Dog owners often ask, how often should I take my dog to the vet? It’s a common question among new dog owners or puppy owners, who might want to err on the side of more veterinarian visits … but it’s not always necessary.
Dog owners who raise their dogs naturally often consult with homeopathic vets and other holistic vets or alternative health practitioners as part of their dog’s healthcare team. They might only visit a vet clinic when diagnostics or a physical exam are needed for a specific problem. With that information, they can obtain treatment recommendations from the other natural health care providers on their team.
If you’re fortunate to have a holistic vet who practices natural health care, she should guide and support your decisions to practice minimal vaccination, feed a whole, raw food diet and avoid pharmaceutical medications, as well as heartworm, flea and tick drugs.
If you’ve got a conventionally trained vet, it’s a good idea to have a discussion to ensure she supports your wishes.
This post is not to advise on vaccination or spay/neuter issues or schedules, but to provide a framework to help you decide the need and frequency of your dog’s veterinary checkups.
How Often Do Dogs See The Vet For Checkups?
Growing puppies and aging dogs might need more veterinary care than adult dogs, so here are some things to keep in mind.
Vet Checkups For Puppies
It’s suggested puppies have a checkup every 4 weeks for the first 4 months of life. This is primarily to ensure your puppy is growing at the right rate for his breed.
Your vet may encourage you to vaccinate your puppy every two weeks starting at about 8 weeks of age. But if you choose to vaccinate, the best time to do it is when your puppy is 16 to 20 weeks old when his maternal antibodies have worn off. Then you can have the core vaccines, preferably given separately a week or 2 apart.
Once your puppy reaches 4 to 5 months of age, you shouldn’t need to visit again for about 6 months unless you have a specific health concern.
Puppies are prone to worms, and some are born with them from their mother. Worms can be treated naturally without medications, but you may want take a fecal sample to your vet to confirm the type of worms so you can choose the appropriate natural treatment.
RELATED: Natural dewormers for dogs …
Vet Checkups For Adult Dogs
Most veterinarians suggest adult dogs have a yearly wellness check. This isn’t always necessary for a young, healthy dog … but there are some states and provinces that require veterinarians to have a veterinary-client-patient relationship to be able to legally treat your dog. This means they need to see your dog for a physical exam each year. But there’s often a loophole so the vet can do an exam at that visit if they haven’t seen your dog for a few years.
If you think your dog needs an annual vet visit, book an appointment in the spring and use it as an opportunity to get a heartworm test. Then you’re killing 2 birds with 1 stone as you get a checkup and confirm your dog is heartworm-free. You can also use the appointment to get a titer test if you want to confirm an immune response to core vaccines and avoid further vaccination. But this doesn’t need to be done annually … click here to read more about titer testing.
If your dog has any health conditions, you might need to check in more regularly.
Vet Checkups For Senior Dogs
The conventional vet community considers dogs “seniors” at 7 years and older. This may be premature for many healthy, active dogs. Older dogs can be prone to certain health conditions, such as arthritis and organ problems, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your dog’s health. You might want to get basic bloodwork done so you have a baseline of information should there be a health issue in the future. An annual visit should be plenty for healthy dogs in this age group.
It’s also important to remember that if your dog is showing any unusual signs or symptoms, you should have your dog checked out as soon as possible. This could include things like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite, mobility, or difficulty breathing.
What Do Vets Look For At Annual Checkups?
An annual checkup is when your vet can perform a comprehensive physical examination to assess your dog’s overall health. This usually includes:
- Checking the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth for abnormalities or infections
- Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for any abnormalities
- Palpating (feeling) the abdomen to check for any abnormalities in the internal organs
- Examining the skin and coat for any signs of parasites, infections, or other issues
- Checking the joints and muscles for any signs of pain or discomfort
- Checking the teeth and gums for any signs of dental problems
In addition to the physical examination, your vet may recommend some diagnostic tests, such as bloodwork, fecal analysis or x-rays, to check for any underlying health issues. Your holistic vet or homeopath can suggest remedies and natural treatment options for many issues like allergies, parasites, infections and joint problems … and even behavior or anxiety issues.
Can I Do My Dog’s Health Check?
There are things you can do to keep a regular eye on your dog’s health and wellbeing, such as:
- Monitoring your dog’s appetite and water intake
- Checking your dog’s skin and coat for any unusual bumps, lumps, or changes in appearance
- Examining your dog’s ears and eyes for any signs of redness, swelling, or discharge
- Checking your dog’s teeth and gums for any signs of dental problems, such as bad breath, redness, or loose teeth
- Observing your dog’s behavior for any changes
Are There Concerns If You Haven’t Gone To The Vet In Years?
If you work with other natural health care providers, you’re probably in touch with your dog’s health condition. But if not, there could be underlying health concerns that are undiagnosed and untreated. Some common conditions include:
- Dental problems, such as gum disease and tooth decay, which can be painful and lead to more serious health issues if left untreated.
- Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms, can lead to other problems. There are natural flea and tick treatments and natural dewormers available.
- Infections can develop in the ears, eyes, and respiratory tract. They can be difficult to identify without a physical examination, and they can lead to more serious health issues if left untreated. There are natural antibiotics that can manage infections.
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer may not have noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Regular checkups can help catch these conditions early to improve the chances of successful treatment.
RELATED: 10 natural antibiotics for dogs …
What’s The Cost Of An Annual Vet Checkup?
Veterinary checkups can vary in cost depending on a number of factors. Obviously big city clinics have higher overhead and extensive diagnostic equipment and that will be reflected in the pricing. Other things influencing the fee are the services included in the checkup, and the age and health of the dog.
On average, a routine wellness exam for a healthy adult dog can cost anywhere from $50 to $200. This usually includes a physical exam, basic blood work and maybe fecal analysis. However, if your dog requires additional tests or procedures, such as x-rays or lab work, the cost can increase significantly.
It’s a good idea to ask about the costs when you make the appointment, and find out about the costs of any likely tests or procedures beforehand, so you know what to expect.
Regular checkups can help to identify potential health issues early, and give you time to plan a successful course of action. But remember that your day-to-day life with your dog is what will keep him healthy and happy. Vet visits, no matter how frequent, won’t replace a healthy diet, lots of exercise and a happy home life with you. Remember, you know your dog best so keep an eye on any changes that could signal a health problem.