Responsible pet owners should take their dogs to the vets frequently. Given the relatively short lifespans of dogs, it’s important to have regular checkups so any illnesses or disease can be detected quickly.
If you have what appears to be a healthy dog, it can be tempting to forego regular vet appointments. I don’t recommend that though, as some issues can develop undetected to the naked eye for a long time before becoming more serious.
Based on that, just how often should you take a dog to the vet for checkups?
I recommend adult dogs go the vets as frequently as once a year for health checks. Puppies are different and need more regular checkups up to the age of 18 months, going to the vets every 3 to 4 weeks until 4 months old. Senior dogs should go twice a year.
However, if your dog has a pre-existing health issue, you should take them to the vet more often.
To explain why and what type of regular checkups you should be taking your dog to the vet for, scroll down. It also outlines how frequent the visits to vets should be and what to expect during each checkup.
How often should you go to the vets?
As you see, how often one should a take a dog to the vet for checkups will depend on the dog’s health and age. Below I’ve outlined how many times you should a take my dog to the vet when healthy, when old, and as a puppy.
1. How often puppies should go to the vet
Puppyhood is the most crucial period for vet checkups and requires more regular visits during their developmental stage. Visiting the vet frequently will mean your puppy has the best chance of a long and healthy life during adulthood.
Puppies start going for check-ups when they are as young as 2 to 3 weeks old. That’s because they need to begin deworming early enough.
Breeders and dog shelters normally handle these initial vet visits before releasing young puppies to their new parents.
So, if you’ve adopted a puppy, it’s generally recommended you take them to a vet every 3 to 4 weeks. However, the vet may adjust this schedule depending on your puppy’s health history.
Puppies must see the vet quite often to ensure they are properly vaccinated and dewormed.
Your young canine friend has an immature immune system. They can easily fall sick if they aren’t on a vaccination or de-worming schedule.
Some of the serious conditions that vaccines seek to protect puppies against include:
- Distemper: A viral and potentially fatal disease that affects a puppy’s nervous system
- Canine parvovirus: A viral infection (and highly contagious) that causes acute gastrointestinal complications in puppies.
- Canine hepatitis: A contagious viral illness that affects organs like a puppy’s liver, lungs, kidneys, and spleen.
- Bordetella (or kennel cough): A potentially fatal respiratory illness.
- Rabies: A deadly viral infection that attacks a puppy’s brain cells and spinal cord.
Your puppy should have received all these vaccines by the time they turn 16 weeks of age (4 months). They will also need booster shots when they are 20 weeks old (5 months).
As for deworming, frequent vet visits are necessary so your puppy receives deworming medications or injections.
Worm infection is among the most common illnesses in puppies, and some symptoms can be life-threatening. When your little furry friend doesn’t miss any deworming medication, they will be safe from hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms.
Experts say our young canine friends should be dewormed every two weeks until they turn 12 weeks old (3 months of age). And after they hit three months old, deworming should be a monthly thing until they’re six months old.
But the deworming journey doesn’t end there.
When your puppy is finally an adult, they will still need to deworm after every three months, but that they don’t have to visit the vet to receive medication. You can deworm them at home by strictly following your vet’s directives.
It’s also worth mentioning that puppies need to see the vet when they hit six months old to undergo spaying or neutering.
Your vet will physically examine your puppy during these appointments. You’ll also get to discuss several aspects of your puppy’s overall care with your vet — getting rid of external parasites, nutrition, grooming needs, dental care, and so on.
Your furry friend’s puppyhood experiences will be filled with vet checkups. This may be quite a financially and time-demanding period for you, but it’s for the best.
2. How often do adult dogs need to go the vet
Adult dogs (one year of age and above) don’t need to go to the vets as often as puppies do. Adult dogs only really need a full body check-up once a year. But if your adult dog has a unique health issue, the vet visits will likely be more than once.
Your dog will undergo an annual wellness exam during this yearly checkup. This exam allows the vet to examine your dog’s overall health status.
Apart from a weight check, here are other things to expect when you take your dog for these annual vet visits:
- A thorough inspection of your dog’s eyes, ears, paws, joints, nose, and genitalia.
- Professional dental cleaning.
- Listening to the lungs and heart.
- Observing how your dog stands or walks.
- Looking for any health irregularities.
Your dog will also be vaccinated. These yearly vaccines are simply booster shots of the vaccines your dog received throughout puppyhood.
In other words, your dog can still get rabies, parvovirus, distemper, or hepatitis as an adult, hence the need for yearly booster shots to prevent infections and improve immunity.
Your vet will also offer helpful suggestions on important matters like your canine pal’s diet, activity level, dental care, and controlling external parasites.
3. How often old dogs should be taken to the vets
When your dog hits the 7-years-old mark, they’re considered a senior dog, and at this age, more frequent visits to the vet should be organized.
Older dogs tend will often suffer with age-related health issues that progress faster without early diagnosis and special care. For this reason, experts say that you should take senior dogs to a vet twice a year.
But if your senior dog already has a pre-existing medical condition, they should be seen more than twice a year. This will help the vet monitor any changes in the illness’s progression and customize your dog’s treatment plan for better health outcomes.
When taking your dog for these semi-annual health checkups, here are a few things to expect:
- Weight check: Weight gain or loss in senior dogs can be a sign of an age-related condition.
- Physical exam: The vet will assess every part of your dog’s body, including the eyes and ears, to catch any infections sooner than later.
- Blood work and urinalysis: To check any unusual changes in your dog’s blood cells and vitals like kidneys and liver.
- X-ray and ultrasound monitoring: To check the health status of internal organs and identify early arthritis or any other joint issue.
- Dental check-up: And cleaning if need be.
- Nutrition and diet: An assessment of your dog’s nutrition program.
- Vaccinations: But suited for senior dogs
You’ll also get to chat with your vet about potential age-related problems your dog will experience as they age. They will also offer appropriate dietary and exercise recommendations, among other lifestyle improvement tips.
FAQs on how often dogs should go to a vet
Recap: How often do dogs need to go to the vet?
As mentioned earlier, puppies must go for vet checkups every 3 to 4 weeks. Adult dogs need to go for health checks once a year (and more if they have existing health problems), and for senior dogs, it should be twice each year (and more if they have a medical problem).
How often should you take your dog for a routine health check?
If you have a puppy, they should go for a routine health check every 3 to 4 weeks. If it’s an adult dog, the health checks are normally once per year. As for senior dogs, they should go for checkups twice a year.
But if your dog has an existing medical problem, the vet number of routine health checks will be more than the generally recommended.
How often do dogs need shots?
The Royal Veterinary College have very clear guidance on how often dogs need shots. Here’s a quote from them:
“Although getting your dog vaccinated when it is very young is very important – it is equally important to keep your dog vaccinated throughout its life. How often should dogs be vaccinated after their first inoculations? We recommend that dogs receive a ‘booster’ vaccinations every 12 months.”
I haven’t taken my dog to the vet in years
If this sounds like you, then please act. It’s not ok to not take a dog to a vet. They should be seen at least once a year for a checkup. Not taking your dog for an annual vet visit is hugely irresponsible.
Taking your dog for regular and frequent routine checkups with the vet is the surest way to keep them in good health. But how often should they go for these checkups? If you’re not so sure still, please ask your vet for individual advice.
Dog ownership comes with serious responsibilities, the greatest being taking care of your dog’s health needs.
While we all want our lovely four-legged companions to experience happy, healthy lives, this can’t happen without regular health checkups with a vet.
There’s a popular myth that dogs don’t need to see the vet unless they show obvious signs of illness. Well, this myth remains just that — a myth.
Dogs still need to undergo checkups even when they aren’t showing any sickness symptoms.
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