How To Prepare for Your Puppy’s First Vet Visit

Brittany Kleszynski, DVM
By Brittany Kleszynski, DVM on Nov. 7, 2023
puppy being held at vet exam

Getting a puppy can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience for new pet parents. While buying all the necessary items for your new pup, such as a collar, puppy food, and toys, is important, scheduling your puppy’s first vet visit should be at the top of your to-do list.

Here, we will discuss a few helpful tips that will ensure you feel better prepared to navigate this visit and understand what to expect to keep your puppy healthy and happy.

Bring Your Puppy’s Records

It is essential that you bring all of your puppy’s health records with you to the first vet visit. If you adopted your puppy from a shelter, they should have provided you with this paperwork. If your puppy is from a breeder, bring the pup’s paperwork as well as any information you have about the parents’ health history.

Health records detail what veterinary care your puppy has already received and what he is still due for. This includes vaccines, stool and blood testing, deworming, and other medications.

Your veterinarian is your best source of information and guidance as you learn how to care for your new puppy.

Without paperwork, your veterinarian will likely need to start from scratch and may end up repeating medical care that has already been given. While this is not necessarily harmful for your puppy, it does result in additional expenses for you that could have been avoided.

Be sure to bring your puppy to see a veterinarian within one week of bringing him home. This will ensure that a health plan is made to protect him against common puppy diseases, such as parvovirus and distemper, right away.

What Happens During a Puppy’s First Vet Visit?

During your puppy’s first vet visit, your veterinarian will do a comprehensive head-to-toe exam to identify any concerns and rule out congenital abnormalities, such as a heart murmur or hip dysplasia.

A stool sample will be collected to test for intestinal parasites, which are very common among puppies, including roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Deworming medication will be administered, even if the stool sample is negative. This is because parasite eggs are intermittently shed in feces and may not always be detected during testing. Your puppy will likely receive several deworming medication doses during his puppy visits.

If your puppy is at least 6 months of age, a blood sample will be collected to check for heartworm disease. Puppies under 6 months of age do not need to be tested, because heartworms take approximately six months to grow into adults that can be detected by this test. Before this timeframe, the test will yield a negative result.

If your puppy has already received some vaccines, your veterinarian will review her medical records and discuss a future vaccine schedule. You can review the chart below, which details what vaccines to expect at different ages for your puppy.

All puppies should receive the rabies and distemper vaccines; however, your veterinarian may recommend additional vaccines, such as Lyme, leptospirosis, and Bordetella, based on your puppy’s lifestyle.

dog vaccination schedule

Your veterinarian will also discuss spaying or neutering your puppy. This surgery is recommended for all dogs to reduce the risk of certain behavioral and health concerns in the future. Unspayed female dogs are at higher risk for mammary cancer and uterine infections, while unneutered males have an increased risk for testicular cancer and behavioral problems, such as aggression.

While most dogs benefit from this surgery around 6 months of age, your veterinarian may recommend waiting to spay or neuter large-breed dogs until they finish growing. This decision is made on an individual basis while weighing the risks and benefits. It is also recommended to get your puppy microchipped at the time of this surgery.

Finally, your veterinarian will educate you on the best flea/tick and heartworm preventatives for your puppy and emphasize the importance of maintaining year-round coverage to keep them protected from these parasites.

What To Expect During Puppy’s First Exam

Knowing what to expect during your puppy’s first exam can alleviate any uncertainties and help prepare you with questions or concerns you may want to bring to the veterinarian’s attention.

During your puppy’s first vet visit, you can expect the veterinarian to do the following:

  • Weigh your puppy

  • Check your puppy’s temperature

  • Listen to your puppy’s heart and lungs

  • Conduct a comprehensive head-to-toe exam to identify anything unusual

  • Discuss your puppy’s history and any medications currently being taken

  • Recommend appropriate diets and feeding guidelines

  • Create an appropriate vaccine schedule

  • Administer vaccinations and deworming medication

  • Collect a stool sample to identify intestinal parasites

  • Collect a blood sample to rule out heartworm disease (for puppies 6 months or older)

  • Explain obedience and potty-training recommendations

  • Prescribe flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives

  • Answer any questions you may have

Your veterinarian is your best source of information and guidance as you learn how to care for your new puppy. Never hesitate to bring up any concerns you may have so that they can be addressed. It might be helpful to write down a list of questions you wish to discuss with your veterinarian before this initial visit.

How Much Does a Puppy’s First Vet Visit Cost?

A puppy’s first vet visit is typically extensive and comprehensive, making it more expensive than subsequent visits.

The cost of a puppy’s first exam generally ranges from $40 to $65. Then you’ll need to add the cost of vaccines, diagnostic testing, and any other medications needed. The initial set of vaccines can cost between $200 and $250, with each additional booster dose costing around $50.

Intestinal parasite screening is also part of the initial visit and can range from $20 to $30, with deworming medication costing about $10 to $20 per dose. All in all, pet parents can expect to spend about $300 to $350 for an initial puppy visit.

You can also discuss pet insurance with your veterinarian and determine if it makes sense for you and your pet, especially to potentially offset additional vet costs down the road.

When To Take Your Puppy to the Vet Immediately

Puppies are at an increased risk of sickness due to their developing immune system. They frequently experience intestinal parasites, upper respiratory infections, and fleas.

Parvovirus, distemper, and kennel cough are common among puppies, especially those who are unvaccinated.

While your veterinarian will do a thorough checkup at your puppy’s first visit, it is important to call your veterinarian if your puppy does not seem to be feeling well or is not acting like themselves. Symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your veterinarian include:

By reaching out to your veterinarian at the first sign of illness, your puppy can receive the appropriate care and treatment needed to feel better sooner and avoid worsening symptoms.

Featured Image: Manu Reyes/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Brittany Kleszynski, DVM


Brittany Kleszynski, DVM


Dr. Brittany Kleszynski is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer who specializes in creating meaningful content that engages readers...

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