How Often Should I Take My Dog To The Vet? (Plus A Puppy Vet Visit Schedule)


Last Updated: February 9, 2023 | 5 min read | Leave a Comment

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Veterinarians typically recommend that healthy adult dogs get a comprehensive wellness examination once a year. However, this guideline differs for puppies under one year of age and elderly dogs. How often should you take puppies and senior dogs to the vet? And is once a year enough for your adult dog? We’ll explain when you should take your dog to a vet, what a routine checkup involves, how much you can expect to pay, and more.

Cute Dog with Owner in Veterinarian Clinic.

Why Are Regular Wellness Exams So Important?

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), “annual or biannual exams nip emerging health problems in the bud and are key to extending your pet’s time by your side.” Routine vaccinations keep your pup healthy. And early detection and treatment of any disease or condition give your dog the best possible prognosis. Catching problems early can also save you money and heartache in the long run.

How Often Should A Dog Go To The Vet?

Adult dogs (over one year of age) should get a wellness exam and essential preventative care once a year if your vet determines that they have no health concerns. However, puppies, senior dogs, and adult dogs with suspected health concerns should get more frequent health checkups.

When Should I Take My Puppy To The Vet?

Puppies usually see a veterinarian for the first time at two to three weeks old. Then, most veterinarians recommend that puppies get a checkup every three to four weeks until they’re at least 16 weeks old. Each checkup typically includes vaccinations, a thorough physical exam, and other tests to confirm that they’re healthy and growing properly.

Puppy Vet Visits Schedule

Keep in mind that this schedule varies by veterinarians and your dog’s needs. But here’s a general idea of what to expect with how often you need to take your puppy to the vet and what the checkup will involve.

AgeComplete Physical ExamFecal Exam*Recommended VaccinationsOptional Vaccinations**
6-8 WeeksBrown checkmark (Yes)Brown checkmark (Yes)1st DHPP***
Canine influenza
9-11 WeeksBrown checkmark (Yes)Brown checkmark (Yes)2nd DHPP
Lyme disease
Canine influenza
12-15 WeeksBrown checkmark (Yes)Brown checkmark (Yes)3rd DHPP
Lyme disease
16-20 WeeksBrown checkmark (Yes)Brown checkmark (Yes)4th DHPP
  • * A fecal exam detects the presence of intestinal parasites (e.g., roundworms, tapeworms, etc.) that are common in puppies.
  • ** Your vet may recommend additional vaccinations based on where you live and the likelihood that your pup may contract these diseases.
  • *** DHPP is a combination vaccine for distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Other variations of a distemper combination vaccine include DHLPP, DAPP, DA2PP, etc.

Expert Tip: Another typical vet visit for your puppy is for spaying or neutering. The most recent recommendations for when you should get your dog neutered or spayed differ by your dog’s size and gender. It can range from 5-15 months old. Learn more about the benefits of spaying or neutering your pup.

Adult Dog Vet Visits

Once dogs turn one year old, an annual checkup is recommended. However, the frequency can depend on your furry friend’s current health condition. If your dog has any health issues, you’ll need to visit your vet more frequently for testing or treatment. Adult and senior dogs are required to get a distemper combination vaccine every three years and a rabies vaccination every one to three years. The frequency depends on your local regulations.

Senior Dog Vet Visits

Vets usually recommend a wellness checkup every six months for senior dogs. The age varies by breed and size, but generally, dogs are considered senior when they’re over seven years old. Along with the physical exam and other routine testing and vaccines, additional testing is typically recommended for senior pups because they’re at a higher risk of having several health problems.

What Do Vet Checkups Involve?         

A wellness checkup involves a comprehensive assessment of your dog’s health, including a physical exam, routine tests, and any necessary vaccinations or boosters. Your vet will ask you about your pup’s diet, exercise, bowel movements, urination, behavior, breathing, etc. This is also a perfect time for you to raise any questions or concerns about your pup’s health and behavior. After checking your dog’s overall condition, your vet may recommend diet or lifestyle changes, dental care, medications, and other suggestions based on her current health status.

Physical Examination

What is your vet checking for during a physical exam? A thorough exam typically includes:

  • Checking your dog’s weight
  • Listening to your dog’s heart and lungs to make sure there’s no sign of cardiac problems or fluid in the lungs
  • Looking at your furry friend’s eyes for redness, discharge, abnormal tearing, cloudiness, etc.
  • Checking your dog’s ears for signs of infection, polyps, or ear mites  
  • Examining your pup’s mouth for any signs of gum disease, tooth damage or decay, and oral masses
  • Checking your canine companion’s skin and coat for dryness, rashes, lumps, swelling, parasites like fleas, hair loss, etc.
  • Assessing your dog’s bones, joints, and muscles for signs of deterioration, muscle loss, arthritis, ligament tears, limping, gait changes, etc.
  • Palpating your pup’s abdomen to detect any swelling of internal organs or signs of discomfort

Routine Diagnostic Testing

Many veterinarians also recommend some or all of the following tests to check for the presence of health problems that a physical exam alone may not catch.

  • Complete blood count (CBC): Routine blood work is important in detecting many health problems (diabetes, organ dysfunction, infection, etc.) early on.
  • Urinalysis: A urine test can detect signs of diabetes, infection, kidney problems, crystal formation, etc.
  • Fecal exam: This test can detect the presence of intestinal worms, which are common in dogs.
  • Heartworm test: The American Heartworm Society recommends annual heartworm testing to make sure your pup doesn’t have this potentially deadly disease.

Additional Testing For Senior Dogs

For older dogs, additional screening may include X-rays of the chest and abdomen to assess the internal organs, skeletal X-rays to check for degenerated joints and bones, and other tests to follow up on previous or ongoing health concerns.

How Much Is A Vet Checkup?

It’s hard to pinpoint the cost of annual vet checkups because fees can vary by location and provider, but you can generally expect to pay an average of $40 to $60 for the physical exam. Routine lab work can add $50 or more depending on which routine diagnostic tests they perform.

Some owners opt out of these tests to save money, but we recommend you follow your vet’s advice to make sure your pup is healthy. Vaccines also add to the vet checkup cost. The first year of vaccines can cost $90 or more, and boosters are roughly another $50 per year. See more averages for various vet expenses.

10 Signs That Your Dog Needs To See A Vet

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if your pup is ill enough for a vet visit. Here are some signs that warrant veterinary attention.

  1. Change in eating habits: eating less than normal over a few days or not eating at all
  2. Drinking too much or too little water
  3. Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing when not exercising
  4. Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  5. Sudden weight loss
  6. Lethargy
  7. Red, cloudy eyes with a discharge
  8. Changes to the gate, movement, or balance
  9. Rashes and skin or hair changes
  10. Unusual behavior, e.g., aggression, timidness, whining, crying

How Can I Save Money On Vet Expenses?

If you don’t already have pet insurance, you may want to consider getting it to help you save on unexpected vet bills in the future. Pet insurance policies typically cover veterinary services for accidents and illnesses but not routine wellness visits and other preventative care like vaccinations. However, some pet insurance providers also offer pet wellness plans as an add-on to their policies.

Although pet wellness plans vary by provider, they typically cover a portion of the costs for vet checkups, some standard tests (blood work, fecal, urinalysis, etc.), routine vaccines, dental cleanings, and more. Even if you don’t get a wellness plan to help you budget your finances, fees for checkups and other preventative care are well worth it for you and your pup. Regular wellness costs could end up saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars down the road and extend your dog’s life.

What Other Preventative Care Is Important For Your Pup?

While you’re at your routine checkup, your veterinarian will likely advise you to administer a monthly flea and tick preventative and worm preventative (for heartworms and various intestinal worms). Regular tooth brushing is also extremely important to prevent your pup from developing gum disease and other dental problems.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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