Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an important one of the most exciting things you will ever do. As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your wriggling little ball of fluff has the best start in life so that it grows up healthy and strong.
There are a number of different vaccines your puppy will need and you should make sure to check your puppy’s growth. You also want to make sure that you can keep an eye out for potential problems.
Once your puppy is home, one of your first tasks is to get your new best canine friend for their primary veterinary exam.
Don’t just pick the first vet a google search triggers!
Always do your research when choosing a veterinarian. This is important as your veterinarian will be the first emergency responder in your dog’s life. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) calls this the “VCPR” or Veterinary client-patient relationship.
Wellness visits to the veterinary clinic will continue for your dog’s life. A veterinarian who has known your dog since childhood is best able to identify any medical conditions your pet will develop later in life. Early diagnosis and treatment can sometimes mean the difference between a quick recovery and a chronic problem.
Ask dog owners in your area for recommendations. When your puppy’s breeder is on-site, ask them which veterinary clinics they prefer in your area. Some veterinary clinics offer puppy welcome packages, and many run puppy socialization clinics to help your pup get off to a good start.
Visit the veterinary clinic before you have your pup. Are the support staff friendly and helpful? Is the reception area clean and tidy? Does the vet like to take the time to chat with you and answer your questions? If the answer to all of these questions is “yes”, you have probably found the perfect veterinary clinic to care for your new pup.
Be sure to ask what arrangements the clinic has made for out-of-hours emergencies. Animals have a habit of developing conditions that require urgent treatment outside of the clinic’s regular opening hours. Hence, you need to know that you can have a veterinarian see your puppy outside of 9am to 5pm if necessary.
Some veterinary clinics run programs that allow owners to make a regular monthly payment that covers their pet’s routine annual treatments, including vaccinations, worms, flea medication, etc. Such a program will help you save money in the long run, well worth a clinic to choose the one that offers.
When should you have your first exam?
When purchasing a pedigree puppy from a breeder, the requirement that you get your new puppy to have an immediate vet exam is included in your sales contract and should normally be within three days of your puppy being picked up. Under the terms of your sales contract, you will be expected to take your dog for an annual physical exam and have him vaccinated.
Puppies from animal shelters or rescue centers are often of unknown origin and can be affected by illness, especially if the puppies were rescued from an animal shelter Puppy mill. Hence, it is important that you get your new puppy examined by a good veterinarian right away.
Veterinarians are very busy so it is a good idea to schedule an appointment for your puppy’s first exam before picking up your new pet, especially if the breeder’s sales contract includes a deadline.
What to expect on your first visit
When making an appointment for your puppy’s first health check-up, you should be asked to bring a sample of your puppy’s feces so that the vet can test the sample for the presence of worms. Remember to pick up a sample container the day before your appointment at the veterinary clinic.
The following should happen during your puppy’s first vet exam:
- Your puppy should be weighed.
- The veterinarian should listen to your pup’s lungs and heart with a stethoscope.
- Next, the vet will gently palpate your puppy’s lymph nodes and abdomen.
- Your puppy’s temperature will be measured.
- The vet will examine your pup’s eyes, nose, ears, paws, and genitals.
- Your puppy’s fur and skin will be examined.
- The vet will check your pup’s mouth and teeth.
After the exam, the vet should ask general questions about your puppy’s history and answer any questions you have. The vet will also go through key topics such as deworming, microchip, de-sexualization, and vaccinations.
If you have records from the puppy’s breeder or rescue home, be sure to bring the documents with you so that the information on the papers can be included on your dog’s file.
Your vet can also discuss pet insurance with you. Pet insurance is generally inexpensive and can mean the difference between life-saving treatment and euthanasia if your pet develops a serious medical condition that costs thousands of dollars to treat and which you may not be able to afford.
The cost of a veterinary consultation can vary greatly depending on where you live. Puppy exams typically cost around $ 50.
Home health checks
In between routine veterinary wellness checks, you can give your pup a home exam. A home exam can help identify potential problems that may require veterinary advice.
A basic home health check only takes a few minutes and can be included in your puppy’s care routine.
How to Give Your Puppy (or Adult Dog) a Home Health Checkup!
- Your pup’s big, loving eyes should be clear and bright!
- The white part of the eyes (sclera) shouldn’t be yellow or bloodshot.
- The cornea (clear front of the eye) should be clear and not cloudy.
- The pupils should also be dilated.
- The eyes should be moist.
- There should be no discharge.
- Your puppy should be able to blink without blinking.
- The eyelids shouldn’t be swollen
- The edges of the eyelids should be straight instead of curling in or out.
- Your pup’s nose should be damp, not dry and cracked.
- The nostrils should be clear, not crispy or runny.
- There should be no sores around the nose.
- Your puppy’s nose should be his natural color. (Most dog noses are black.)
- Check your pup’s ear flaps (leather) for wounds or injuries.
- Look in the ear canal for any signs of wax residue, redness, or sores.
- If your pup’s ears smell “off”, they may have a yeast or bacterial infection, or ear mites.
Teeth and gums
Gently pull your pup’s lips into a smiley face and check out his gums and teeth.
- The gums should be salmon pink and free of ulcers, lumps, and bumps.
- Your puppy’s teeth should be pearly white. Brown or yellow teeth need veterinary help. The discoloration is caused by a build-up of tartar that should be removed to prevent periodontal disease from developing.
- If your furry friend has “dog breath”, most likely they have gingivitis or some other oral problem that needs urgent veterinary attention.
Jaw, neck, and chest
- Look for lumps under your dog’s jaw that could indicate swollen salivary glands or lymph nodes.
- Gently feel your dog’s neck and chest for lumps or crusts.
- Run your hands over your dog’s chest, back, and stomach. Look out for skin problems like dry, flaky skin, sore spots, and oily spots.
- Lift up the fur and carefully part it to check for ticks and fleas.
- Keep checking your puppy’s legs from top to bottom, including his groin area. You’re looking for smooth swellings that could indicate enlarged lymph nodes.
Although most owners don’t own a stethoscope, you can still check your dog’s heart rate.
- Place your hands on either side of your puppy’s chest so you can feel his heart beating.
- The heart rate should be between 70 and 120 beats per minute.
- The heart rhythm should be regular.
- Your puppy’s breathing should be steady and effortless.
Paws and claws
With your pup on the side, check his paws.
- The pads should be smooth with no cracks in the surface.
- The nails should be short enough so that they don’t “tick” on the floor when your pup walks.
- Look for any redness or swelling between your puppy’s toes that could indicate an infection or the presence of skin mites.
If your puppy or dog fails any of your home health exams, call your veterinarian and have your pet checked out by a professional.
When to call the vet
Hopefully, your puppy will live a happy and healthy life and your veterinarian visits are only for routine health checks and vaccinations. However, there are some cases when a visit to the vet is essential:
Diarrhea and vomiting
Unfortunately, puppies and adult dogs experience vomiting and diarrhea from time to time, especially if they have eaten something they shouldn’t have!
If diarrhea and/or vomiting do not improve on its own after a few hours, you should call your veterinarian. There are several causes of potentially serious stomach problems, including gastroenteritis, poisoning, and ingestion of a foreign object.
Most dogs are foodies! If your puppy is losing appetite then you should be concerned and a call to your veterinarian is in order, especially if your furry friend also appears depressed and sluggish.
Drink too much
Your dog should always have access to clean, freshwater. However, if he begins to drink excessive amounts, it could be a leading indicator of a health problem, such as: diabetes, Kidney disease, or Hypothyroidism.
If your puppy feels uncomfortable peeing, wants to go out more than usual, or has trouble peeing, he or she may have a urinary tract infection that will require a course of antibiotics to clear.
As well as the health checks that you do at home; Your dog must have an annual veterinary health check-up. Annual health checkups usually coincide with your dog’s annual booster vaccinations, so all you need to do is visit the veterinary clinic.
During your dog’s annual exam, your veterinarian will check your pet’s weight, general body condition, heart, lungs, and teeth. Deworming and flea protection programs should also be discussed during your visit.
Top Tips for Preparing Your Puppy for a Vet Visit
A visit to the veterinary clinic doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal for your dog, you or the vet! Here are some top tips to make your dog’s annual health exam a pain-free experience for everyone involved:
- Take puppy socialization classes at your veterinary clinic so that your puppy staff visiting the vets have a fun experience right from the start.
- Call your pet clinic with your pup for social visits. This way, your dog learns to combine calling the clinic with lots of cuddles and treats from the nurses, rather than just for an exam or injection.
You need to get your puppy used to travel in your car or truck as soon as possible. Use a car crate or equip your puppy with a suitable travel harness for your and your pet’s safety. If your pup is safe and comfortable by car, a trip to the veterinary clinic is more of a fun experience than an ordeal.
Some puppies get car sick until they get used to the feeling of driving in a vehicle. Your vet can prescribe an illness medication to give your pup before each trip. As your dog ages, any auto or travel sickness will usually go away on its own.
Before you pick up your new puppy and start your exciting new life together, you need to have it checked out by a good veterinarian. The veterinarian will make sure that your puppy is in good physical shape and does not have any obvious hereditary physical defects. You can also get advice on important health topics like deworming, flea control, de-sexualization, and vaccinations.
After your puppy’s first health check-up, it is up to you to monitor your pet’s health at home. Provided your puppy is happy and in good health, it only takes a few “social visits” to the veterinary clinic before your pet’s annual vaccinations and health check-up are due.
For newbies to puppies, bringing home this helpless, fluffy bundle of fun for the first time is an exciting, but somewhat daunting, experience. If you have any concerns or want to ask questions about your new puppy’s health, always contact your veterinary clinic immediately. Even your vet was once a pet owner and they’ll understand your fears all too well!