Updated - Jun 24th, 2022
Whether you’re thinking of getting a new puppy or just welcomed one home — welcome to pet parenthood! As you go through your new puppy checklist, it’s important to establish a vet schedule that helps maintain your dog’s health and prevent future illnesses. Wondering where to start? Here, we’ll provide a useful guide to help you navigate some of your puppy’s very first vet experiences, from their first vaccinations to their spay or neuter procedure, and more.
Following our suggested schedule and communicating with your vet will ensure that your pet is fully protected and can thrive as your fur-ever pal!
Puppy veterinarian visits
It is extremely important for you to visit the vet regularly for puppy wellness visits, as they’re in their critical stages of development. While it makes sense for adult dogs to have yearly wellness exams, puppies, especially those that are under 16 weeks of age, should be seen every 2-4 weeks by your veterinarian.
Typically, puppies are between 6-8 weeks of age when they go to the vet for their first wellness exam. A puppy wellness exam consists of the following factors:
During a physical examination, vets conduct a variety of tests to determine your puppy’s health. Some assessments include:
- Weighing the puppy
- Checking their ears, eyes, nose, teeth, and joints
- Evaluating their eyes
- Taking their body temperature
- Listening to their heart
- Listening to their lungs
- Examining the quality of their fur or coat
- Administering a booster shot (if applicable)
Puppy vaccination schedule
Vaccinations stimulate the body to produce antibodies that prepare your puppy’s immune system to fight certain diseases and conditions. Even after your dog gets their necessary vaccinations, they may need to continue receiving booster shots every few years. There are two types of vaccines: core and non-core. The core vaccines are recommended for all dogs because of the scope and severity of diseases they prevent, and consist of the following:
- Canine distemper virus
- Parainfluenza virus
Non-core vaccines are recommended only to certain dogs depending on their medical background, current health status, and lifestyle. For instance, if your dog frequents doggy daycare or a dog park, they may come into contact with other dogs who carry different infectious diseases. Some non-core vaccinations that can protect your pup from serious diseases are:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica / kennel cough
- Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme vaccine)
- Canine influenza virus
- Crotalus Atrox
Puppies typically start vaccinations around six weeks of age and finish around 16 weeks of age, and the timing of each vaccine is very important. Here is a rough checklist of vaccinations for you to keep in mind as your puppy grows.
6 to 8 weeks:
- DHPP combination
12 to 16 weeks:
- DHPP combination
- Rabies vaccine
- Heartworm prevention: Note that this is not a vaccine. It is a medication that your puppy needs to take in order to prevent heartworm disease.
Read our extensive puppy vaccination schedule to get a more in-depth look into how you should structure their vet visits. If you’re uncertain about risk factors or potential side effects, get in touch with your vet to express your concerns.
Although microchipping isn’t a necessary procedure, vets may recommend it to pet parents for its various benefits. A microchip is a tiny radio transponder with its own ID number. It is injected into a dog’s shoulder like any other shot. In the case that they run away and become lost, a vet clinic or shelter can scan the microchip and find a way to get in touch with you.
Fleas, ticks, and other parasitic pests can create serious health problems if your puppy isn’t protected. Many of them latch onto your pet and consume their blood, which can sometimes cause severe itching, sneezing, allergic reactions, or more serious conditions like Lyme disease, tapeworms, heartworm disease, or tick paralysis. Worms and other intestinal parasites can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, coughing, and abdominal pain. However, puppies don’t always exhibit these symptoms, making it difficult for pet owners to know if their puppy has been infected.
When it comes to flea, tick, and parasite control, vets will often prescribe preventative medication, usually after puppies reach about two months of age. Because intestinal parasites are so common, puppies are usually dewormed during puppy wellness visits.
Spay or neuter procedure
Spay and neuter surgical procedures remove a dog’s reproductive organs, rendering them incapable of having puppies. There are many benefits to spay/neuter, including decreased unwanted behaviors associated with reproductive hormones, decreased risk of certain cancers, decreased risk of uterine infection in female dogs, and helping to reduce the population of shelter dogs that don’t have homes.
So, when should you spay or neuter your dog? The American Animal Health Association recommends the following:
- Female small breed: 5-6 months of age
- Male small breed: 6 months of age
- Female large breed: 5-15 months of age
- Male large breed: 9-15 months of age
Monitor your puppy’s health
At the end of the day, you know your puppy best. If you notice that their temperament, level of activity, or eating habits change in any way, connect with your veterinary hospital to rule out potential health issues — and provide your best friend with the treatment that they need.
Regardless of their age, your precious pooch deserves the best veterinary care. That’s why Pumpkin Pet Insurance plans help pay 90% cashback on eligible vet bills, so you can give them the best care possible.