How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet

We all want the best for our pets. Keeping them healthy through regular veterinary visits is an integral part of helping our dogs live their best lives!

Takeaway Points

  • Just like us humans, dogs need regular check-ups! 
  • How often a dog should go to the vet is based on age and health factors.
  • There are different types of veterinary visits.
  • Pet insurance can help offset the cost of veterinary care.

How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?

Healthy adult dogs should see a veterinarian at least once a year. Their annual check-up will most likely consist of a physical exam, blood work, parasite screening, and updating any vaccines or parasite preventives that are due. 

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us how they are feeling so check-ups are essential for their well-being. Routine veterinary visits are the best way to keep your happy healthy pup well–happy and healthy!

If you have a puppy, senior dog, pregnant dog, or a dog with any health conditions such as a heart murmur or diabetes, veterinary visits will increase. Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog’s needs based on their age or ailment and advise on a check-up schedule. 

Puppy Visits

The first year of your puppy’s life will have many vet visits. This is to ensure your puppy remains healthy, parasite-free, meets all proper milestones, and completes their full series of vaccinations. 

Puppy vaccine schedules may vary based on the individual puppy’s age and health as well as environmental and location factors. Your veterinarian will take all of these things into account when setting up your puppy’s vaccine schedule.

Senior Dog Visits

Most dogs over age 7 are considered seniors. Just like us humans–as dogs age, they become more susceptible to developing health conditions. Regular screenings will help catch issues early when they are more manageable. Age-related health conditions for dogs can include arthritis, vision loss, diabetes, cancer, and diseases of the liver, kidneys, and urinary tract. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends twice-a-year check-ups for senior dogs. Senior check-ups will usually include more detailed screening including blood work and urinalysis. 

Emergency Visits

Any dog experiencing an emergency, sudden illness, or injury should see a vet right away! 

Planning ahead by identifying the closest emergency veterinary hospital to your home can help save precious time in an emergency situation. 

Common Veterinary Emergencies:

  • Trauma/Hit-by-car
  • Trouble Breathing or Choking
  • Pale Gums
  • Bleeding 
  • Lethargy, Collapse, or Sudden Loss of Mobility
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Cuts, Bites, or Open Wounds
  • Seizures
  • Heatstroke
  • Suspected GDV or Bloat 
  • Exessive Vomiting/Diarrhea or Vomiting/Diarrhea with Blood
  • Broken Bones
  • Eye Trauma
  • Burns and/or Smoke Inhalation 
  • Toxic Exposure or Ingestion
  • Pain & Swelling
  • Trouble Urinating

What Happens At A Veterinary Visit?

During a check-up, the veterinary team will review your dog’s history and ask questions about their behavior, lifestyle, energy level, appetite, and other things to help assess their overall health. They will also discuss vaccines, nutritional needs, and parasite preventatives. 

A veterinary physical examination will check your dog’s entire body from nose to tail. A blood, urine, or fecal test may be recommended to help screen for medical issues or parasites.

What Is Checked During A Veterinary Physical Examination?

Vital SignsObservation of mentation (mental activity), weight, temperature, pulse, heart rate, respiratory rate (breathing)), and capillary refill time
Heart & LungsListening with a stethoscope to check for any abnormalities such as arrhythmias, heart murmurs, or breathing issues
AbdomenExamined to check for any enlarged organs or masses
Body Observing weight, musculoskeletal system, gait, and checking for any pain, lameness or swelling of lymph nodes
Eyes & EarsChecked for signs of vision or hearing loss, trauma, or infection
Nose & ThroatEvaluated for any nasal discharge, inflammation, or other abnormalities
Mouth Examination of mouth, teeth, and gums to check for any dental issues, growths, or lesions inside the mouth
Skin & CoatChecked for any skin conditions, hair loss, parasites, lumps, or lesions
Gastrointestinal SystemEvaluated for any gastrointestinal disorders, parasites, stomach pain, gas, or bloating
Urogenital SystemEvaluated for any signs of underlying kidney disease or urinary tract infection

What If My Dog Needs Specialty Care?

Just as our own primary care doctors may refer us to a specialist, if an issue is found during a routine exam, your dog’s veterinarian may do the same. This is another reason why routine exams for your dog are so important! The earlier a health problem is identified the better the outcome.

There are a multitude of veterinary specialists for pets that need advanced care. If your veterinarian hears an abnormal heart rhythm they may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist. Or, if they feel a suspicious lump that may be cancer they may refer you to a veterinary oncologist. 

What Vaccines Does My Dog Need?

There are two categories of vaccines for dogs, core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those recommended (or in some cases required by law) for all dogs. Non-core vaccines are recommended depending on the dog’s location and exposure risk. 

Core Vaccines 

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus
  • Parvovirus
  • Parainfluenza

Non-Core Vaccines

  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Bordetella
  • Canine Influenza
  • Rattlesnake Toxoid

Vaccines are typically given every 1 – 3 years and can vary based on vaccine type, location,  and your dog’s individual needs. Your veterinarian will set a vaccine schedule for your dog that is appropriate. 

The American Animal Hospital Association’s vaccine calculator is a great tool to help pet parents plan ahead for their veterinary appointments. 

What Can Be Done For A Dog That Gets Anxious At The Vet?

Many dogs get anxious at the vet. It’s a very stimulating environment for them–lots of smells and other dogs, plus scary needles! A few preparations ahead of time can make your dog’s experience less stressful and make it easier on the veterinary staff as well.

Practice “exams” at home with your dog. Check their mouth, touch their feet, etc. Use lots of treats while doing this to help them have a positive association. If they are used to having these sensitive areas “examined” at home it will be less shocking for them when a stranger does it!

If your dog gets especially anxious in the waiting room or doesn’t do well around other dogs, speak to your veterinary care team ahead of time. Most are more than willing to make accommodations like having you check in from the car or put in a room right away. 

Take your dog for a walk outside the vet clinic before entering. Let them sniff and “investigate”. This will help them relax as well as get out any tummy troubles or nervous pee!

You may want to consider using a calming aid like Adaptil. These calming pheromones are recommended by veterinary behaviorists to help dogs relax during times of stress like during fireworks, car rides, or you guessed it–vet visits!

Lastly, but most importantly–bring treats! Having them snack on their favorite treat will help create a positive association with the process and a much needed distraction. 

What About Pet Insurance?

Pet Insurance is a great way to help cover your dog’s medical expenses. There are many options to choose from. Some plans include things like wellness or preventative care (annual check-ups, vaccines, etc.) and some are only for emergencies or illnesses (accidents, cancer treatment, etc). 

Pet owners should evaluate which plan fits their budget and their dog’s needs best. Most companies offer a free quote, it is recommended to get a few quotes since costs can vary drastically. It is also important to read the fine print on what is and isn’t covered. 

While costs can vary depending on many factors, the average monthly fee of pet insurance for dog owners in 2022 was around $35 per month

Some insurance companies pay direct-to-clinic while others require the owner to pay upfront and be reimbursed. Regardless of which plan you choose, an emergency savings account for your dog can help offset those costs. 
Overall, having some type of pet insurance plan is encouraged by most veterinary professionals and organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Lauren Rey

Lauren is a copywriter and content writer with a background in veterinary marketing and communications. Throughout her career, she saw many animals come through veterinary hospitals with preventable illnesses or injuries and took a special interest in pet owner education. Now she loves researching and writing about all things pets! Lauren lives in Florida but is always plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime, Pickles. Pickles is a rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!