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How Often Does My Pet Need To See The Vet?

Whether your pet looks forward to getting treats and attention from their vet and vet techs or they tremble the whole time, your veterinarian is your pet’s second best friend.

Take your dog or cat to the vet at least once annually to avoid vaccine preventable diseases, keep an eye on their health, and get personalized advice to help them keep feeling their best.

Your Pet’s First Vet Visit
Generally, you will want to schedule your pet’s first vet visit as soon as you can upon bringing them home. It may make sense to stop at the vet’s office first before taking them home for the first time.

For puppies and kittens, you’ll want to get those core vaccines started right away. Core vaccines for puppies usually include DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza) and a rabies shot. Kittens typically get their feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV1), feline calicivirus (FCV), feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV - kittens) and rabies vaccines.

Kittens and puppies need several rounds of vaccines starting at 8 weeks of age. Your veterinarian can give you a specific vaccine schedule and may recommend others depending on what illnesses are common in your region and whether or not your pet may be exposed to other pathogens at parks, daycare, grooming, or boarding.

Check-ups for Healthy Pets
If your pet is relatively healthy and you have no particular concerns, you can go up to a year without seeing your veterinarian.

At your yearly checkup, your vet will:

  • Ask you to bring a fecal sample to test for parasites.
  • For dogs, test for heartworm and refill their heartworm prescription.
  • Weigh your pet and assess your pet’s body condition.
  • Check your pet’s teeth and may recommend a professional cleaning.
  • Examine your pet's eyes, ears, nose, and abdomen for any visible signs of illness.
  • Possibly take a blood sample for a blood chemistry panel and complete blood count to assess liver values, enzymes, blood cells, and electrolytes.
  • Take a urine sample, if needed, to check for anything abnormal including protein, sugar, blood, or bacteria, which can be signs of an infection, metabolic disorder, or urinary tract issue.
  • If requested, trim nails.
  • If needed, express anal glands.
  • If needed, give booster vaccines or titer tests.
  • Answer any questions you may have about your pet’s health or care (bring a notepad!)

When To See Your Vet Between Checkups
Any concerning changes in your pet’s health warrant a vet visit. Changes in appetite, drastic changes in weight, itching, suspicious bumps, rashes, or changes in energy levels can all indicate that something is going on with your pet’s health. While some conditions happen gradually and may not warrant immediate care, others indicate that your pet’s life could be in danger. If your regular vet’s office is closed you can bring your pet to a 24/7 emergency vet.

What Warrants An Emergency Vet Visit?
If your pet’s life is in danger you may need an emergency veterinary appointment. If your vet’s office is not open you can take your pet to a 24/7 emergency pet hospital.

Emergency situations include, but are not limited to:

  • Possible or certain ingestion of a toxin.
  • Any time your pet seems to have trouble breathing.
  • Possible bloat. Bloat is a fatal condition that’s most common in large breed dogs but can happen to dogs of all sizes. Symptoms include non-productive retching, a distended belly, and excessive drooling.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that’s severe or lasts more than 48 hours.
  • Abnormal gum color, especially pale or yellow gums.
  • Any eye trauma or injury, discoloration, or dilated pupils.
  • Staggering or collapsing.
  • Lethargy or loss of consciousness.
  • Straining to urinate.
  • Tremors or seizures, especially if for the first time.

If you’re unsure if your pet can wait until morning to see your vet, give your emergency vet clinic a call. They can help you decide whether your pet needs emergency care.