The short answer: Have the pup meet the vet within the first week of bringing him or her home. This is, at least, my humble veterinary opinion.
Some breeders give you a finite period to take your puppy in to see the vet, so read the fine print on your contract. Some breeders even have some pretty dire threats and consequences if you don’t get the puppy in within the first 72 hours after taking it home.
I have some clients who come in the very moment they get the pup, which is totally fine. The only downside is that you don’t have a feel yet for the puppy’s personality as far as reporting that info to me. Also, it’s pretty common for pups to get some GI upset upon starting their new life (usually due to stress, a new diet, or parasites). If you rush right from the breeder or shelter to the vet, you might not know this is going to happen till after you get home, which could result in vet visit #2. The point is, I think it helps to have the puppy settle in for a day or two, and then bring him in.
The purpose of the new puppy visit is for the vet to look over the pooch and establish whether or not there are any health issues to be concerned about. I’m looking for congenital abnormalities; birth defects like hernias, cleft palate, heart defects, etc.. I look for evidence of parasites, both internal (this is where you can earn a gold star by bringing in a sample of the puppy's poop so we can check for worms and other pathogens), and external (fleas, mites, ticks, etc.). I look for signs of infectious disease, but bear in mind that the pup can be incubating some horrible virus like Parvo or Distemper for 7-10 days before it gets sick. (This is why the 72-hour sickness clause in some breeder contracts irritates me. What if the puppy gets sick in five days instead of three, when there’s a good chance he was exposed when he belonged to the breeder?)
I’ll also use the first visit to go over the puppy’s vaccination and deworming history. (I’ll still need that poop sample. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen breeders who deworm out the ying-yang, and yet the puppies are still full of parasites). And while I’m at it, I’ll make a recommendation and plan out the rest of the vaccination schedule. Just remember to bring any and all records pertaining to the puppy to your vet.
Another thing you should bring to the new puppy exam is your questions! For me, this is huge. I’ve got a canned list of things to talk about, but I don’t know what you already know. It’s soo much more helpful (and more fun, actually) to me if you guide the conversation so I can cover the topics you’re most concerned about.
So, to summarize, the new puppy exam checklist:
- Your Questions!
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll