Have you recently acquired a new best friend? If so, you’ve got a lot on your plate. One of the most important steps you can take with a new pup is getting a thorough checkup with a veterinarian.
Now, visiting the vet’s office can be stressful for both you and your dog. Fido might have a ruff time getting his temperature taken, while you may be experiencing some anxiety. Armed with this list, you can get the most out of your veterinarian’s expertise.
1. What do we need to do today?
Yes, I know. This seems like an obvious one! You brought your new dog to the vet for a checkup… Duh. But different dogs need different things! Your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, and background (whether they came from a shelter, rescue, breeder or friend) has a huge effect on what vaccines, diagnostics and preventatives (more on that below) they need. Be sure to bring any and all health records your pup came with to help your veterinary team help you. All dogs should be vaccinated for rabies and contagious viruses like distemper and parvovirus, unless there is a documented medical reason (like vaccine reactions) otherwise.
2. When do I come back?
Rechecks are so easy to forget, but so important! Even if your furry baby gets a clean bill of health, they may need to come back for booster vaccinations to ensure they are fully protected from contagious diseases. If any medical issues are discovered, rechecks are a must. If you have the chance, schedule your next appointment before you leave the building.
3. When do the puppy play dates start?!
If you’ve never owned a dog before, you may have rushed off to the bark park or local dog friendly watering hole prior to your vet appointment. But dogs are susceptible to many contagious diseases and parasites, some of which can even be deadly! Your pup should only make furry friends once they are considered fully vaccinated and up to date on prevention by your veterinarian. Puppies especially shouldn’t even visit public places frequented by other dogs! Not to worry though– if you or your friends or family members have healthy, vaccinated pets, they are most likely safe to interact with your new pal.
4. What preventatives should we be using?
Preventative medicine is very important in the veterinary world, and it refers to medical care that prevents the spread of disease, rather than treating a disease after it has already become a problem. The cornerstones of preventative care for dogs are vaccinations and heartworm and parasite prevention. All dogs should be heartworm tested at least once yearly, and should get heartworm prevention year-round. Most dogs will also need flea prevention, and dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors should also use tick prevention, especially in areas with dangerous tick-borne diseases. Your veterinarian can help you choose the most cost effective and convenient preventative solutions for you.
5. When and why should I have my pup “fixed”?
Spaying and and neutering our canine family members is an important way we can keep them safe from disease and control the unwanted pet population. If you’re not familiar, spaying is the removal of female reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus), while neutering is the removal of the testicles. The ideal time to neuter or spay most puppies is 4-6 months, while behavioral issues and risk for mammary cancers can be avoided. However, older pets can avoid issues like infection of the uterus (pyometra, see above) and prostate enlargement if they are sterilized.
6. Could my dog be at risk for breed related disorders?
If you worked with a breeder before bringing your fur baby home, you may have some ideas about what to expect from your new pet. But whether your pup came with AKC papers or you have no idea what your mutt’s made of, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet about this so that you know what to expect– and what to expect to spend. Some dogs may require corrective or protective surgeries, while others are at higher risk for heart disease, bleeding disorders and other issues. Work with your veterinarian to figure out what to watch for and if any measures need to be taken now.
7. What should I be feeding?
This is a very pup-dependent requirement. In general, be sure to feed appropriately for your dog’s life stage and breed. Many diets are specific for puppies, large breed puppies, and working breeds. Some health issues can require modified or prescription diets which your veterinarian will recommend if necessary.
8. How much exercise does my dog need?
Whether you’re hoping your dog will become your running buddy or your fellow couch potato, each dog is different in how much exercise they need — and how much they’ll want! Breed can play a huge factor in energy level, tolerance for exercise as well as tendency to become overweight. Your pup’s age is also important to consider when making active plans. In general, young puppies and senior citizens should not take part in high impact strenuous exercise to protect their growth plates and joints unless cleared by your vet.
9. What can he or she chew on?
Dogs have a natural instinct to chew, but they can often get themselves into trouble by chewing on the wrong items. Your pooch should only have access to dog specific chew toys and bones. Avoid giving any animal bones that have been cooked as these can be very dangerous–your leftover baby-back ribs will just have to go into the trash! Human food in general can be very dangerous for dogs, and even poisonous. If your dog is a stronger chewer and enjoys destroying toys for fun, either limit his or her access to these toys or supervise playtime–or your vet may have to go in and retrieve a squeaker surgically someday!
10. How do I train a dog?
While most veterinarians don’t moonlight as dog trainers, we are all educated on animal behavior and can help guide you with training. Teaching your new or old dog new tricks can be overwhelming, but is essential if you and your best friend are going to have a happy life together. Some good rules of thumb are to employ positive reinforcement training, give your pooch consistent boundaries and a structured schedule, and patience patience patience! Your veterinarian is also a good resource if you’re having serious issues with training despite all your efforts. Behavioral issues and health problems can overlap more than you would think, and your vet can help you tell the difference.