Know When to Take Your Puppy to the Vet

Pup's first visit to the vet

Bringing home a brand new puppy is one of the most fabulous feelings on the planet. The excitement of adding a new fuzzball to the family is one of those truly rare heartwarming moments that can make grown adults weep with joy. Little puppy paws, small teeth nibbling on your finger, and don’t forget that glorious puppy breath. There’s also a feeling of freedom thinking about the experiences you and your newly welcomed pup will share - everything ahead of you is going to be one big adventure.

You’ll know when it’s the right time to add a puppy to your family. But will you always know when it’s the right time to take your puppy to the vet? Truth be told, you don’t truly know the little guy that you just brought home. So, each little thing could be a clue that he or she needs to be seen by a veterinarian… STAT! When you’re a brand-new puppy parent, it’s a lot like being a first-time human parent. Everything is new and foreign, no matter how much reading you did to prepare.

Never fear! We are here to let you know that everything is going to be fine. Soon enough you will know your pup’s yips from his barks, and understand exactly what each unique sound means. In a very short time, that when you look back upon it will feel like a blink-of-an-eye, you’ll be able to know what your pup wants just from the look he gives you. So, relax, you got this! Here are our helpful guidelines that explain when to take your pup to a vet.


First Puppy Visit: Most puppies join their forever families between the age of 6 to 8 weeks old. Making an appointment during this age is perfect for a first-time vet visit. While you can wait until your pup is older, it’s best practice to get your pup into a vet while young to help decrease any type of potential disease exposure.

At your puppy’s first vet visit you can expect a typical physical exam. This involves your pup’s vet taking a physical review of your dog’s eyes, nose, ears, mouth, teeth, skin, coat, muscle coordination and gland health. Expect a fecal matter check to confirm the absence of parasites. Also, this is the time to discuss vaccinations. Your pup’s mother’s milk loses antibody capabilities around 6 weeks of age. To continue the protection, most vets will recommend core vaccinations to ward off distemper, canine parvovirus, hepatitis and rabies. Plan on taking your puppy back to the vet every couple of weeks for vaccination boosters until your little one is about 4 months old.

Microchip, Spay/Neuter, and Annual Visits: Some vets will offer to microchip at your first puppy visit, and others may wait. Whichever way your vet goes, make sure you understand the expected timeline so you take your sweet little one in on time. The same goes for spay and neutering. Discuss the best time for this with your vet as there are a variety of approaches, and some vets may advise different timeframes. Lastly, always schedule your pup’s annual visits. These will consist of the same type of exam as what occurred during your pup’s first visit.


Almost every dog will get sick in his lifetime, just like a human. So, it’s best to know how to identify the triggers that warrant a vet visit. Here is what we watch for in our dogs:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of desire to drink water
  • Vomit or ongoing regurgitation for 24 hours or more
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation for 24 hours or more
  • Blood and/or excessive mucus in stool
  • Rice-like appearance in stool
  • Repetitive scooting on their rump
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shivering when it’s not cold
  • Panting when it’s not warm
  • Wobbling and/or loss of coordination
  • Loss of mobility
  • Ongoing whimpering with or without ability to move
  • Rubbing top of head on floor/carpet
  • Standing in a corner without moving
  • Malaise that is different than normal
  • Swollen or hard stomach
  • Excessive watery eyes

Also, if your pup is in an accident, eats something he shouldn’t (e.g. chocolate, onions, grapes, etc.,) or has a loss of consciousness or seizure, get him to an emergency vet right away.

The real important thing to remember is that you will know your puppy best. Soon you’ll have your pup’s actions memorized like the back of your hand - and you will begin to trust your instincts. Vets are very understanding about bringing in a pup because you think something might be wrong. Most vets would rather pet parents err on this side versus not bringing in a potentially sick pup. Your dog’s vet is your partner in health - make sure you click and maintain a good working relationship with him or her!

Rebecca Sanchez

Rebecca Sanchez lives in Seattle with her husband and three dogs and is a published author, and nationally recognized leader in the pet industry. Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “we need animals as much as they need us!” Rebecca specializes in researching and writing about holistic dog health and nutrition, and develops DIY recipes designed to enhance a pup's well-being.


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