How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?

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How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?

One of the best things you can do for your dog is to take it to the vet regularly for checkups and preventive care if you want him to live a long and healthy life. But with so many conflicting recommendations, you will definitely ask: How often should I take my dog to the vet?

Well, in short, while the general guideline is an annual visit for healthy adult dogs, the ideal frequency depends on factors like your dog’s age, breed, health status, and veterinarian’s advice. 

This article will overview standard recommendations for veterinary visit frequency across all life stages. We will also discuss when more or less frequent appointments may be needed. Read on for tips to determine the right veterinary visit schedule for your furry friend. 

How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet

As I said above, for healthy adult dogs, an annual visit to the veterinarian is usually sufficient. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), annual exams allow vets to thoroughly inspect your dog’s overall health and well-being. During the visit, the vet will:

  • Check your dog’s weight and body condition
  • Examine eyes, ears, skin, coat, teeth, gums, and organs
  • Feel for lumps, bumps, swelling or pain
  • Listen to heart and lungs
  • Assess joint health and mobility
  • Test urine and blood

Annual exams also enable vets to update your dog’s vaccines, administer heartworm and parasite prevention, and discuss any behavior or nutrition issues. Preventive care is key to detecting problems early and keeping your dog in optimal health.

Puppies Need Multiple Visits

Unlike adult dogs, puppies require more frequent veterinary care in their first year of life. Here’s an overview of the recommended puppy vet schedule:

At 8 Weeks – Initial Exam

You should schedule a vet appointment within a few days of bringing your new puppy home. The first vet visit provides the following:

  • A general health assessment
  • Discussions about nutrition, training, microchipping, and more
  • Deworming and medication to prevent intestinal parasites
  • Initial vaccines

At 12 Weeks – Second Exam And Vaccines

Puppies need a series of core vaccines as their immune systems develop. The 12-week visit provides:

  • Vaccines for distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus-2, and parainfluenza
  • Routine deworming
  • Heartworm and flea/tick medication
  • A physical exam to monitor growth

At 16 Weeks – Final Exam And Vaccines

The last round of puppy shots comes around 16 weeks. This appointment includes:

  • The final vaccines in the puppy series
  • Intestinal parasite screening
  • Discussions about spay/neuter surgery

Spreading out vaccines allows them to fully protect your pup at each growth stage. Sticking to the schedule is important for your puppy’s immunity. After the last set, annual boosters can sustain your dog’s defenses.

Senior Dogs Have Special Needs

As dogs reach their senior years, they benefit from veterinary care tailored to their changing needs. In accordance with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dogs are considered seniors around the age of 7.

Senior care may involve:

  • An extensive lab workup, including blood, urine, and feces tests
  • Screening for age-related diseases like cancer, kidney disease, and arthritis
  • Monitoring weight, energy levels, vision, hearing, dental health, and behavior
  • Adjusting medications or nutrition for age-related changes

Because senior dogs are prone to health issues, the AVMA recommends visits every 6 months rather than once a year. Biannual exams better detect conditions and allow for prompt, specialized treatment.

In addition to the full senior workup every 6 months, your older dog may need interim vet appointments for:

  • Lumps, bumps, injuries, or lameness
  • Dental cleanings and tooth extractions
  • Changes in appetite, activity, or bathroom habits
  • Medication adjustments
  • Follow-ups on diagnosed conditions

Don’t wait for your senior dog to display symptoms before scheduling a visit. The vet can uncover issues through proactive testing and exams. This prevents small problems from becoming major.

Pregnant Dogs Need Specialized Care

If your dog becomes pregnant, whether planned or unplanned, she will require veterinary care tailored to her pregnancy and delivery. Key vet visits include:

Confirmation Of Pregnancy

After suspected breeding, the vet can confirm pregnancy through blood tests, ultrasounds, x-rays, and physical exams. They can estimate delivery timing and litter size.

Throughout Pregnancy

Your vet will monitor your dog’s weight gain, diet, exercise regimen, and overall health throughout pregnancy. They’ll check for potential issues like gestational diabetes.

Late Pregnancy

In the final week before delivery, the vet will assess progress through imaging and bloodwork. They’ll discuss delivery plans and warning signs indicating problems.


After whelping, the vet examines the mother and puppies. They ensure the mom is healing well and producing enough milk. Newborn puppies also get a full exam.

Most pregnant dogs visit the vet 4-5 times during the roughly nine-week pregnancy. This specialized care helps support a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Don’t skip recommended pregnancy vet visits.

Sick Dogs May Require Immediate Vet Visits

How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet 1

While preventive exams are very important, issues can arise between regular appointments. Keep an eye out for any signs of illness or injury in your dog on a daily basis. Common symptoms requiring prompt vet visits include:

  • Repeated vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite for over 24 hours
  • Lethargy, weakness, or collapse
  • Obvious pain, limping, or immobility
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Bleeding from any part of the body
  • Straining to urinate or defecate

Sudden behavioral changes like aggression or odd vocalizations also merit an urgent vet trip. Don’t wait “to see if your dog improves.” Get the same or next-day veterinary care for any concerning symptoms. Waiting allows conditions to worsen.

For less alarming issues like ear infections, rashes, constipation, or urinary accidents, schedule a vet appointment within the next few days. Non-critical issues can usually wait up to 48 hours for care.

Why Shouldn’t You Just Stick To The Schedule?

While the general guidelines give a good basis for veterinary care frequency, they aren’t set in stone. Consider your individual dog’s health status, environment, and veterinary recommendations when deciding how often to go. For example:

FactorMore Frequent Vet Visits May Be Needed If…
Health IssuesYour dog has chronic conditions, takes medications, or had recent illness/injury
BreedYour dog has health risks related to their breed
AgeYour senior dog is over 10 years old
EnvironmentYou live in an area with certain health hazards like Lyme disease
Activity LevelYour dog has a strenuous exercise regimen
Veterinary AdviceYour vet recommends visits more often than typical

Discuss an appropriate personalized vet visit schedule with your veterinarian. They know your dog best and can tailor recommendations accordingly.

On the other hand, an exceptionally healthy younger adult dog may do well with exams every 18-24 months rather than annually. This is fairly uncommon, though, and you’d need your vet’s approval.

The takeaway is to use your veterinarian’s expert guidance about care frequency. Their advice is better than sticking to a rigid once-per-year schedule. Stay adaptable to your dog’s needs.


Regular veterinary care is important, but visit frequency should be tailored to your dog’s needs. Use your vet’s guidance to determine the ideal schedule. While annual exams are typical for adult dogs, puppies, and seniors require more visits.

Stay vigilant of any concerning symptoms between appointments. With proper preventive care, you can help your furry friend live a long, healthy, and happy life.


How Often Do Dogs Need Their Rabies Vaccine Boosters?

Dogs need rabies vaccine boosters every 1-3 years, depending on the vaccine used and regulations in your local area – be sure to check with your vet clinic about the schedule they recommend. The first rabies vaccine is usually given around 12-16 weeks of age.

Does My Dog Need To Be Examined Before Getting Spayed Or Neutered?

Yes, your dog should have a pre-anesthetic physical exam within 1-2 weeks before being spayed or neutered to ensure the procedure can be done safely. This exam checks bloodwork and overall health status.

Should My Dog See A Vet Before Going To Doggie Daycare?

Yes, most daycares require proof of an annual exam within the past year as well as current vaccines. An exam allows the vet to ensure your dog is healthy enough for the energy and social interaction at daycare.

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Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Paws Crunch is a pet blog dedicated to providing informative and engaging content for pet lovers. From training tips to nutritional advice, our team of experienced pet owners and veterinarians strive to offer the latest and best information for pet parents.

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