Pup Protocol

How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet? Monthly? Annually? Veterinarians Weigh In

Congrats on the new doggo! Here's how to keep it alive and healthy for as long as possible.

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How often you should take your dog to the vet depends on myriad factors, including your pup's age.

It's a wiener dog! It's so cute and small. You named him Oscar, like the hot dogs. He's already your kids’ best buddy. He hates the neighbors and loves Starbucks, and is basically your soulmate. So, you obviously want to keep him alive for as long as canine-ly possible. That means taking him to the vet. You may be thinking, Yeah, but how often should I take my dog to the vet? How many of those costly veterinary appointments should you be making? Well, it turns out the answer isn't so simple — and is probably more often than you'd expect.

You may have budgeted for fancy food, yearly license renewals, and regular grooming. If you're particularly organized, you may have even thought to start a dog emergency fund. But did you budget for routine vet visits? If not, you definitely should. Feel your mouth go dry? You will financially recover from this. You just have to do a little more prep than you initially thought when you first fell for that doggie in the window. (Ruff, ruff!)

Here's how often you should take your family doggo to the vet, directly from the veterinarian's mouth.

How often should your dog see the vet?

There's a bit of debate on this between vets. Plus, many factors are at play, like whether your dog is a puppy or a senior. And whether you are familiar enough with dog behaviors and issues. Dr. Amanda Takiguchi, a veterinarian, & Founder of Trending Breeds, suggests yearly visits for younger dogs, as long as your dog remains healthy and up-to-date on vaccines.

"Yearly, if there are no problems, until mid to late adulthood," says Takiguchi. "After that, twice a year with labs if no problems. It's recommended to have a health check annually (bearing in mind these days, boosters only need to be given every three years other than for Lepto and rabies where needed legally)."

Of course, there are other reasons aside from vaccines that make yearly visits so important.

"Some people like to go once a year, have a blood panel done, teeth and ears checked, and a general exam," says Takiguchi. "That way, you have a borderline to work with if he gets sick later. Of course, you need rabies. It's the law. If you don't have current rabies and your dog bites someone, they will most likely put it down."

Oh, no! Are you up-to-date on that rabies vaccine? Takiguchi explains the rabies vaccine schedule perfectly. "You need a one-year rabies, then in a year, you get a three-year, and from then on, every three years."

When are dogs most likely to need more vet visits?

As previously mentioned, most experts suggest older dogs need more regular visits. Senior dogs should see the vet every six months. Unsure what constitutes a "senior" dog? Your vet can give you a more specific number, but it's typically around 10 years old for large dogs and only eight years for smaller pups.

Many new puppy owners also find multiple vet visits useful or almost necessary. Puppies do, after all, require numerous vaccines and boosters during their first year. Plus, as they adjust to being away from their mamas in a new home and possibly eating new foods, you may find yourself with a doggo whose behavior just doesn't seem "right." If their poops are loose or they're getting sick a lot, you might need an additional vet appointment — just to make sure everything is OK.

How do you know if your dog is sick or injured enough to go to the vet?

"I took my dogs, cats, and horses when something went wrong. I was a big rescuer, worked as a vet tech, so I was very good at monitoring everyone's health," shares Dr. Takiguchi.

Not everyone has as much experience with dogs, though. If this is your first pup, everything might seem potentially problematic. Takiguchi shared that there are certain things to look out for when you think your dog is sick. The following warning signs warrant a vet trip:

  • Stops eating or drinking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea for a couple of days
  • Temperature of 102 and up, especially when paired with any of the above symptoms
  • Difficultly or rapid breathing
  • Changes in urine or stool
  • A consistent lack of energy or lethargic behavior
  • Incredibly poor balance or difficulty moving
  • Red, irritated, or very weepy eyes
  • Prominent rashes or drastic changes in skin texture, hair color, or hair loss

What are some tips for getting an anxious dog to the vet?

Erin Scott is a long-time rescue volunteer, creator of Dog Health Journal, and host of Believe in Dog. She knows how stressful vet visits can be for your pooch and offered some really great insight on what to do to ease Fido's fears.

"When calling to make your dog's vet appointment, let them know you have an anxious dog," Scott suggests. "Ask if it would be OK if you either 1) call the vet office when you arrive and let them know you're waiting in the car with your anxious dog; or 2) you can exit the car and enter the vet office to let them know that you and your dog are there and ask them to wave to your car when ready for you, then you can return to your car to wait with your pup."

Raise your hand if that seriously never crossed your mind. If you feel the need to apologize profusely for the "inconvenience" or this new routine, don't. Veterinarians deal with anxious dogs all day long. They'd probably rather wave you in than have to clean up a mess when your petrified pup eliminates himself on their floor. Scott does offer one word of warning, though.

"Please note for option 2, not to leave dogs in a hot car unattended and may need to bring a 2nd person along for supervision," she says. "As a long-term solution, you can make a point to bring your dog to the vet office at off-times (when the office isn't busy) and have the staff give treats to your dog, and then leave. This helps your dog develop confidence and a positive association. In a COVID/post-COVID world, this would be something you'd want to call and ask if your vet office allows. I would also suggest finding a Certified Fear-Free Veterinarian."

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