The Importance Of An Annual Dog Check Up

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Dog being held up by vet: Dog Checkups GuideIf you have a dog, then they may be like one of your children: you spoil them rotten and care for them deeply. Since your pet is that important to you, then their health should be just as important! And we don’t mean just taking them out on walks, feeding them a balanced diet and pampering good dogs with toys and treats, although those are all important too! We’re talking about being proactive and taking them to the vet regularly for checkups. Read on to learn why checkups for dogs  are important, how frequently you should schedule them, what you get out of a dog health check and how much you can expect to spend (spoiler alert: it’s less than you think!).

Why Do Annual Checkups for Dogs?

Most humans get regular health checkups, so dogs should get checkups too. Preventative care is just as important for pets as it is for their owners. Why? Because vets can help detect (and sometimes prevent) diseases and other life-threatening conditions early on, saving you money and heartache in the long run. And similar to how a car gets its oil changed, tires rotated and inspections from time to time, it’s also a good idea for us to check in with the doc to make sure our pet’s vitals are in good shape and everything is running smoothly. Often dogs won’t even show symptoms of a health problem, so it’s best to have a professional assess things just in case.

What to Expect at the Routine Vet Visit

Much like a human physical exam, the vet will ask you a few questions about your dog’s overall eating and lifestyle habits (hopefully your pet does not do drugs or drink, but if they do here are seven things you should know about dogs and marijuana). They’ll also take a few measurements including their weight and check their pulse. See the list below for other things a vet looks for during the exam.

An annual dog checkup is a great opportunity to bring up any questions and express any concerns you have about your pup (they are not sleeping well, the dog has discolored poop, etc.). You’re paying for your visit, so you might as well make the most of your time with the expert and ask away. They might make some suggestions based on their evaluation of your dog and recommend some wellness tips.

What’s Included in an Annual Checkup for Dogs?

Here’s a list of specific things the veterinarian might ask about and check for during an annual dog checkup:

  • Vaccinations and current status of each
  • Blood tests (particularly for older dogs who are prone to more health problems)
  • Urine tests and any discharge, discoloration, etc.
  • Digestion, including any concerns about gas, burping or abnormal stools
  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing, throat or nose discharge
  • Coat and skin check for hair loss, lumps, rashes, discoloration or unusual spots
  • Limbs, walking, standing and toenails
  • Ears and eyes for discharge, swelling, redness or itching
  • Intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, mites and heartworms
  • Dental health, including teeth and breath smell
  • Water and food consumption
  • Organs to make sure they are not an unusual size
  • Exercise levels and how often
  • Behaviors such as excessive barking or emotional instability

Video: Pet Wellness Exams

Here’s a quick two-minute video on what to expect from a pet wellness checkup from a vet of over ten years. She’ll walk you through how they check a pup from head to toe to give you a better idea of what to expect at your dog’s checkup.

If all goes well, it’s pretty painless and you and your dog should be in and out in no time. However, if the vet does spot any potential problems, they will discuss the options with you including further testing.

How Often Should You Do Checkups for Dogs?

It depends on the age of the dog. Puppies grow at a rapid pace and thus require more vaccinations and attention. So, if your dog is under one-year-old, you should expect to go to the vet more regularly for your pup’s shots and to make sure they are progressing as expected (much like a newborn). However, after the first year, dogs are the equivalent of a teenager or young adult and then they grow at a much slower pace, so they only need visits annually for any necessary vaccines and routine checkups. And just like people, older dogs may require more frequent monitoring since they have more health issues as they age. So you may want to discuss with your vet whether bi-annual visits are needed for your older dog (7 years or older).

The size of your dog also determines how quickly they “age” and thus how much attention they need. Larger dogs become older quicker than smaller dogs and are usually more active too, meaning they have more risk for physical injuries and exposure to the outdoors where pesticides and bacteria live.

The breed can also affect the frequency of vet visits as specialized breeds (e.g. bulldogs) are at a higher risk for health conditions (whereas a mutt is less susceptible).

According to WebMD, a good rule of thumb is:

  • Puppies under 1: every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks old
  • Dogs 1-7 years old: once a year (at a minimum)
  • Senior dogs 7-10+ years old: twice a year, if your vet agrees this is necessary

Vet Check Up Cost

By now you might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how much will it cost?” While it might seem costly to do vet visits so frequently, most dogs only live an average of 13 years, so you won’t be paying for too many checkups over the lifetime of your pup. Keep in mind those checkups could add years to your dog’s life too! As for individual treatment costs or office visit fees, call your local vets for more details as costs vary greatly by location.

How to Save Money on Checkups for Dogs

If you don’t already have pet insurance, you should look into getting it to help you save on unexpected pet costs like surgeries and medications. In addition to accidental and illness coverage, some pet insurance companies also offer wellness plans which include yearly annual dog checkup costs. However, based on our experience, those plans tend to be more expensive than actually paying for the annual exam fees out of pocket. So as long as you are good at budgeting, we don’t recommend overpaying for with a wellness plan. And remember that a yearly exam fee is a small price to pay to potentially save you thousands down the road and extend the life of your pup. Read more about pet wellness plans and the in our pet wellness providers article.

A Healthy Dog Is a Happy Dog

At the end of the day, your dog’s health does affect their overall well-being, which in turn can be a positive thing for you too! So make the investment, and your dog will thank you (and you’ll thank yourself) later.

Hopefully we’ve covered everything you ever wanted to know about annual check-ups for dogs and how a yearly vet visit can help keep your furry friend’s tail wagging! But if you still have questions, feel free to let us know.

When was the last time your dog had a checkup?

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and two cats. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents. Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

Disclaimer: Information regarding insurance company offerings, pricing and other contract details are subject to change by the insurance company at any time and are not under the control of this website. Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. Please review your policy carefully before signing up for a new pet health insurance contract or any other contract as your unique circumstances will differ from those of others who may be used for example purposes in this article.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Victoria Addington
February 7, 2020 12:46 pm

I recently had a Labrador puppy, which was given to me by my grandma on my birthday. It’s my first time to have my pet, so I have no background in taking care of one. It’s interesting to know from your article that annual dog checkups are important for a vet to help detect diseases early on. I love that you noted that going to the vet is an opportunity for the owner to ask questions and express concerns about their pet. I shall then look for a vet here in our area.

James Borst
December 17, 2019 11:07 pm

I like your recommendation to get pet insurance to help cover check-ups for your dog. I don’t think that my parents took our dogs growing up to the vet on a regular basis, but now that my wife and I have a dog, we are considering annual check-ups. We may consider reaching out to a vet for their recommendations.

Skyler Williams
December 17, 2019 1:52 pm

It makes sense that puppies would need to go to a vet more often than a teenager or adult dog. My daughter found a mutt when she was walking home from school, and we decided to keep her, but now we need to take her to an animal clinic. I’ll be sure to find a clinic right away, so I can make sure she is okay.

Brad Erwin
December 4, 2019 5:46 pm

It’s good to know that older dogs tend to need more vet visits because they develope more issues in their health as they age. My dog is turning 10 this next year and thankfully appears to be as healthy as can be! I will be sure to schedule visits with a local vet more often now that she is older so that I can keep her as healthy as she is now.

David Johnson
October 4, 2019 9:32 pm

Thanks for helping me understand the importance of checkups by helping me see their health is as important as how much one spoils them. I just bought a dog from a close friend last week. It looks like I’ll have to look into getting a basic exam for it.

Hope Maglaughlin
March 8, 2019 12:55 pm

I’m sorry to announce this but i didn’t get the information i needed you cheeped saying prices and stuff like that but i didn’t get a price.

Kimberly Alt
March 11, 2019 8:58 am

Sorry, we can’t give you the price for your dog’s annual check up because the cost varies based on vet, location, dog, etc.

Sariah Meagle
December 5, 2018 3:19 am

My dachshund puppy just arrived today, so I do agree that if I want to be a good owner, preventative care is important. I’ll be sure to tell honest answers about my dog’s overall eating and lifestyle habits once we go to a veterinarian visit. I guess it’s still important to tell the doctor what vaccines she should get even if she’s been vaccinated according to the shelter to keep her really healthy.

Heidi Bookenstock
June 20, 2018 12:29 pm

I’m a first time dog owner and I was wondering how often it’s necessary to take my dig to see the vet.I like that this article explains why it is important for dogs to have annual check ups. I also appreciate the list of things to expect, like questions about vaccinations.

Vicky the Vet
March 6, 2017 7:23 pm

Definitely important to get those dogs to the vet regularly! Although I’m a vet I’m not bias, I see plenty of dogs come in for things all the time that could have been prevented if they would have come in to see me sooner

Renz Path
October 29, 2018 8:29 pm
Reply to  Vicky the Vet

It is good that you pointed out that vets can help find out diseases and others that can threaten our dog’s life. That’s a good reminder as we have a dog that has been acting weird lately which may be due to a disease and we do not know how to handle that behavior. Since vets have been trained in handling pets, we might as well seek the help of that professional to assess our dog’s behavior and find out what’s wrong with that.