Your puppy’s health is your first priority, so it’s important to schedule their first vet appointment in a timely manner. Going to the vet can be nerve-wracking for pups and owners alike, but these tips can help make it a positive experience.
You should schedule the first vet appointment for your puppy as soon as they come home. If you know ahead of time that you will be bringing a puppy into your family, call your veterinarian to make sure that you get on the schedule after your puppy arrives. Even if they’ve seen a veterinarian before, you’ll need to find a local vet for ongoing care.
Before the first appointment: choosing a vet
The vet you choose is an important decision. You can start by checking the American Animal Hospital Association’s website for accredited animal hospitals. Their hospital locator will show hospitals near you that go above and beyond the state-required standards of care. You can also ask friends and family members in your neighborhood for recommendations.
Once you have a list of hospitals, go to their websites to find out more about the type of care they offer and what their practice focuses on. For example, Fear Free® and low-stress handling are new movements in the veterinary world to make dogs happy and comfortable when coming to the vet. Fear Free® hospitals may be more willing to take their time to ensure a positive experience for their patients.
Go beyond the website and call the hospitals that interest you to try scheduling an appointment. What kind of impression do they set? Is the staff courteous, positive, and informative? Some veterinarians are willing to set up a consultation with you before your puppy comes home to determine if the hospital is a good fit. Expect a charge for this visit, as the veterinarian’s time and expertise is valuable.
Once your first vet appointment is scheduled
Before you head to the first vet appointment for your puppy, make sure to bring the following:
- Record of vaccinations
- Record of dewormings
- Any previous veterinary records (such as from the breeder or shelter)
- Brand of food currently being fed
- Brand of food you’re thinking of switching to, if different than what the breeder/shelter was feeding
- Fresh stool sample
This is also a good time to think about genetic health screening for your puppy. Embark Dog DNA Tests screen for 250+ genetic health risks that may affect your dog later in life, so you can start taking preventative steps today. You can share your puppy’s results with your veterinarian directly from their Embark profile.
For example, did you know some dogs have a genetic variant that makes them sensitive to many commonly used medications, including some anesthetics? Knowing your dog’s risk for medication sensitivities means you can avoid potentially dangerous reactions.
Helping your puppy stay calm at their first vet appointment
Your puppy will probably be a little nervous once you get to the clinic. To help them stay calm, keep them close by you while waiting to be seen. Don’t allow your puppy to wander around off-leash in the office (even though they may want to explore). There’ll be other dogs coming and going, and you don’t know if they’re friendly or not. Additionally, your puppy is likely not fully vaccinated, and is susceptible to infectious diseases. It’s best to keep your puppy in your lap or in a travel crate if they’re used to that.
It’s never a bad idea to have treats on standby to reward your puppy during each step of the process. The veterinary staff will probably have plenty of treats as well.
The most important thing you can do to help is to stay calm. According to a study published in Springer Learning & Behavior, dogs are able to recognize and respond to their owner’s emotional state. If you’re nervous, they’ll be nervous. So remember to remain positive and encouraging.
Questions for your puppy’s first vet appointment
Your puppy’s first vet appointment will be filled with a lot of questions. You should ask the vet the following:
- What type of diet do you recommend?
- What type of flea/tick/heartworm preventative do you recommend?
- Can I socialize my puppy before they’re fully vaccinated?
- Do you know any good trainers or puppy classes in the area?
- What’s the schedule for vaccines and deworming my puppy?
- What’s the right spay/neuter age?
On the other hand, be prepared to answer the following questions from your vet:
- Where did you get the puppy?
- Has the puppy had any shots or deworming?
- What food is the puppy currently eating?
- Are you planning to breed your dog or spay/neuter them?
- What will the dog’s role be? Family pet, hunting, dog sports, emotional support/therapy, service dog?
- Do you have any other pets at home?
- Do you plan to go hiking, camping, or traveling with the puppy?
- Are you crate training?
Common procedures during a first vet appointment
It’s helpful to know exactly what to expect during your puppy’s first visit. Usually, a veterinarian runs the following procedures:
- Vaccines are usually given at the first appointment if the puppy has not completed the vaccination series. Puppies usually need boosters every 3–4 weeks until about 4 months of age.
- Deworming may be given in the hospital or sent home with you.
- Flea treatment may be given or sent home with you.
- A vet may try to obtain a stool sample if you did not bring one to check for parasites (even if your puppy has been dewormed in the past).
The total cost of the first appointment is widely variable depending on the exact procedures, the clinic’s policies, your geographical area, and the puppy’s medical history.
Pet insurance isn’t necessary for your puppy’s first vet appointment, but you should look into it for ongoing care. During the appointment, ask the vet for recommendations on insurance plans. Some pet insurance companies even offer free coverage for one month after your first vet appointment if you fill out a form.
Keep in mind that most pet insurance companies require a physical exam because they don’t cover preexisting conditions. Do some research on how comprehensive different plans are and how much you’ll have to pay. For example, do they cover wellness appointments and genetic conditions? What is your deductible? Does the policy have a lifetime or per-condition maximum coverage?
After the appointment
Once your puppy’s first vet appointment is over, give them time and space to unwind. The excitement from being out of the house and meeting so many new people will probably tire them out. Let them go to the bathroom when you get home and then put them in their crate to rest. If they received vaccinations, keep a close eye on them to see if they have any adverse reactions.
You’ll probably leave the appointment with a few follow-up appointments, so make sure you have those marked on your calendar. As you take your puppy to the vet more often, they’ll become comfortable with the environment and staff.