If you have a new puppy or are preparing for one, your world is full of exciting firsts. One of the most important (and potentially overwhelming) of these is your puppy’s first vet visit.
But there’s no need to panic, because preparation is key. Keep reading to find out when to take your new puppy to the vet, what to expect from the visit, questions to ask, and checklists to help make your puppy’s first veterinary visit a success.
When Do Puppies Need to Go to the Vet?
Puppies should see a veterinarian as soon as possible—even if they just had an exam with the breeder or shelter. Ideally that would be before you even get your puppy home, especially if you have other pets. Even healthy looking puppies can carry diseases that can easily be passed to a new family, but your veterinarian can start treatment immediately.
If it’s not possible or feasible to get your puppy to the vet the day you get her, your puppy’s first vet visit should be scheduled within the first few days of taking her home.
After the first visit, your puppy will see the vet several times over the next few months. Vaccines are administered every 2-4 weeks until your puppy is at least 16 weeks old or they have had 2-3 doses of vaccines against the common infectious diseases. The exact timing and number of doses will depend on your puppy’s breed and her expected lifestyle.
Pre-Visit: How to Prepare in Advance
There are a few things you can do to prepare for your puppy’s first vet visit ahead of time.
Find a Veterinarian
If you don’t already have a veterinarian, the first step is to select one. Often friends and neighbors will have a veterinarian they trust for their own pets. You can also look at Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews or find a veterinarian certified as Fear Free. If evening or weekend appointments are important to you, consider a clinic’s business hours when choosing a vet.
Gather Paperwork and Medical Records
Once you schedule the appointment be sure to gather all the paperwork and other information you have about your puppy so you can share it with your veterinary team. If possible, request previous medical records from any veterinarian who has seen your puppy in the past. Write down or take a picture of the food label and treats your puppy eats, so you can share that information with your vet.
Pull Together Questions
To best take advantage of your time with your veterinary team, bring a list of questions. While questions should be specific to your puppy and any of your concerns, we’ve prepared some questions to consider below.
Prep Your Pup’s Food for Exam Day
On the day of the appointment don’t feed your puppy for several hours before the exam. Instead, bring her food and favorite snacks with you. This way your veterinary team can use the food during the exam to reduce stress and encourage cooperation.
Pick Up a Poop Sample if Possible
If your puppy poops within a few hours of your appointment time, bring the sample for your veterinarian to test.
What to Expect from Your Puppy’s First Vet Visit
Your puppy’s first vet visit can feel overwhelming. Fortunately your veterinary team is there to support you and offer recommendations based on their experience, education, and current guidelines for the highest level of care.
Here’s what you can expect from the first visit.
Intake and Your Puppy’s History
A veterinary assistant or veterinary technician will likely be the first person you meet. He or she will ask you questions about your puppy’s history. Answer as much as you can but don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. Bring any medical and vaccination records you have from the breeder, shelter, or rescue group.
Vital Signs and Basic Testing
The veterinary assistant will then take your puppy’s vital signs (heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature) and will likely collect a fecal sample for parasite testing. At some clinics it is the assistant or technician who talks to you about vaccines, parasite testing, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick control. In other clinics the veterinarian will discuss these important topics.
Physical Exam and Vaccines
Next, the veterinarian will go over the history you provided and perform a complete physical exam on your puppy. The physical exam includes examining the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, listening to the heart and lungs, palpating the abdomen, and checking for normal movement of the joints. Your veterinarian will also check for birth defects and provide an initial overall assessment of your new pet’s health. He or she will then administer vaccines that you elect for your puppy.
After the exam and vaccines, your vet will discuss important milestones for the puppy, including potty training, spay or neuter, and behavior training. This is the time for you to ask any questions you may have (see our suggested list below) or address any concerns.
Your puppy’s first vet visit is likely to last one hour or more and cost between $100 and $200, though costs can vary depending on geographic location, selected vaccines, suggested medications, and other treatments. Each vaccine booster visit is likely to cost $75 to $150. Heartworm prevention as well as flea and tick control will be prescribed as single doses until your puppy nears her adult size.
Questions to Ask At Your New Puppy Vet Visit
Preparing a list of questions to ask your veterinarian ahead of time will help you make the most out of your puppy’s first vet visit. Here are some suggestions for discussions based on common puppy topics.
- What should my puppy eat?
- How many times a day should she eat?
- When do puppies switch to adult dog food?
Socialization, Behavior, and Training
- When can my puppy go to the pet store/dog park/groomer?
- Do you recommend crate training?
- How long can she stay in her crate?
- How do you potty train a puppy?
- How much exercise does my puppy need?
- How do I socialize my puppy?
- Do you recommend any local trainers or puppy classes?
General Health & Safety
- How often does my puppy need to come to the vet?
- Why do I need to vaccinate my puppy?
- When should I spay or neuter my puppy?
- Should I microchip my dog?
- How many times a day should my puppy poop?
- Are there any health concerns specific to my puppy’s breed(s)?
- Does my puppy need flea and tick prevention?
- What is heartworm disease and why is prevention important?
- Should I buy pet insurance?
Post-Visit: Reminders for New Pet Parents
As you take your new puppy home to get settled in, keep the conversations with your veterinarian going. Just because you’ve left the clinic doesn’t mean you can’t have your questions answered and concerns addressed.
You can call or email your veterinarian anytime. Usually you will have to leave a message but your veterinarian or a knowledgeable team member will call back to answer your questions.
Start to enact the plan your veterinarian made for you. Whether that is crate training, potty training methods, or feeding styles, start to incorporate them into your puppy’s day.
Put your puppy’s next appointment time in your calendar as well as a recurring reminder to give your puppy her flea and tick and heartworm prevention on the same day every month.
Most importantly, enjoy time with your new puppy as you get to know each other!