One of the most important ways you can keep your pet healthy and happy is to see the vet regularly. For new puppy parents, this is especially important as your puppy will receive his first wellness check and vaccinations shortly. Your calm and friendly presence will help your puppy get through the experience with little to no stress.
Most vets are old hats at wellness checks; they know exactly what needs to be checked and why. But you should still make an effort to know what to expect. Knowing what should (or shouldn’t) happen at the vet is an important part of being a pet parent. To help you meet that goal, we created this veterinary wellness exam checklist for new puppy parents.
Puppy Physical Examination
Every wellness exam starts with a full physical examination of your dog – including body condition, temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, and general physical health. Most vets will start by feeling and assessing your dog’s body from head to toe. He or she will listen to your dog’s heart, feel his developing bones for signs of abnormalities, take his temperature, look inside his mouth, and check his ears.
Savvy vets make this investigation more like a petting session than anything else. Most puppies love the attention, but some may balk at investigations of the feet or groin. Staying calm and relaxed beside your pup will significantly reduce any anxiety she might feel.
Disease Testing in Special Situations
Depending on your dog’s age and history, your puppy may need his first round of vaccinations and/or disease testing, too. Dogs from breeders may be innoculated or tested already; dogs coming from rescue situations should be tested at least once prior to six months of age and then once again after.
Some pet parents prefer to test every dog, regardless of where they come from. Others only test when the dog’s history stipulates increased risk. Whatever your situation, testing is a brief and harmless step that can give you peace of mind.
The most common test for dogs is the SNAP test, which identifies the presence of heartworm disease, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and anaplasmosis. These parasites are overwhelmingly common in dogs coming from the street or from shelters. The SNAP test takes just a few minutes to process. However, some dogs may need additional blood testing if the validity of the SNAP test is called into question.
Some vets also use fecal testing to determine the presence of vector-borne parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, and coccidia. If your puppy experiences diarrhea or bloody stools, this step is a wise choice for your dog. Generally, fecal testing isn’t necessary if your dog is coming from a reputable breeder who monitors health closely before adoption.
If your veterinarian clears your dog for vaccinations, he or she will most likely recommend that you give at least these five core vaccines:
- Canine hepatitis
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine adenovirus
Depending on where you live, some of these vaccines may be mandatory – most states require that all owners give rabies vaccines. Others may be optional, but should not be avoided because going without them presents undue risks to your pup.
If your dog regularly spends time with other dogs, or if she has increased risk factors for disease like time spent outdoors or illness, it’s wise to consider at least some non-core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are generally not required, but may be beneficial to some dogs depending on their unique health condition.
Here’s a few of the most commonly chosen non-core vaccinations:
- Canine Leptospira Vaccines
- Canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV)
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Canine influenza virus H3N8
- Canine influenza virus H3N2
- Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme)
- Canine distemper/measles combination
In addition to the inoculations listed above, there are three more optional vaccines: canine coronavirus, canine adenovirus-1, and rattlesnake envenomation. Each of these vaccines has a low effectiveness rate in most dogs; the diseases and illnesses addressed are highly specific. Thus, they are not likely to be useful for most pet parents. For this reason, they are not recommended by the AVMA or AAHA for general population use.
The next step in your pet’s first exam (depending on his age; some puppies may be too young) is pest prevention. Your vet will assess your dog for the best pest prevention option and then show you how to give it to her right in the office. This normally starts with a thorough investigation of your dog’s fur for the presence of flea dirt and/or mites.
Pest prevention options include spot-on treatments for ticks, fleas, lice, mites, and roundworms, or oral anti-worming medications given by needleless syringe or pill. These medications may be given once per day, once every 30 days, or at some other interval depending on the medication given.
If your vet detects ear mites, he or she will show you how to place drops in your puppy’s ear. Most solutions are dropped directly into the ear and then very gently massaged in from the outside. If the solution is particularly cold, your dog may experience dizziness or itching in the ear directly afterward – these symptoms will go away after a few minutes.
If your vet has to give an oral medication, your dog may resist taking it the first time around. Medications just don’t taste very good – heck, most of us don’t like taking them, either. You can make this process easier by asking your vet to use a liquid solution or by asking them to show you the most hassle-free way to pill your puppy. This is an excellent learning opportunity, so be sure to soak up all the information you can!
Before wrapping up your appointment and asking you if you have any questions about care, diet, health, or growth, your vet will likely recommend microchipping your puppy. This is highly recommended; if your dog ever becomes lost or runs away, a microchip could be the one thing that reunites the two of you when someone else finds her.
A microchip is a tiny RFID chip (smaller than a grain of rice) containing information about your dog, his or her health, and contact information for the owner. Using a slightly larger than normal needle, it is inserted just under the skin where it remains with your dog for life. Vets, shelters, and rescues often have RFID readers they scan over the dog’s body upon intake; if a microchip is present, the device will show that information on the screen.
Microchip implantation can be a little bit uncomfortable, but truthfully, most dogs don’t even pay attention to the pain after the initial first pinch. Most dogs experience no side effects, but minor swelling or redness are possible for a few days after implantation. If you have concerns, ask your vet to fully explain the risks!Tags: puppy vaccinations