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How often do you take your dog to the vet? Dogs rely on their pet parents for everything, so it's your responsibility to ensure they're healthy, which makes taking them to the vet for their annual wellness exams a priority.
These wellness visits are crucial for dogs because they allow vets to physically examine them and perform diagnostic tests to detect and treat underlying health problems as soon as possible. Therefore, taking your dog to the vet at least once yearly is crucial care that can prevent them from developing an illness and treat diagnosed conditions.
Apart from the wellness exam, how often should you take your dog to the vet? Most pet parents take their dogs to the vet at least once per year, but it varies depending on a dog's health, age, and emergency needs. Unfortunately, many pet parents don't realize that puppies, adults, and seniors need different levels of care. Puppies and seniors typically need to visit the vet more often, but even adults may visit the vet more than once per year. This article will help you determine how often you should take your pet to the vet based on their life stage.
How often do you take a dog to the vet? It depends on whether they're puppies. Puppies should visit the vet more frequently than adult dogs because they have developing immune systems and several various care needs, including immunizations.
Puppies should be taken to the vet every three to four weeks for vaccinations and check-ups until they're four months old.1 Since most puppies are about eight to ten weeks old when you bring them home, you should schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible to ensure they have all the necessary vaccinations.
During your puppy's first visit to the vet, you'll receive a vaccination schedule, which will tell you when to return and the vaccines your puppy will get. Common “core” vaccinations for puppies include:
- Distemper: Distemper is a viral disease that affects a dog's respiratory, GI, and nervous systems and can be fatal for young dogs. However, puppies can get their first distemper vaccination at six to eight weeks of age, with additional vaccines every three to four weeks until they're four months old.2
- Parvovirus: Another vaccination your puppy will get when they're six to eight weeks old is the parvovirus vaccine. This vaccination protects them from a dangerous and highly contagious virus.
- DHPP: Distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus are some of the top concerns for puppy health. DHPP is a series of vaccines to protect your dog from these four viruses and diseases. After your puppy gets their second and third series for distemper and parvovirus, they'll get the DHPP shot every 1-2 years afterward.
- Rabies: Rabies is a fatal disease your dog can catch from wild animals, such as raccoons, bats, and skunks. Puppies usually get the rabies vaccine around 16 weeks old, with a second vaccination about a year later. After that, they receive a rabies vaccination every one to three years. Rabies is one of the most important vaccines because it's required by law, but when your dog needs their vaccinations varies by state regulations.3
Other than the required vaccinations, you can choose optional vaccinations to protect them against the following:
Your vet will also perform various tests, including urinalysis and blood and fecal exams, to ensure they're healthy. Your vet can begin treatment immediately if your dog tests positive for any ailments. They can also begin taking flea/tick/heartworm preventions to protect them from these potentially fatal parasites.
Additionally, most puppies can be neutered or spayed at six months old.1
Dogs are considered adults when they're one year old and can go to the vet less often.1 Typically, most vets like to see their dog patients at least once a year, but they may recommend twice per year, depending on your dog's overall health. During the annual wellness exam, vets will look for potential symptoms of underlying illnesses and diseases.
Healthy pets can get away with going to the vet once per year. However, many adult dogs see their vets more often for the treatment of various health issues. At your pet's annual wellness exam, they may not have an underlying illness or symptoms. Your dog will also receive any yearly vaccinations or boosters at this time, which may include:
- Kennel cough
Some of these vaccinations may only be required every one to three years,2 so check with your vet to ensure you understand your dog's vaccination schedule and can comply with any local laws while protecting your pet from harm.
Additionally, your vet may ask for a fecal sample to check for worms and parasites and perform a blood test for heartworms. Meanwhile, if they notice your pet experiencing any symptoms of illness based on clinical signs or your feedback, they may recommend additional tests, such as a urinalysis.
Besides routine tests, your dog's physical exam will consist of an oral exam to look for signs of periodontal disease.2 Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, can cause serious pain and allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which increases the risk of other illnesses, such as heart disease. Therefore, your vet will want to look for signs of plaque and tartar buildup and may recommend professional dental cleaning or pulling infected teeth to prevent complications.
It's important to note that dogs can develop illnesses before the following year. For example, you may notice your dog scratching more than usual, which may mean they need allergy treatment. Meanwhile, dogs can have accidents that cause injuries that a vet must treat.
The annual wellness exam is a great time for pet parents to ask questions about their dog's behavior and health, so feel free to write down a couple of questions or concerns to discuss with your vet. For example, suppose your dog has been experiencing anxiety, and your vet has ruled out underlying health conditions. In that case, they can treat anxiety with medication while recommending a behavioral trainer or veterinary behaviorist you can work with in your area.
Senior dogs typically need more medical care than healthy adult dogs. Of course, when a dog reaches their golden years depends on their breed. For example, small dogs typically live longer than large breeds, so a small dog's senior years might start at age 12, while a large breed's senior years begin around age 7.
When your dog becomes a senior, most vets recommend bi-annual wellness exams, so expect to take them to the vet at least twice yearly.1 Senior pets will have the same routine testing as adults and puppies. However, since they're more prone to various health issues, such as heart and kidney disease, vets may perform further testing, including urine and blood tests.1
During these vet visits, you should mention changes in your pet's behavior, activity levels, and overall health to help vets determine which testing they should perform and detect potentially life-threatening diseases common in seniors.1 For example, if your dog has recently lost weight and is drinking more water and urinating more frequently, it might indicate diabetes. However, only your vet can determine if your dog has an underlying health condition and can provide the right treatment.
Signs Of Illness
While you should take your dog to annual or bi-annual wellness exams once they reach their adult and senior years, many dogs see their vets much more frequently. So how often should you bring your dog to the vet? That depends on whether they're healthy or experiencing signs of illness or disease.
Here are a few potential symptoms that may indicate your dog needs to see their vet as soon as possible:
- Changes in urination frequency
- Changes in water consumption
- Behavioral changes
In addition to illnesses, medical emergencies can happen at any point, and you shouldn't wait to take your dog to the vet if they're seriously injured or have ingested something they shouldn't. Signs of a serious medical emergency include the following:
- Broken bones
- Pain while walking
- Collapse or difficulty breathing
- Bleeding from mouth, nose, or eyes
- Repeated vomiting
- Hard abdomen
- Toxin ingestion
Frequently Asked Questions
Do dogs need a yearly check-up?
Dogs need a yearly check-up, also known as an annual wellness exam, to check for signs of illness. Unfortunately, dogs are good at hiding pain and can't tell you how they feel. However, during an annual wellness exam, a vet will perform some testing, such as fecal and blood testing, as preventive measures to detect health issues as early as possible.
Is it good to have pet insurance?
Pet insurance is essential for many pet parents and pets because it helps cover the cost of emergency care and accidents. If you've ever visited an emergency vet on a Sunday or late at night, you know just how expensive it can be to get your dog the necessary care.
Dutch's pet health insurance offers accident coverage up to $10,000/year to reduce in-person vet costs for pets due to accidents like toxic ingestion, broken bones, car accidents, and animal bites.
Is online vet care a substitute for in-person vet visits?
Dutch online vet care is a great supplement for in-person vet care. Pet parents can meet with a vet from the comfort of their homes to have their pets diagnosed and treated for various illnesses and diseases ranging from allergies and ear infections to behavioral problems.
However, telemedicine for pets can't replace some in-person services, such as surgeries, diagnostic testing, and emergency visits. That said, it can ensure your dog has access to quality care anytime, anywhere, and provides you with advice when you need it most.
Dutch offers pet parents unlimited virtual vet visits and follow-ups to ensure your questions are answered and concerns are addressed. Our network of vets are able to diagnose and treat a variety of health conditions, including anxiety, allergies, and more, all from the comfort of home. Plus, get prescriptions delivered directly to your door when you order with our partnered pharmacies.
Regular check-ups are crucial for dogs because they allow vets to detect and treat serious underlying illnesses as early as possible. During these visits, you can discuss any questions or concerns about your pet's behavior or health with your vet to improve their health at home. If you're unsure how often you should take your dog to the vet based on age, health, or breed, you can consult your vet for a personalized schedule for your pet's health.
How often should you take a dog to the vet? Ask a Dutch vet. Our licensed vets can provide you with everything from vaccination schedules to complete healthcare plans, diagnose and treat a wide range of dog health problems, and prescribe medication online. Try Dutch today.
"Wellness Visits: How Often Do Animals Need to Go to the Vet?" Brandywine Valley SPCA, 9 Feb. 1970, https://bvspca.org/wellness-visits-how-often-do-animals-need-to-go-to-the-vet/.
"Puppy Shots Schedule: A Complete Guide to Puppy Vaccinations." American Kennel Club, 14 Jan. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-shots-complete-guide/.
Johnstone, Gemma. "How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet? A Puppy to Senior Dog Vet Timeline." American Kennel Club, 25 Oct. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-often-should-i-take-my-dog-to-the-vet/.
Dr. Jerry Klein, CVO. "Should I Call My Vet? Know When to Ask a Vet's Opinion." American Kennel Club, 25 May 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/should-i-call-my-dogs-vet/.