Some people may not realize this, but getting a puppy spells a three-way relationship between you, your puppy, and your veterinarian. After all, pet care doesn’t stop when your puppy reaches a certain age or when he seems to be healthy and in shape. Pet care is a lifelong commitment to your puppy’s health and well-being.
This kind of commitment is what your veterinarian can gladly help you with during and well beyond the first crucial months of your puppy’s life.
“In my opinion, the most important thing that you get at the vet’s office is the expertise of the vet when they examine your puppy,” said Dr. Krista Magnifico, DVM, Founder of Pawbly.com and owner of the Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Jarrettsville, Md. “The real value lies in talking to the vet [and] listening to their advice.”
This open communication makes it easier for you to avoid health issues in your puppy before they even start.
When Do You Take a Puppy to the Vet for the First Time?
Even if your new puppy comes with documentation of up-do-date shots, you still want to take him to your veterinarian a few days after he comes home. This gives your veterinarian the opportunity to do a full physical on him, possibly perform blood and fecal tests, determine a schedule for his upcoming vaccinations, and begin a clinical record in his name. For the first time, you will have full control of your little bundle of fur’s healthcare.
This marks the first of his series of wellness examinations.
Vaccinations keeps your puppy safe from diseases.
Your Puppy’s Next Visits to the Vet
Your succeeding appointments can range from planned to unplanned. Just like a growing child, your puppy may run into health concerns over and above those your vet discussed with you during the first visit. Typically, a puppy’s vet visit calendar would have a spattering of these:
1) Wellness Examinations
A wellness examination is a routine medical checkup focused on keeping your puppy in the pink of health. Veterinarians recommend monthly early puppyhood wellness exams.
During a wellness exam, your vet will observe your pet’s general appearance, including:
- If he walks and stands sturdily;
- If he’s bright and alert;
- If he has appropriate body weight and body condition;
- If his fur has excessive dryness, oiliness, evidence of dandruff, and hair loss;
- If his skin is oily, dry, lumpy, has dandruff, or irregular thickening;
- If his eyes are red, have discharge, excessive tearing, lumps on the eyelids;
- If his ears have discharge, thickening, hair loss;
- If he’s breathing properly through his nose;
- If his mouth and teeth have tartar build-up, broken teeth, excessive salivation.
For an in-depth inspection, your vet will also check:
- If your puppy’s heart rate is normal;
- If his lungs sound clear or blocked;
- If his chest’s and hind leg’s pulse rates are normal;
- If there are lymph nodes and pain in the region of your puppy’s head, neck and hind legs;
- If your puppy has nerve problems in his legs and paws;
- If your puppy shows discomfort when felt around the abdomen.
2) Scheduled Vaccinations
Your puppy would’ve gotten natural immunity from his mother. But between 6 to 8 weeks old, that immunity would’ve worn off, leaving him vulnerable to a host of diseases. That’s why his shots are started around this time.
Vaccination is needed between 6 to 8 weeks, 10 to 12 weeks, and when the puppy reaches his 16th week. Generally, puppies get three to four series of vaccines, followed by annual shots, with additional boosters depending on the puppy’s life.
“Much like humans, every puppy has his own needs, lifestyle, and environment,” Magnifico said. “Therefore, the vaccine plan is tailored to the pet.”
However, even with a personalized vaccination plan, it is important to note that your puppy, like all other puppies, is prone to specific diseases. The AVMA recommends core vaccines designed to stimulate the immune system against infection before exposure to a disease.
These diseases include:
- Canine distemper: Puppies are most susceptible to this deadly, highly contagious disease. It’s the main reason puppies are vaccinated early. Distemper causes loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and blindness –escalating to a fatality rate of 90 percent of cases. Fortunately, the vaccination is very effective if given prior to the puppy’s exposure. First vaccination is given at 6 to 8 weeks of age, with additional vaccinations at 3- to 4-week intervals until 14 to 16 weeks old.
- Canine adenovirus: Another fatal, viral disease that causes infectious hepatitis, damaging the puppy’s liver. It spreads in places where large numbers of dogs are in close proximity, like pet shops. A persistent cough is the telltale sign of infection. Vaccination is given at 6 to 8 weeks of age.
- Canine parvovirus: A highly contagious disease that affects the digestive system, weakens the immune system and damages the heart. It can be lethal in puppies born to unvaccinated mothers. Vaccination is given at 6 to 8 weeks of age.
- Rabies: This is an incurable disease that affects the nervous system. What makes rabies so deadly is the fact that it’s transmittable between most animal species, including humans. Initial vaccination is given as early as 3 months of age. Law mandates regular rabies vaccination.
- Parasite Control: Demodectic mange is very common with puppies. Intestinal worms possibly passed to a puppy in utero or through mother’s milk cause it. Shots for round worms and heartworms aren’t part of AVMA’s Core Vaccinations, but since this disease is rampant, deworming has become a veterinary care staple.
Are there any side effects to vaccines? Dogster.com, in their article “A Guide to Your Puppy's First Round of Vaccines,” writes:
“There are rarely side effects to vaccines but there are a few serious ones that you should be on the outlook for.
- Swelling of face, neck, head or body.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Hives, or large swellings anywhere on the body.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Disorientation or poor co-ordination.”
Veterinarians are committed to a healthy, long-lasting relationship with you and your pet.
3) Unscheduled Health Concerns
- Ectoparasites: These are typically called flea and tick Infestations. Your veterinarian has a variety of topical products that can be safely applied to puppies 8 weeks and older.
- Spay/Neuter: If you don’t plan to breed, you can have your puppy neutered by your vet as early as 8 weeks until as late as 6 months.
- Diet and weight: Ask your vet if your puppy is at a healthy weight. If he isn’t, your vet will prescribe quality food and vitamins that provide the ideal sustenance for your growing puppy. Feeding guidelines should be given to you, too.
- Teething: The moment your puppy starts chewing ravenously into furniture, this is a sure sign of teething. This event erupts between 3 to 8 weeks in a puppy’s life. Your veterinarian will monitor your puppy’s permanent teeth as they come in, and treat any discomfort your puppy feels during this phase.
A lively, inquisitive little puppy can be quite a handful. So before taking your new puppy home, the first order of the day should be to puppy-proof your house. Toxic cleaning supplies should be hidden away from his reach. Small objects such as jewelry should not be out of swallowing distance. Baby gates should be secured atop staircases to prevent falls. A great deal of vet visits are due to accidents, which can be avoided if your house is puppy-safe.
So how many times do you plan to take your pet to the vet? With so many required reasons and unplanned occasions, it’s difficult to peg an exact number. The only natural thing to do is to choose a vet you and your puppy would be most comfortable having a long-lasting relationship with.