Routine checkups are important for any dog, but the first veterinary appointment for your puppy is critical to setting them up for a long, happy and healthy life. Here, our Avon vets explain the benefits of your puppy's first appointment and what is involved in the process.
Why is my puppy's first checkup so important?
Preventive care is important for any dog. It helps to protect your pup against uncomfortable and dangerous health issues, puts a stop to parasites trying to make a home in your pet's body, and sets them up for a long, successful and healthy life. This is even more true for puppies than for adult dogs. Your new puppy's first year is the most vulnerable time for their immune system.
Because of this, the vaccines, parasites preventive treatments and physical checkups afforded by your puppy's first veterinary exam, as well as the subsequent exams during the first period of their life, will help to protect them from developing health issues that may have severe consequences throughout the rest of their lives.
Catching potential health issues including congenital defects, parasites, ear infections, or gastrointestinal issues early, before obvious symptoms appear, means that treatment can begin early when it is most effective.
When should I bring my puppy in for their first checkup?
Generally speaking, puppies should have their first veterinary appointment scheduled for when they are around 6 weeks old. At this appointment, our vets will walk you through how frequently you will need to bring your dog to see us for subsequent exams throughout their first year to ensure they get all of the vaccinations and preventive care they need.
As your puppy grows into an adult, the frequency with which they will need to come in for veterinary exams will significantly decrease, down to once each year. However, if your pup has a pre-existing condition that affects their health or the efficacy of their immune system, they may need to have checkups more often to ensure they are able to maintain their health and well-being.
What's involved in my puppy's first veterinary appointment?
Like with other 'firsts' fr medical appointments, one of the first things you can expect from your puppy's veterinary appointment is filling out some paperwork and taking care of some important administrative work. This is to help ensure that your vet has all of the information they need about your puppy on file like the breed, age, name and more. Our vets may ask you some questions about your pet's hereditary health history (if you know it), temperament and more.
This initial discussion is a great opportunity for you to not only give detailed answers to your vet's questions to ensure they know everything they can about your dog's health, but also to ask questions of your own!
We may have asked you to bring in a sample of your pet's stool in order to do a fecal exam. We will take that sample and examine it for signs of common intestinal parasites which would be very difficult to detect otherwise.
After these initial steps, your veterinarian will perform a physical checkup of your pet which will usually include any or all of the following:
- Listening to your pet's heart and lungs
- Checking your animal's weight, stance, and gait
- Checking your pet's eyes for signs of redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Inspecting the pet's coat for overall condition, dandruff, or abnormal hair loss
- Looking at your pet's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Looking at your pet's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Examining the condition of your pet's teeth for any indications of periodontal disease, damage or decay
- Examining your dog or cat's skin for a range of issues from dryness to parasites to lumps and bumps (particularly in skin folds)
- Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
- Feeling along your pet's body (palpating) for any signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain
All of these tests are meant to detect signs of any health problems your pet may be experiencing. Since our dogs and cats can't tell us when they are uncomfortable, these tests and checks help to determine how your furry friend is generally feeling.
What about getting my puppy their shots?
Vaccines are designed to protect dogs against common, contagious and life-threatening diseases. For puppies, this is critically important. Your young dog's immune system won't have fully developed and, unless you have them vaccinated throughout their first year, they may remain susceptible to very dangerous diseases such as parvovirus.
While your puppy may be too young to receive vaccinations at their first appointment depending on when it is scheduled, your vet will always be sure to walk you through when they will be ready to receive their core vaccines ot help keep them safe. Our vets will also explain any recommended and optional vaccinations they think may be suitable for your pup based on their lifestyle.
Core vaccines for dogs and cats are recommended for all pets, whereas lifestyle vaccines are most often recommended for pets that are regularly in contact with other animals. To learn more about the vaccines recommended for your puppy, check out our vaccine schedule.
Adult pets will need to be provided with 'booster shots' on a regular basis in order to maintain their protection against disease. Your vet will be sure to let you know when your dog's booster shots are due as they come up.
Does my puppy really need parasite prevention?
Parasites can be a very serious health concern for dogs in the Avon area. Mosquitos and ticks carry parasites that can invade your pet's body, causing possibly fatal conditions. This goes doubly for puppies' developing immune systems. Because of this, our vets will strongly recommend that you begin parasite preventive treatments for your dog within their first year to help keep these pests from setting up shop in your canine companion's body.
Parasite prevention can help to protect your pet from conditions such as:
- Lyme Disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.