The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

How often should I take my dog to the vet?

By Dr. Jacqueline Brister

bulldog at vet office

When to take your dog to the veterinarian depends on several things:

  • Age
  • Vaccine status
  • Overall health
  • If they have any chronic diseases

Keeping them up to date on check ups and vet visits helps your dog live as happy and healthy a life that they can. It also provides you with peace of mind that they are being well cared for.

Age

Young puppies need frequent veterinary checkups to make sure they are growing normally and aren’t developing any healthy issues. Veterinarians check young puppies for:

  • Proper weight gain
  • Internal parasites such as worms
  • External parasites such as fleas or mange mites
  • Normal heart sounds
  • Normal growth of eyelids, ears, leg bones, & nostrils
  • Proper vision & hearing
  • Normal teeth (incoming & outgoing baby teeth as well as incoming adult teeth)

This is also the time that the vet can help you figure out behavior issues, bathroom issues, when to spay or neuter your dog, getting along with human and animal family members, and keeping your pet on the right foods/preventive medications for them.

Older dogs don’t need to visit the vet as often as young puppies, but they are more likely to develop health problems as they get older. A visit to the vet one to two times a year is ideal to make sure any health issues are caught early and managed as soon as possible. These visits are also a great time to discuss your concerns about age-related issues, such as arthritis, dementia, vision or hearing loss, and urination or defecation problems.

In older dogs, your vet will be specifically looking for:

  • Signs of cancer & other health problems or age-related diseases
  • Major changes from previous visits
  • Potential need for additional testing

Some vets and pet owners opt to run yearly blood work on their dogs to screen for internal organ issues or diseases that are not obvious on an exam. This helps to catch issues early and prevent any unnecessary suffering to the pet.

Vaccine Status

Vaccines or immunization shots are needed much more often in puppies than adult dogs. Puppies need a series of vaccines/boosters every 2-4 weeks, starting from age 6-8 weeks up until 16-20 weeks in order to fully protect them from certain diseases. Vaccines protect them from:

Puppies need an additional booster vaccine for these diseases when they reach one year of age. After that, depending on the type of vaccine, they may only need shots every 1-3 years.

Overall Health

Yearly checkups, even if vaccines are not due, help to make sure your dog is healthy overall. The vet will perform a thorough physical exam, looking at the skin, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body condition for any problems. The vet will also listen to your pet’s heart and lungs, palpate their belly, check joints for arthritis, and probably test them for parasites such as gastrointestinal worms and heartworms.

Chronic Diseases

If your dog has a chronic disease, something they were diagnosed with at a previous visit (e.g. diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, etc.), they will probably need to be checked out more than once a year. Depending on how well managed the disease is, a checkup may only be needed twice a year. If they show signs of new problems, or if the symptoms of the chronic disease are hard to control, they may need to be checked more often. If in doubt, call your veterinarian to see how often visits are needed.

Anything New

If your dog starts showing new symptoms, such as not eating, limping, urinating a lot, throwing up, or having loose stool, go ahead and call to schedule a checkup. While some of these issues may go away on their own, it is important to seek care as soon as possible to make sure your pet stays healthy and recovers well.

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