, checking your dog’s heart, lungs, eyes, ears, and joints. They will also look for common afflictions and administer any needed vaccinations. This is the time for you to voice any concerns you may have about your dog’s health or behavior.
Puppy (birth to year one)
This is the time to establish a relationship with a good vet because your new pup needs to go often. Experts recommend monthly wellness exams and vaccinations for the first four months of your dog’s life. During the exam, your vet will ensure your puppy is developing normally. You can also expect that your vet will vaccinate your dog for a variety of things including;
- 6–8 weeks: first DHLPPC shot (combined vaccine for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvo, and corona). This one is given in a series over your puppy’s first year.
- 10–12 weeks: second DHLPPC shot
- 12–24 weeks: rabies
- 14–16 weeks: third DHLPPC shot
The doctor will also start your dog on heartworm and flea/tick prevention medications if you live in an area where those things are a concern. At the six-month mark, it’s time to spray or neuter your puppy.
In addition to physical health, your vet will also look to see that your puppy is housebroken, well trained and socializing well.
Adult (1-7 years)
For healthy adult dogs, the rule of thumb is an annual wellness exam. Again, this is a comprehensive exam and a time for you to chat with the vet about any concerns you feel need to be addressed. Vaccine boosters are administered at this time. There is a debate in the vet community if they are needed annually, but most vets error on the side of caution and do them. Generally, distemper-parvo and rabies booster shots happen on the first visit and every three years after, depending on state law. If your dog is at a doggie daycare or a kennel regularly, vaccinating against kennel cough is a good idea.
Older dogs are more prone to injury and illness and therefore should see the vet bi-annually. The vet will perform the annual wellness exam, but may also suggest diagnostic tests to develop a baseline on certain measurements. These can include blood and fecal tests, blood pressure testing and chest radiographs.