Ideally, your puppy’s first vet visit should take place within the first few days after bringing your puppy home. Once you’ve got him settled (refer to this article, Preparing for a New Puppy), get him acquainted with your family, get him squared away at home as far as food, water and food bowls, toys, a doggy bed to sleep in – it’s OK to take a few days to get all that accomplished. But your puppy’s first vet visit should take place within the first week at most.
First Order of Business – the Cost
First, read this article, Help with Vet Bills. I strongly recommend doing two things as soon as you get your puppy:
If you get pet insurance right from the beginning, you will save thousands over your pet’s lifetime on vet bills. If you wait until the dog is diagnosed with an expensive disease, you may not be able to get pet insurance because it will be considered a “pre-existing illness.” Getting insurance for a puppy is inexpensive, and will pay off bigtime later in life when the dog’s medical expenses start adding up. For more information, read my article, Is Pet Insurance Worth it For Dogs?
Signing up for CareCredit helps a lot too, because this is a credit card that is accepted by many veterinarians and there are little or no interest charges for a long time if you use it to pay vet bills.
*NOTE: Make sure you check before your appointment to make sure the vet you’re choosing accepts your pet’s health insurance, and CareCredit if you choose to use these to pay.
Bring Previous Medical Records. First, gather any previous records you may have relating to your puppy’s medical history to take with you to the appointment. If, for example, you adopted your puppy from a local SPCA or shelter, they probably gave you paperwork regarding any shots the puppy may have received, the age and date of birth of the puppy, and breed information.
Get a Doggy Car Seat. I strongly recommend purchasing some sort of car seat for your dog before you try to take him anywhere. I had this one for my miniature dachshund, Taz. She liked it because she could sit high enough to see out the windows while we’re traveling. Larger dogs can benefit from an auto harness (like a seat belt). Never allow your dog to roam around the car freely while you’re driving. It can cause an accident!
I once had a mini doxy, who had been comfortably relaxing on the back seat just a few seconds earlier, crawl under the driver’s seat and insert herself directly under my gas and brake pedals! I almost cracked up the car! And they can be distracting too. It’s just dangerous – get them belted in just like a kid! 🙂
By the time you get to the vet’s office, you might already be a little bit frazzled because you’ve just traveled by car with a puppy who was probably less than well behaved on the way! And your puppy (and you!) might be a little nervous. Sometimes the waiting room can be a little crazy, if it’s a busy day and the room is filled with several nervous pets and their owners. Here are some tips to make things run as smoothly as possible:
Arrive on time. If everyone arrives at their appointments on time, it will make the day’s schedule run much more smoothly for the doctors and staff – eliminating unnecessary wait time for everyone.
Make sure your puppy is on a leash. (I actually recommend a harness instead of a leash. They are less of a choking hazard, make training the dog much easier, and prevent collapsed trachea issues later in life).
Don’t allow your puppy to approach other pets. Even though your puppy might be excited to make new friends, the other pets in the room may not feel the same way. Senior dogs, for example, often have no use for puppies and may snap. Cats – well, do I even have to say it? – will scratch your puppy’s face and draw blood if they don’t want to be approached! Not to mention the other animals may be there because they are ill – making it unpleasant to socialize, and also dangerous if the animal has something that is contagious.
Also, some owners have trouble controlling their pet in the waiting room at the vet’s office. These owners won’t appreciate having to deal with your puppy’s advances as well. This rule applies to children also. Don’t allow your kids to approach pets in the waiting room without first asking permission from the owner.
Let your puppy pee before entering the building. The staff at vet’s office are most certainly ready, willing, capable, and used to cleaning up pet messes! But preventing it makes it easier for everybody. Also, your puppy will be a little more comfortable during the wait if he doesn’t have to go potty.
Don’t hesitate to say something if someone is bothering you or your puppy. If other pets or children are invading your space, feel free to say something. You might say something like, “He’s a little nervous – I think it would be best if we let him be.” If your puppy is particularly frightened or ill, ask the receptionist if you can wait in an available exam room instead of in the waiting room.
Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam on your puppy which will include looking into your puppy’s eyes and ears, and looking into his mouth to check his teeth. He will listen to your puppy’s heart, and feel around on his belly and abdomen. Your puppy’s weight will also be taken and noted.
Questions You Might Like to Ask Your Vet
While your vet is performing the physical examination, feel free to ask questions. Here are some suggestions:
How much does my puppy weigh? How much food should I be feeding him each day?
Do you see any problems or issues with my puppy’s health?
Ask your vet about inserting a microchip – a tiny device injected under the puppy’s skin to help locate him if he should ever get lost. These last for life.
Your vet will likely deworm your puppy at his first visit to prevent intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms This is important, as this can be a major health risk to puppies and some parasites can be transmitted to other animals – and humans!
Dogs are most susceptible to infectious, deadly diseases during the first 3 to 9 months. Depending on your puppy’s age, he may have already gotten his first few shots already. Make sure you show your vet any shot records you’ve been given by the puppy’s previous owner or shelter.
Vaccinations are usually recommended for all puppies. These vaccines help to prevent infectious or even deadly diseases including hepatitis, distemper, parinfluenza, parvovirus, bordetella, lyme disease, coronavirus, giardia, and prophyromonas. Your veterinarian will be able to determine which vaccinations your puppy should receive.
Your vet would likely agree that you should establish healthy habits right from the start regarding your puppy’s health.
Dental Care. Providing proper dental care for your puppy, for example, is something you should start when they are young so they won’t be afraid of getting their teeth brushed. My elderly doxy would not allow me to brush her teeth. I wish whoever owned her as a puppy would’ve started and maintained this practice – if they had, perhaps it could’ve prevented the THREE dental surgeries this poor little dog had later in life. She’s had to have so many teeth pulled due to decay, that she only had 12 teeth left. 🙁
Nail Clipping. Puppies’ nails grow fast. If nails aren’t trimmed on a regular basis (or of they don’t wear down naturally), they can cause pain, cut into the pads of their paws, or even break off. I suggest watching this video, How to Trim Your Pet’s Nails. Learning to do this yourself at home will save you a lot of trips to the vet for nail clippings, and save you a ton of money as well! And just like with the dental care, it’s best to start early so they get used to having it done. You can also refer to my article, How to Trim a Dog’s Nails at Home for more help.
Prevention is Key
Taking our puppy to the vet regularly is the best way to 1) learn how to properly care for him and 2) prevent serious illnesses in the future. I hope this article has helped. Please comment below if you have any questions or would like to give more ideas and suggestions! Enjoy your new puppy!
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