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Basic veterinary care for your dog

dog smiling at the vet while being held

We know how important regular medical checkups are for us and our families, and it is not surprising that this care is also necessary for the members of our fur families. Veterinary care for dogs is necessary in order to stay up to date with vaccines and to have an overall assessment of their health. Regular check-ups and preventive care can help catch and treat any potential health problems early on, allowing your furry friend to live a long, happy life. A visit to a trusted veterinarian is also in order whenever our dogs seem to be dealing with an illness or injury.   

Table of contents

  • How often should your dog receive veterinary care?
  • What is basic veterinary care for dogs?
  • How to prepare for a veterinary visit
  • The bottom line on veterinary care for dogs

How often should your dog receive veterinary care?

The frequency of veterinary visits depends on your dog’s age, breed, and general state of health. In general, a healthy adult dog should have an annual appointment to assess their overall health and well-being and to administer vaccinations. Puppies require more frequent visits in their first few months for initial vaccines and to ensure that they are growing and developing properly, and they will probably be seen by the vet two or three times in their first year. Geriatric dogs, ages seven and older, might benefit from twice a year visits, as they are more prone to illness and other age-related health concerns. 

Aside from regular check-ups, it’s also important to take your dog to the vet if they experience any sudden changes in behavior or health. For example, if your dog starts to show signs of illness, such as coughing, vomiting, or decreased appetite, it’s important to take them to the vet right away. If your dog gets injured, even if it seems minor, it’s also a good idea to have them examined and evaluated by a vet to make sure there are no underlying issues. 

What is basic veterinary care for dogs?

Basic vet care includes regular check-ups, vaccinations, and preventative care such as flea and tick treatment, heartworm prevention, and dental care. 

During an annual check-up, the veterinarian will examine your dog from head to tail to make sure they are in good health. They will check your dog’s weight, examine their eyes, ears, and mouth, listen to their heart and lungs, and examine their skin and coat.  

Vaccinations are an important part of your dog’s care in order to protect your dog from serious and potentially life-threatening disease. All dogs should receive what are referred to as core vaccines (distemper, rabies, and parvovirus) because they are vital to the dog’s health due to the threat of severe disease or to prevent a serious risk if transmitted to humans. In certain geographic areas, veterinarians might also recommend non-core vaccines for Lyme disease if the dog lives in a tick-prone environment or to prevent Bordetella (kennel cough) if they are frequently in close contact with other dogs in a situation like boarding, doggy daycare, or an enclosed dog park. 

During these annual visits, the veterinarian will also evaluate your dog through a fecal sample for parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms that can interfere with your dog’s digestion and, in rare cases, can also pose a threat to humans.  

Another important component of the visit is a blood test to check for heartworm disease. This is a potentially deadly infection that is spread by mosquito bites. Prevention of the disease is easily managed with a year-round treatment. 

Good dental care is also an important aspect of your dog’s overall health. While much prevention can be taken care of at home through giving your dog crunchy dog food and treats and brushing their teeth, there are times when an abundance of plaque build-up makes a professional cleaning by the vet necessary. Untreated plaque can lead to hard-to-remove tartar which can cause periodontal disease. This affects not only the teeth and gums but can also cause other health problems like liver, heart muscle, and kidney changes. Veterinary dental cleaning needs to be done under anesthesia to ensure that your dog stays still and allows the veterinarian to work carefully and safely.  

How to prepare for a veterinary visit

Many dogs are apprehensive about going to the vet. They are in an unfamiliar place, often in a small waiting room with other dogs, and then onto a metal exam table where they will be handled, have blood drawn, and receive vaccine shots. Some preparation beforehand can go a long way toward easing your dog’s discomfort around these necessary visits.   

From the time your dog is a very young puppy, get them used to being touched and handled. A regular part of your early training should be touching their ears, paws, and mouth. Being sure that they are properly socialized and can accept new people and other dogs is important. Taking a ‘dry run’ to the vet’s office just to get used to the experience (and get a few treats!) can be helpful to establish a positive connection around the office and the staff there.  

Make sure your dog has been well exercised if you are arriving for a routine visit, which will help them feel more at ease during the appointment. 

If your dog experiences high stress around vet visits, contact the office and see if it is possible to wait outside until they are ready to see your dog. 

Remember that our pets are in-tune with our emotions, so by projecting a sense of security and avoiding stress, we can help our dogs feel calmer. 

Adding this preparation before your vet visits will allow your dog to accept the necessary care that the veterinarian will deliver. 

The bottom line on veterinary care for dogs:

Taking your dog to the vet regularly and providing them with basic vet care are important steps in ensuring their health and well-being. While the frequency of visits may vary based on your dog’s breed, age, and overall health, it’s important to take them to the vet at least once a year for a check-up and routine vaccinations. The benefits of basic vet care, including preventative measures like flea and tick treatment, heartworm testing and prevention, and dental care can help to ensure our fur friends stay healthy and happy for years to come.