When to Take a Puppy to the Vet for the First Time
Many puppy shelters and breeders start veterinarian visits for puppies before they release their little ones to new pet parents. You should receive paperwork that clearly states what type of care has already been provided when that occurred, and when you should schedule your puppy’s next veterinary visit.
Regardless of what the shelter or breeder has already done, scheduling a new puppy vet visit within a few days of picking up your new canine companion is always a good idea. This will allow the vet to review your puppy's records and provide any overdue care as soon as possible.
The doctor will also perform a complete physical examination and perhaps run some laboratory tests to identify any potential health concerns. It’s best to learn about problems as soon as possible before any health guarantees the breeder provides expire.
A typical vet schedule for puppies is for appointments to occur every 3 to 4 weeks starting when puppies are 6 to 8 weeks old and ending when they are 4 or 5 months old.
Most puppies start their vaccinations when they are 6 to 8 weeks old.
Puppies who receive their first vaccinations when they are older than 4 or 5 months of age can usually be caught up in two visits scheduled 3 to 4 weeks apart. Your vet may adjust this plan based on your puppy’s particular history and needs.
Before your appointment, you should collect as much information as possible.
Puppy’s First Vet Visit Checklist
- Any veterinary records you received from the breeder or shelter
- A written list of important questions
- Notes on how much of what types of foods and treats you have
- Dog carrier or crate lined with some old towels
- Leash and collar or harness
- Chew toy for distraction
- Small treats to reward good behavior
- Any forms provided by your vet that you have already filled out
- A stool sample, as fresh as possible
Small puppies will be more comfortable and secure in a crate. Do not expect to be able to hold your puppy in your arms as they encounter all of the new sights, sounds, and smells at the clinic. It is critical to bring a harness or leash with you to control your dog if they are stressed.
What to Expect During Your Puppy’s First Vet Visit
Veterinary staff will start the visit by asking you a series of questions about your puppy’s history and how they are doing at home, followed by:
- A weight check
- A complete physical examination, which includes
- Observing the puppy move around the exam room
- Looking at the whole body including the eyes, ears, nose, feet, nails, skin, coat, and genitalia
- Using a stethoscope to listen to the heart and lungs
- Checking reflexes
- Measuring temperature and pulse and respiratory
- Opening the mouth to check out the teeth, gums, and other structures
- Checking the eyes and ears
- Palpating the lymph nodes, joints, and organs within the abdomen
Throughout all the new puppy vet visits, the veterinary staff will discuss many important aspects of puppy care with you including
- Dental care
- Grooming needs
- Flea, tick, heartworm, and internal parasite control
- Vaccination schedules
- Exercise and play requirements
- Behavior and socialization
- Pet identification, including microchips and tags
- Reproductive health, including the benefits and risks of spaying and neutering
- Travel requirements
- Pet safety and disaster preparedness
- Diseases that can be spread from pets to people (and vice versa)
What to Ask the Vet on Your Puppy's First Visit
Your veterinarian should be able to provide you with all of the information you require to help your puppy thrive, but review the topics listed above. If your vet forgot to mention something or if the information they provided was unclear, don't be afraid to ask more questions.
If you're concerned about the cost of your puppy's first vet visit, contact the veterinarian beforehand. They should be able to give you an estimate.