- What’s a vet check-up and how often should my dog have one?
- What’s a pet wellness plan?
- When should I take my puppy to the vet?
- Do senior dogs need to see the vet more often?
- Do some dog breeds need to visit the vet more often?
- How often should I take my pregnant dog to the vet?
- Should I take my dog to the vet for grooming?
- Does pet insurance cover vet visits?
- Should I always take my pet to the vet if I think they’re sick?
- What’s a vet telehealth service?
- How do I choose a vet?
When it comes to our physical health, we all get a say. We can choose to eat or not eat that donut; we can go to the gym or go to the couch.
However, your dog doesn’t get much of say in theirs. Sure, they can choose to run after a ball or sit there scratching their ear, but how often they exercise, what they eat, and how often they go to the vet is down to us.
So, how often should you take your dog to the vet? Well, as a bare minimum they should have a check-up at least once a year, but there are other times and other reasons to go, and other factors to consider.
What’s a vet check-up and how often should my dog have one?
Veterinary check-ups can be made by a qualified vet or veterinary nurse. They will check several things, including your dog’s weight, the condition of their fur and skin, their eyes, their joints, and their teeth. They’ll also listen to their heart and lungs and may carry out diagnostic tests.
An adult dog should have a veterinary check-up at least once a year, although puppies, senior dogs and dogs susceptible to certain health conditions may require more frequent visits.
You can pay for a vet check-up out-of-pocket, or you can add a Wellness plan to your insurance policy to reimburse you for the cost.
What’s a pet wellness plan?
A wellness plan will cover not only an annual check-up but also other routine veterinary and preventative treatments like vaccines, worming, tick and flea treatment, and blood tests.
When should I take my puppy to the vet?
Puppies will require more visits to the vet, because a) they need to have various shots and checks as they grow, and b) like human babies, they tend to get sick more often than adults.
As a general rule, a puppy will have their first check-up at two to three weeks old, which means in most cases this would be arranged by the breeder, as puppies shouldn’t be removed from their mother before they’re eight weeks old. This visit will include a general health assessment and worm treatment.
They then get another check-up between six and eight weeks old, which again should be organised by the breeder. This time they’ll get their first vaccinations, flea and tick treatments, heartworm treatments, and the all-important microchip.
Once a puppy is with their pet parent(s), they will have other visits up to around six months of age, including further vaccinations at 12 and 16 weeks. This is a crucial period in your young dog’s life, so err on the side of caution and contact your vet if you think something’s not right or you want advice.
Your vet won’t judge you! In fact, they may encourage you to come in for regular wellness checks at that time. Many people go once a month until their puppy is six or seven months old.
Do senior dogs need to see the vet more often?
In the same way that puppies are like human babies, senior dogs are a bit like older people. Some diseases and medical conditions are age-related and, no matter how fit your old boy or girl, they will likely require a few more visits to the vet.
Diabetes, thyroid problems, joint and bone issues, heart conditions – all of these are more likely in older age. An annual check-up will usually test blood and urine, but you might want to go more frequently. You might also want to ask for diagnostic tests such as chest radiographs, ultrasounds, and blood pressure checks.
Be aware of changes in things like weight, coordination, behavior, thirst, and peeing, and mention these to your vet.
Senior dogs should have a minimum of one check-up a year, but many vets suggest twice-yearly so that any issues are picked up quicker.
Do some dog breeds need to visit the vet more often?
Statistically, the answer is yes – some breeds are more susceptible to specific health conditions, such as joint issues like hip dysplasia and ACL injuries, or breathing problems among flat-nosed brachycephalic dogs.
Each individual dog is different, though (which is why we love them), so this doesn’t mean your dog will need extra vet visits, even if their breed has more chance of having or developing certain medical conditions.
How often should I take my pregnant dog to the vet?
First of all, you should consult your vet before deliberately breeding with your dog. Pregnancy puts strain on a mother’s body and there are health risks attached. It should not be seen as ‘easy money’.
If you think your dog is pregnant, arrange a prenatal appointment with your vet. They will advise on diet and schedule visits for scans and checks.
Should I take my dog to the vet for grooming?
All dogs need grooming, with some breeds needing more attention than others (you only need to look at the variety of coats to realise that).
You can and should do much of this at home, but regular grooming by professionals is also a must, especially when it comes to clipping nails – dogs’ nails have nerves in them and it is extremely painful if you cut in the wrong place.
Many vets offer grooming services, or you can find a local specialist.
Does pet insurance cover vet visits?
Most policies will cover accidents and illness, although you need to check the details of your policy so you know which illnesses and conditions are excluded.
Your policy will have a deductible and reimbursement level, which affects the amount you pay, and may have a cap on the amount you can claim each year or per condition.
Some policies, like Paw Protect, will cover vet exam fees, while some do not. Even if they don’t, they will likely cover any follow-up treatment, which is the expensive part, often costing thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Vet health checks and all vet visits should be recorded on your dog’s medical records. It’s important you have access to these as insurers will usually want access to them when enrolling a pet or processing a claim.
Wellness plans, which cover many regular and preventative treatments, are usually add-ons to your accident and illness policy.
Should I always take my pet to the vet if I think they’re sick?
Being a pet parent comes with a ton of joy but also a good measure of worry, particularly around a dog’s health and behavior. The slightest lump, limp, whine or growl can have us thinking the worst.
This means that it’s very tempting to take your dog to the vet every time you think something might be up. But of course, it costs money – vet exam fees are covered by your Paw Protect policy but each time you claim you’re eating away at your annual deductible and will have to pay a small percentage of the cost.
If your dog has been in an accident or you think they could be seriously ill, always play safe and go to the vet or animal hospital. Symptoms such as – but not limited to – loss of consciousness, seizures, breathing difficulties, inability to stand, a fast or weak pulse, a rise or drop in temperature, or bloody stools could all signal something life-threatening.
You know your dog better than anyone, so use your judgement.
But if you’re unsure or your vet is closed, you could use a vet telehealth service.
What’s a vet telehealth service?
A vet telehealth or telemedicine service lets you talk to a qualified vet via phone, live chat or video chat about any health concerns you have for your pet. They’re becoming increasing popular because technology has made remote consultation easier – and because they’re fantastic.
How do I choose a vet?
Well, the first thing to do is search the web for vets close to your home – you don’t want a long journey if your pet is sick. A quick look on Google Maps will narrow your options.
Once you have a shortlist (though in some rural areas this might be a shortlist of one!) then it’s worth getting a second opinion – and a third and a fourth…
Look for online reviews, ask friends and neighbors, breed clubs – you could go and meet the vet and take a look at the surgery. Remember, this relationship could last your pet’s lifetime.
For further advice, we strongly recommend reading this page on the American Veterinary Medical Association website.