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How Often Should Adult Dogs Go to the Vet?

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Overview

Published: 10/5/2021

During adulthood, your dog should require less care than any other stage in their life. That said, adult dogs need routine check-ups from their veterinarian, just as humans need regular check-ups with their doctors. Plus, accidents can happen, and medical expenses can arise from seemingly nowhere, so it's best to stay prepared. 

If you're new to being a pet parent or just want to take better care of your canine compadre, you might be asking yourself, "How often should adult dogs go to the vet?" Let's take a look at how often you should take your dog to the vet, common health problems, and other considerations.


How often should adult dogs go to the vet?

There's no exact rule for how often an adult dog should go to the vet — the frequency of vet visits changes depending on your dog's breed, age, and health. That said, an adult dog with no pre-existing conditions should visit the vet at least once a year

You should think of these annual vet visits as routine check-ups to ensure there's nothing wrong with your dog that isn't obvious to the untrained eye. A wellness examination usually involves:

  • Weighing your dog

  • Inspecting how your dog stands

  • Reviewing your dog's medical records

  • Checking your dog's teeth and gums

  • Examining your dog's coat

  • Examining your dog's mouth, eyes, and ears

  • Checking if your dog is alert

  • Checking muscle for signs of muscle waste

  • Listening to your dog's heart and lungs

  • Inspecting your dog's abdomen for swelling

Depending on your dog's breed, your vet may pay extra attention to certain areas for signs of hereditary conditions. For example, Springer Spaniels are prone to developing arthritis, so your vet may thoroughly check the mobility of your dog's joints.




Common health conditions in adult dogs

Adult dogs in the prime of their lives are less likely to develop serious illnesses than elderly canines. However, adult dogs are still at risk of contracting many diseases that can be life-threatening and expensive to treat.


Gum disease (Periodontitis)

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a bacterial infection of the gums, causing tooth loss, bad breath, and chronic pain. Gum disease is the most common disease amongst pet dogs, affecting over 65% of canines over the age of 3. 

Gum disease is hard to identify, so regular check-ups are important to prevent this disease developing. Gum disease commonly occurs due to a lack of knowledge of a dog's dental hygiene. Common symptoms of gum disease include: 

  • Bleeding or red gums

  • Difficulty eating

  • Bad breath

  • Loose or lost teeth


Ear infections

Ear infections affect approximately 20% of dogs at some point during their lives but are most common in long-eared breeds like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds. Dogs can develop outer, middle, and inner ear infections. 

The most common cause of ear infections in dogs is water, but dogs can also get ear infections from ear mites, air allergens, food, and irritants. Common symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Pawing at the ears

  • Shaking the head repeatedly

  • Restlessness

  • Ear discharge


Cancer

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), approximately 1 in 4 dogs will develop a form of cancer during their lifetime. Around half of dogs over 10 years old develop cancer. 

While cancer may be less common in adults than senior dogs, you should still check your dog regularly for lumps. Early detection gives your dog the best chance of beating cancer. While lumps can be benign, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible for blood tests to be safe.

While the symptoms of cancer vary significantly depending on the type, common signs include:

  • Lethargy

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Diarrhea or vomiting

  • Difficulty urinating or defecating

  • Difficulty breathing


Heart disease

Heart disease affects approximately 10% of adult dogs and around 75% of senior dogs. One of the most serious conditions a dog can develop, heart disease has no single cause and affects some breeds more than others. 

The most common causes of heart disease in dogs are obesity, poor nutrition, and aging. Symptoms before the onset of heart disease are rare. That said, common possible signs of heart disease, like congestive heart failure, include: 

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lethargy

  • Increased pulse

  • Discomfort


Obesity

Many vets regard obesity as the most common preventable disease in dogs. In North America, between 25% and 30% of dogs suffer from obesity. Around 40% to 45% of dogs in the US aged between 5 and 11 years old weigh over the recommended weight for their breed. 

There are many reasons why obesity occurs in dogs, from underlying health conditions like hyperthyroidism to poor nutrition to genetic predispositions. If left unchecked, obesity could seriously affect your dog's health, contributing to conditions like heart disease and diabetes. 

If you're unsure if your dog is overweight, consult your vet to make sure. Common symptoms of obesity in dogs include:

  • Weight gain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lack of mobility


Heartworm (dirofilaria immitis)

Parasites are common in dogs and are among the most prevalent health conditions your canine could contract.  Heartworms are parasites spread by mosquitoes that infect a dog's heart and lung arteries. A dog can carry as many as 300 individual worms in their body. 

Heartworms affect around 1 in 200 dogs, with around 100,000 diagnoses annually in the US. If untreated, dogs can die from heartworm, often due to heart disease, most commonly secondary congestive heart failure. Common symptoms of heartworm include:

  • Mild persistent cough

  • Fatigue

  • Decreased appetite

  • Weight loss


Parvovirus (CPV)

Parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is currently one of the most common viral infections among canines globally. Parvo is a potentially serious viral infection that causes gastrointestinal distress. The most common way for dogs to contract parvo is by contact with an infected animal's feces. 

Parvo is most common in adolescent dogs but can affect all age groups. The best way to protect your dog against parvo is through vaccinations. However, there are many strains of parvovirus, and your dog can still contract parvo after being vaccinated. Common symptoms of parvovirus include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Lethargy




Pet care considerations for adult dogs

Caring for your dog during adulthood is important as it sets them up for their senior years. The better you take care of your canine, the longer you can expect them to be around as they age. Below are a few important considerations for adult dogs to ensure they stay physically and mentally healthy.


Keep a routine

Dogs are creatures of habit, and a daily routine goes a long way to keeping them happy and healthy. A daily routine with regular walks and playtime will improve your dog's mental and physical health. Scheduled feeding times will also help regulate your dog's bowel movements, improving their gastrointestinal health.


Balance your dog's diet

Keeping your dog on a balanced diet will go a long way toward preventing common and serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Balancing your dog's diet is harder than it seems and may take some trial and error. To ensure your dog is getting the correct nutrients, speak to your vet, who will be able to recommend the best dog food for your canine.


Keep up to date with vaccinations

Vaccinations help protect your dog (and other dogs) from potentially fatal diseases and infections like rabies, distemper, and parvovirus. Widespread vaccinations have led to the eradication of viral infections like rabies in countries worldwide, including the UK and Australia.


Avoid high-impact activity

While it's important to keep your dog active with lots of walkies, you should try to avoid constant high-impact exercise with your dog. Some high-impact exercise is necessary, but too much could cause your dog to develop joint conditions like arthritis and hip dysplasia later in life. You should avoid activities that put lots of pressure and heavily impact your dog's legs for extended periods.


Supervise your dog when outdoors

If you have an outside dog, consider turning them into an indoor pet. Dogs left outdoors unsupervised are at much greater risk of contracting infections from stray animals and insects, like Lyme disease, rabies, and parvovirus. They may also pick up parasites like fleas, heartworm, and ringworm.


Review your dog's training regularly

Dog training keeps your dog safe and stimulated while also improving your bond. Several tricks and commands could keep your dog out of trouble. For example, "leave it" could stop your dog from sticking their face in feces riddled with parvo. Meanwhile, "stay" or "halt" could prevent your dog from running out in traffic or chasing a wild animal. If you're having trouble training an unruly dog, consider booking a dog trainer to help.




Average vet care costs for adult dogs

The cost of veterinary treatments varies significantly depending on your dog's age, breed, and health. Prices may also change depending on where you live. Here are the estimated costs of a few common treatments:

  • Standard check-up: $50 – $200

  • Vaccinations: $10 – $100

  • Spaying and neutering: $50 – $200

  • Allergy blood test: $80 – $200

  • Heartworm test: $45 – $50

  • Treatment for ear infection: $40 – $150

  • Chemotherapy for cancer: ~$4,000

  • Average lifetime cost for a dog: $8,000 – $19,000

These are all estimates and may differ significantly depending on your vet and the recommended treatment.




Even if your dog is in the prime of their life, vet bills can pop up unexpectedly, and serious ailments can affect even the healthiest canines. Prepare for rainy days and protect your wallet and your woofer by getting the best possible insurance policy for your dog. Use our pet insurance comparison tool to see which plan is right for your canine.

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