Whether you’re thinking about getting a new pet, you’ve probably wondered what happens on their first vet visit. Let’s discusses what typically happens on your new pet’s first veterinary visit.
Veterinary Services on a Puppy’s Initial Visit
First, you need to establish your puppy’s health profile. That’s often established by filling out a questionnaire and talking with a veterinary technician along with your veterinarian. Starting with a questionnaire, your veterinarian will document basic information about your puppy. Typical information includes the puppy’s:
- Body temperature
Your veterinarian will also ask your basic contact information. The next step includes a more hands-on approach to evaluate your new puppy’s physical well-being in the exam room.
A stool sample for analysis is needed to determine if your puppy needs treatment for internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms. How do these internal parasites affect your puppy? Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine says:
“Roundworms look like spaghetti noodles when seen in the stool. Puppies may contract these worms from their mother prior to birth. Infection causes weakness and poor weight gain. These worms are zoonotic (can be transmitted to humans via fecaloral route).
Hookworms can be contracted by puppies from their mother’s milk. Infection may cause blood in the stool, poor weight gain, and low numbers of red blood cells. These are also zoonotic (can be transmitted to humans via fecal-oral route).
Tapeworm segments in the stool look like grains of rice. They are transmitted by fleas, rodents, and rabbits. Humans may be infected if they ingest fleas, but not by direct transmission from infected pets.
Whipworm infections may cause bloody diarrhea and/or mucous in the stool. At about six or eight weeks, a puppy typically receives vaccinations against common viruses including Lyme disease, distemper and parvovirus.”
Veterinarians also evaluate a puppy’s health by inspecting their teeth, ears, eyes and their coat for signs of disease. Joints are checked for proper functioning, along with listening to the heart and lungs for abnormal rhythms or sounds. Their reproductive organs, underside and stomach are all checked for signs of discomfort or abnormal organ development or a hernia. Common topics discussed include diet, play habits, behavioral concerns, house-breaking issues and any health concerns you or the puppy’s original owner may have raised.
“Prevention and early intervention through client education and screening for behavior problems [are recommended] at each appointment,” said Rachel Malamed, DVM, Dipl. ACVB. Malamed recommends that veterinarians “provide resources — handouts, books, websites, videos — [along with] inquire and answer questions on housetraining, the importance of early socialization, crate training, jumping, pulling on leash, chewing and appropriate chew toys, play biting, scratching, coprophagia, training devices, inappropriate use of punishment, body language, enrichment, exercise, risks of punishment and confrontational techniques, etc.”
If you adopt or buy a pet, bring whatever medical records you can to your first veterinary visit.
What Happens in an Adult Dog’s Initial Veterinary Visit
Like a puppy’s first exam, there are similar procedures for an adult dog’s initial veterinary appointment. In the article “What To Expect At The First Vet Visit For Your Adult Dog,” Petcha recommends being prepared for your first veterinary appointment by following instructions such as not giving your dog any food 12 hours prior to your appointment and having your adult dog’s records from all past veterinarians.
Dr. Katy Nelson, associate veterinarian at Alexandria, Va.-based Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre, agrees: Pet owners should be prepared to answer a full list of behavioral and medical related questions on their dog and have their dog’s records available before the appointment.
“My front desk staff should have already scanned in the medical records, and I should have already looked through them to familiarize myself with the patient prior to walking into the room with them,” Nelson said. “Tell me about your pet. How long have you had him? Where did you obtain him? Does he have major medical history? What’s his personality? Does he bite? How does he do at the veterinarian? Anything we should know prior to handling him? Did you bring a fecal sample? Now let’s talk household. Where do you live? High rise, apartment complex, townhouse, single family home, etc. In the city? In the country? On the water? Near the woods? Do you crate him when you leave?”
Your veterinarian needs to know your dog’s past and present exercise habits. That will help him or her make recommendations to maintain or modify their diet and exercise habits. Along with taking vital health signs, including your dog’s heart and respiratory rates, temperature and weight, your veterinarian will test your dog’s blood, urine and feces for parasites and diseases including Lyme and heartworm. If required, and after past records are reviewed, vaccinations for rabies, heartworm, distemper and other diseases are given.
A kitten’s first set of vaccinations are between six to eight weeks of age.
What’s Involved in a Kitten’s First Vet Exam
Similar to puppies, you’ll need to fill out a questionnaire about yourself and your new kitten. You’ll want to bring in any records that show any pre-existing health conditions or medical treatment from an adoption organization or a breeder.
During the initial appointment, your veterinarian will gather basic information on your cat including the kitten’s diet, how old it is, how long you’ve had the kitten, how active the kitten is and what other animals and human family members the kitten lives with. You’ll also want to mention how litter training is going. Dr. Nelson also highlighted the importance of litter boxes with felines.
“For kitties, talk to me about the litter box,” Nelson said. “How many do you have, where are they located, and what types of boxes are they? Are they indoor/outdoor? If they go outside, where do they go?”
You may be asked how many litter boxes your kitten or kittens have. As the Humane Society of the United States pointed out, if they are to close or already used by another cat, a kitten may not feel comfortable using a limited number of litter boxes. As the HSUS writes in their article, “Preventing Litter Box Problems:”
“It's not possible to designate a personal litter box for each cat in your household, as cats may use any litter box that's available. That means a cat may occasionally refuse to use a litter box after another cat has been in it. In this case, you'll need to keep all of the litter boxes extremely clean, and you might even need to add additional boxes. However, it's best not to place all the boxes in one location because your cats will think of them as one big box and ambushing another cat will still be possible.”
Along with a physical examination evaluating the kitten’s internal and external organs, similar to puppies, kittens should be screened for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Kittens also receive their first set of vaccinations between six to eight weeks of age, which prevent infection against panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and feline leukemia for kittens that live or socialize with other felines.
In an adult cat’s first veterinary exam, your veterinarian will examine your cat’s overall health before making any diet changes or exercise recommendations, if needed.
What’s Involved in an Adult Cat’s First Vet Visit
As Petcha explained, the purpose of a veterinary visit for an adult cat is to see cat’s current health profile and take common-sense precautions to maintain your animal’s longevity.
Similar to adult dogs, the first thing to expect is to have all previous records reviewed by the veterinarian and the pet owner complete an intake questionnaire. From there the cat’s weight will be measured and exercise regimen evaluated to determine if more play or a diet change is necessary. Vaccinations will be evaluated, especially rabies and cat-specific diseases including feline panleukopenia, herpes virus-1 and calicivirus. Other exams include an oral exam evaluating the animal’s tooth and gum health, along with a blood test measuring liver enzymes, kidney functioning and white and red blood counts.
Whether you’ve adopted or rescued a puppy, a kitten or a cat or a dog, better understanding what your vet needs from you and can help your veterinarian keep your furry friend happy and healthy for years to come!