Visiting your vet: preparing your dog's health checks

It is a good idea to do some research when choosing a vet - for example find out if and when they hold puppy socialisation classes. Before you collect your puppy, try to visit a few surgeries to get an idea of which one you prefer and to compare prices. Remember; the cheapest vets aren't always the best. Ask dog-walkers in your local park to see which vets they recommend, and if your breeder is local they can always recommend which vets in the area they prefer.

The first visit

Registration can be done on arrival at the vets, or over the phone when making your first appointment. It is advisable to wait a few days  before taking your new puppy to the vet - too many new experiences at once can be overwhelming to a young puppy. Until he/she is fully  vaccinated, always carry your puppy to and from the vets in your arms to avoid the risk of picking up viruses and infections.

On your first visit your vet will probably ask where you got your new puppy from, and if there is any relevant health history of the puppy  and its parents. Your vet will give your puppy a thorough physical examination, especially checking your puppy's eyes, ears, mouth, coat, temperature, weight, listening to chest (heart and breathing) and feeling the abdomen too. He/she will probably discuss vaccinations, feeding, neutering, microchipping, worming and pet insurance. Your vet may even scan your puppy for a microchip in case it has already been implanted by the breeder.

Do not be afraid to ask your vet any questions if you do not understand something or if you have any concerns relating to your puppy's wellbeing - your vet is always there to help and offer advice.

Vaccines and what to expect

It is essential to vaccinate all puppies and dogs, as life-threatening diseases such as parvovirus and leptospirosis are incredibly common in the every-day environment. Some breeders will have already made sure your puppy is covered against certain diseases so always take any paperwork with you for your vet to check.

A primary course of vaccines is usually recommended two weeks apart when the puppy is between 8-10 weeks of age. As well as parvovirus and leptospirosis, the vaccine programme will also contain protection from canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis and canine parainfluenza virus.

Vaccines are a small volume of liquid injected from a syringe via a tiny needle under your puppy's skin between the shoulder blades, or 'scruff'. Your vet will give the same dose of vaccine whatever the size of your puppy. Vaccination doesn't usually hurt your puppy, but it can itch a bit for a few minutes afterwards. Some vets will recommend microchipping at the second vaccination visit - this is a permanent form of identification that can prove invaluable if your puppy ever goes missing.

After the initial course of vaccines, your dog should be vaccinated every year (also called a 'booster') to maintain its levels of immunity.

Preparing your puppy or dog for a visit to the vets

The key to successful visits to the vet with your puppy is to ensure that he/she associates the vets surgery with being made a fuss of and having fun. A good way of doing this is to attend puppy socialisation classes at the surgery - this way your puppy will associate the vets with fun and playtime and will be more than willing to go. It may also help to try and visit your vet 'socially' with your puppy, perhaps when passing or simply to fill out some forms, so that there are visits where he/she just gets given a treat and some cuddles from the vet nurses, rather than an injection.

Try to make all journeys by car enjoyable, so that every destination (including the vets) is fun and seen by your puppy as a reward. To help combat car-sickness try feeding your puppy a ginger biscuit on an empty stomach before you venture out in the car, as ginger helps settle upset tummies. Always make sure your puppy travels in a car crate or with an anchored car harness for their (and your) safety.

Annual health checks

It is best to try to establish a good relationship with your vet so that he/she is always familiar with your dog. You could potentially be visiting them for the next fifteen years so establishing a good relationship now will often make things easier further down the line. Annual health checks with booster vaccinations are important for your dog's health, and can also help build your relationship with your vet.

They give your vet the chance to check over and weigh your dog, and also detect any problems that may have arisen before they become too serious, such as a heart murmur or early signs of hip dysplasia. You should keep your dog protected against parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites and worm them every 3-6 months after their initial course against roundworm, tapeworm and lungworm. This can also be discussed at your dog's annual health check as prevention is better than cure.

There are many checks you can also carry out at home to detect health problems, such as daily grooming, checking paws and pads for cuts and grass-seeds, regularly brushing teeth, etc that will help you detect problems early should they arise. Remember - if in any doubt call your vet to discuss any problems. It is far better to get things checked out early as a minor problem than leaving them and risk the symptom developing into a serious issue.

Most vets will send out vaccine reminders letting you know your dog's boosters are due. You should also enquire about which worming products should be used on your puppy and how often you need to use them.



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