While vet appointments may not be the most thrilling activity for you and your canine companion, it's crucial to stay up to date with vaccines and routine wellness visits.
Dr. Nicole Savageau, a veterinarian at The Vets, adds that if your pet may be sick or injured, it’s always best to err on the side of caution by contacting your vet, even if it means an emergency visit.
There’s no denying that vet appointments are a fact of life for pet parents, but you might wonder how often your pup should go. Turns out, the answer isn't one-size-fits-all. How often your dog sees their vet depends on their age, lifestyle, and whether they have any underlying health conditions.
How Often Should I Take My Puppy to the Veterinarian?
Expect to take your puppy to the vet four times or more during their first year alone. In other words, you'll have plenty of time to get to know your chosen vet.
“These early visits are significant,” Savageau says, “not only for disease prevention but also for guidance on training, socialization, and nutrition, which all set a strong foundation for your puppy's lifelong health and well-being.”
The number of puppy vet visits may vary slightly, depending on what vaccines your pup needs and whether you’ll spay or neuter your puppy. You can count on your veterinarian to lay out exactly what your puppy requires, but you can refer to the general guidelines below to prepare.
Puppy Life from 6–16 weeks
Your puppy’s first vet appointment will be when they’re about 8 weeks old, Savageau says. This important first visit will include vaccinations, deworming, and a thorough examination to ensure your puppy is healthy.
Puppies are born with antibodies from their mom, but these antibodies start to taper off around this stage. “Timely vaccinations help bridge this immunity gap, ensuring that the puppy can safely explore the world, socialize with other dogs, and grow up healthy and resilient,” Savageau explains. Following your veterinarian's recommended vaccination schedule provides your puppy with the best possible start in life.
How often your dog sees their vet depends on their age, lifestyle, and whether they have any underlying health conditions.
You can expect your vet to recommend core vaccines against parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus, and parainfluenza. However, they may recommend additional vaccines, such as Bordetella (kennel cough), leptospirosis, influenza (flu vaccines), or Lyme vaccines, depending on where you live, your dog’s lifestyle, and family history.
About four weeks later and then again around the 16-week mark, your puppy will get the second (and possibly a third) round of those vaccines. It’s also when they’ll receive their rabies vaccine, which is typically required by law.
Puppy Life at 6 Months
If you’re considering getting your puppy spayed or neutered—Savageau recommends it for non-breeding dogs—the six-month mark is when puppies are typically old enough for the surgery. “Spaying (for females) and neutering (for males) can help prevent unwanted litters, reduce the risk of certain health issues, and potentially curb behavioral problems related to mating instinct,” she explains.
If your puppy hasn’t already completed their last set of vaccines, that will happen by the time they’re 6 months old, too. Of course, those won’t be your puppy’s last vaccinations since they’ll require boosters. For example, they’ll require a rabies booster around a year old and then every three years after that (or annually depending on where you live).
How Often Should I Take My Adult Dog to the Veterinarian?
Adult dogs should see their vet once a year—even when they appear healthy. “During your dog’s annual exams, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination to check for any signs of illness, dental problems, or changes in weight and behavior,” Savageau explains. This helps catch any illnesses early.
During your dog's annual wellness exam, your veterinarian will recommend any necessary vaccine boosters and do their annual heartworm check with a blood test. Your vet can also provide advice on preventive flea, tick, and heartworm medications. This is also a good time to ask any questions you have about your dog's care, such as diet and exercise.
If your dog has any underlying or chronic conditions, they’ll likely need to visit their vet more often.
How Often Should I Take My Senior Dog to the Veterinarian?
Dogs are typically considered senior at 7 years old, with giant pups given senior status earlier than smaller breeds. As pets age, their risk of age-related diseases increases, so most vets recommend that senior dogs see their vet every six months, rather than annually.
Senior wellness exams are similar to adult dog exams, but with more blood tests to check for key markers like kidney and liver function, blood sugar levels, and thyroid function, Savageau explains. These senior blood panels help to detect and manage health concerns early, helping your pup make the most of their golden years.
Hopefully, all the vet visits throughout your dog's life will make these visits as stress-free as possible. However, if your pup finds travel stressful or has limited mobility, consider vets like Savageau who will visit your dog at home.
When Does My Dog Need an Emergency Vet Visit?
If your dog seems unwell, contact your vet. According to Savageau, the following are always emergencies:
Ingestion of toxic substances
Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
Do I Need Pet Insurance for My Dog?
Similar to human health insurance, pet insurance can help cover your dog’s routine checkups and emergency treatments, depending on the policy you choose and its monthly premium. Chances are, if you purchase pet insurance for your puppy, your monthly premium will save you money in the long run.
However, pet insurance doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, and your dog’s age, breed, or pre-existing conditions can make a significant difference in cost and coverage. If that’s the case, Savageau says pet wellness plans are another smart option. Wellness plans cover routine care, such as wellness exams and vaccinations, rather than accidents, injuries, or disease management.
How Much Does a Vet Visit Cost?
Without insurance, vet appointments can range between $50 to $100 for the physical exam and more depending on what the exam includes and where you live. If your dog needs to see an emergency vet outside of regular business hours, it could cost you double that.
Additional costs at each visit will depend on your dog’s age and needs. For example, if your puppy is due for a round of core vaccines (rabies and distemper), you could be paying more on top of the exam fee.
Other extra fees include blood work, urine and fecal testing, special diets prescribed by your vet, or flea and tick control, but you can also shop prices and fill those prescriptions through Chewy's online pharmacy.
Featured Image: Getty/SeventyFour
Help us make PetMD better
Was this article helpful?