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How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

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By Tim Falk

Published: 11/12/2021, edited: 11/12/2021

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How often should I take my dog to the vet? This is a question that can challenge any new pet parent. However, the answer won’t necessarily be the same for every dog.

How often your dog needs to go to the vet depends on their age, breed, size, and a number of other factors. Keep reading to find out about the different vet care requirements of different types of dogs, and how to decide when your pup is due for their next vet visit.


How often should my dog go to the vet? A quick summary

Age

  • Puppies: Every 3 to 4 weeks from the age of 6 to 16 weeks, then as needed
  • Adult dogs: Once per year
  • Senior dogs: Every 6 months

Breed

  • Purebred dogs: Every 6 to 12 months
  • Mixed-breed dogs: Once per year

Size

  • Small dogs: Every 6 to 12 months
  • Medium-sized dogs: Once per year
  • Large dogs: Once per year
  • Giant dogs: Every 6 months

Other factors, like activity level, may warrant more frequent visits. For example, service dogs and working dogs will need a wellness check-up every 6 months.


Age

Puppies and adult dogs face different health problems and have different vet care needs than older dogs. Let’s take a closer look at why that’s the case.

Puppies

person holding puppy

From the moment you bring your new puppy home, you can expect to become quite familiar with your vet in the months to follow. From 6 to 16 weeks of age, your puppy should visit the vet every 3 to 4 weeks to receive vaccinations, have their weight and overall health checked, and start an effective parasite protection program.

Your vet will also be able to offer advice on parasite control and the right diet for your puppy, plus ensure that your pet is microchipped and advise you on an appropriate time to have them spayed or neutered. And if you have any questions about how to give your pup a healthy start to life, now is the time to ask them.

If your puppy experiences an unexpected emergency, such as swallowing a foreign object or being injured in an accident, you’ll obviously need to seek immediate treatment. You’ll also need to monitor your fur-baby for symptoms of common puppy health problems, such as parvo, distemper, and intestinal parasites, and take them to the vet if needed.

For more information, check out our How Often Should Puppies Go to the Vet? guide. 


Adult dogs

smiling dog lying in grass

The good news is that, provided your dog is healthy, they should require fewer vet visits at this stage of their life than when they’re a puppy or an older dog. However, that doesn’t mean they can go without any wellness check-ups altogether. As a general rule, an adult dog with no pre-existing health concerns should go to the vet at least once a year.

The purpose of these annual visits is basically to check your dog for any developing health problems that may not be immediately obvious to the average pet parent. You can expect the vet to weigh your dog, examine them from top to bottom, and review their medical records. Depending on your pet’s breed, the vet may also check them for certain hereditary conditions, like hip dysplasia. Booster shots to protect against distemper, parvo, and other health problems are typically recommended every 3 years. 

The vet will make sure your dog is in a healthy weight range and that they’re up to date with their vaccinations. They can also monitor your furry family member for signs of common health problems that can affect adult dogs, such as gum disease, heart disease, and cancer

For more information, read our How Often Should Adult Dogs Go to the Vet? guide.



Senior dogs

senior dog lying in grass

Your golden oldie has brought you so much joy and love throughout their life, and you want to ensure their senior years are as fulfilling and comfortable as possible.

However, as your dog ages, they become more likely to suffer from a range of health conditions. As a result, it’s typically recommended that senior dogs undergo a wellness exam at least every 6 months.

That said, make sure you know exactly when your dog is classified in this age category. Dogs are considered to be senior between roughly 7 and 10 years of age — larger breeds tend to have shorter lifespans, so they reach the milestone earlier.

Unfortunately, the list of health problems that can afflict older dogs is a long one. Common issues can include arthritis, hearing or vision loss, kidney disease, cognitive disorders, dental disease, and cancer.

At your senior dog’s 6-monthly check-up, your vet will assess your dog’s overall health and identify any potential risks or early signs of disease. As well as checking your dog for tumors, arthritis, and signs of pain, your vet may also conduct a range of baseline tests (including urine and blood tests, kidney and liver function testing, and a fecal test) to monitor your senior pet’s health status.

For more information, check out our How Often Should Senior Dogs Go to the Vet? guide.


Breed

Your pet’s breed can also play a part in determining how often they need a vet check-up. Keep reading to find out about the healthcare needs of purebred and mixed-breed dogs.

Purebred dogs

poodle lying down

How often should your purebred dog go to the vet? Even if they’re from the finest breeding stock, they still need regular vet visits to ensure that they stay in top health. 

As a general guide, a healthy adult purebred dog will need a wellness exam once a year. However, there are other factors that can influence the frequency of vet visits. Senior dogs will often need twice-yearly check-ups, while purebred puppies will need regular visits to ensure that they receive all the essential vaccinations. 

And then there’s the matter of genetic health issues. A 2018 study by Wisdom Health and Genoscoper Laboratories examined the DNA of 83,000 mixed-breed dogs and 18,000 purebred dogs, revealing that purebreds were 2.8 times more likely than mixed-breed dogs to have a recessive disease.

While it’s possible to test for some hereditary conditions, and responsible breeders screen their breeding stock to weed out genetic health problems, some breeds or individual dogs may require more frequent check-ups. Your vet will be able to advise you on how often they need to see your dog.

Otherwise, wellness exams for purebred dogs involve all the usual tests and assessments that you’d expect based on your pet’s age, size, and lifestyle as outlined in other sections of this page.


Mixed-breed dogs

cavadoodle

Want to give your mutt the best possible care? For an adult mixed-breed dog with no underlying problems, an annual wellness exam will ensure that they’re fit and healthy. However, puppies and senior dogs will require more frequent visits.

It’s also important to point out that just because your pooch is a mixed-breed dog, that doesn’t mean they’re less likely than a purebred dog to suffer from certain genetic disorders.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, studied health records for over 90,000 purebred and mixed-breed dogs examined at UC Davis’ veterinary medical teaching hospital from 1995 to 2010. They found that 13 of 24 common genetic disorders were essentially just as prevalent in mixed-breed dogs as they were in purebreds. These conditions included hip dysplasia, tumor-causing cancers, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In fact, a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament in the knee occurred more commonly in mixed breeds.

The focus of vet visits for a mixed-breed dog will be on assessing their overall health and wellbeing, monitoring them for any signs of developing illnesses, and ensuring that they stay in a healthy weight range.


Size

two black dogs lying down - how often should i take my dog to the vet

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that a Chihuahua has different healthcare needs than a Great Dane. From toy breeds through to giant breeds, here’s how often your dog needs to go to the vet.

Small dogs

How often should you take your pint-sized pooch to the vet? If they’re a healthy adult dog, a vet visit once a year will help ensure that they stay in optimum shape. However, if your small dog suffers from known health issues or is taking medication, chances are your vet will want to see them more frequently.

Expect your pet’s annual vet visit to include a full physical exam, a weight check, and a check of any symptoms you may have noticed or concerns you may have. Dental issues can be a common problem for smaller dogs, so the vet will want to take a closer look at your pet’s teeth and gums.

A range of other health issues can affect smaller pooches, including patellar luxation, tracheal collapse, and Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Your veterinarian can advise you on the best course of treatment for these conditions. 

Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that some smaller breeds have a reputation for suffering from nerves and anxiety. So if the prospect of a vet visit sends your pup into a spin, you might want to try some training and desensitization techniques to put their mind at ease. 

For more info, check out our How Often Should Small Dogs Go to the Vet? guide.


Medium-sized dogs

how often should medium sized dogs go to the vet

If your pet is a medium-sized dog, such as a Border Collie or a Dalmatian, they’ll benefit from a once-a-year vet visit for a wellness exam. This will give the vet a chance to assess your dog’s overall health and weight, and check for signs of any other common health problems that may develop as they age, like arthritis. Booster shots to protect them against conditions like distemper and parvovirus are also recommended, usually every 3 years.

However, your dog will need more frequent visits as they move into their senior years. Twice-yearly wellness exams are generally recommended for senior dogs, but depending on your pet’s health status, they may need more regular check-ups.


Large dogs

golden retriever in the grass - how often should my dog go to the vet

If you’re the proud pet parent of a large-breed dog, how often your dog needs to visit the vet will depend on their age and any health problems they may have. Puppies and older dogs require more frequent vet care than adult dogs, while pets with underlying health issues will also need more regular wellness exams.

Once they’ve reached adulthood, your large dog will need a vet check-up at least once a year. This will give your vet a chance to detect any developing health problems early, keep your pet up to date with vaccinations, and make sure they’re in a healthy weight range. 

Your pet may also require treatment for some of the common conditions that affect larger breeds, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and dilated cardiomyopathy. Large dogs can also be susceptible to a potentially life-threatening condition known as bloat, which requires emergency veterinary treatment.

Check out our How Often Should Large Dogs Go to the Vet? guide for more details.

Giant dogs


bernes mountain dog - how often should i take my dog to the vet

They’re big and they’re beautiful, but giant breeds have a few different healthcare requirements to their smaller counterparts. As puppies, they undergo rapid growth and can easily suffer damage to giant dogs. They also have special nutritional needs to ensure that they grow at a healthy rate.

Giant breeds also tend to have shorter lifespans than smaller dogs. The Saint Bernard, for example, has a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years, while a Bullmastiff has a lifespan of 7 to 9 years. As a result, they enter their senior years much earlier than some other dogs, and will require more frequent vet visits as they age.

As a general guide, your vet may recommend a wellness exam for your pet every 6 months, but more frequent visits may be required depending on their health needs.

Bone and joint problems can be a common cause of concern for giant breeds, so your vet will want to monitor your pet for signs of degenerative joint disease and hip dysplasia. Bloat, osteosarcoma, and dilated cardiomyopathy are some of the other conditions that can also affect giant dogs, so ask your vet for advice on how to give your pet the best possible care.


Other considerations

Other factors, like health history and day-to-day activities, can also impact your dog’s vet care needs. Let's take a look.

Health history

It’s no great surprise that your pet’s health status and history will affect how often they need to go to the vet. For example, if your pet is recovering from a serious injury or illness, like a broken leg, your vet will need to see them more regularly to monitor the progress of their recovery. 

Regular check-ups are also essential if your dog suffers from a chronic condition that needs ongoing management. For example, if your pooch is diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to work with your vet to develop a suitable management plan. Particularly in the early stages following diagnosis, this may involve regular vet visits while you work out the most effective way to manage your pet’s blood-sugar levels.

The exact frequency with which your dog needs to see the vet can vary greatly depending on their previous and underlying conditions. If in doubt, ask your vet for guidance.

Activity

Is your dog a little different to the average pet dog? If so, they might have slightly different health concerns and care needs to most dogs. Here are a few examples:

Show dogs

If your pooch is a show dog, you may need to consider whether they have an increased risk of hereditary conditions. Common health problems for your dog’s breed can also influence the frequency of vet visits. For example, allergies, skin fold dermatitis, and breathing issues can all pose issues for French Bulldogs. Make sure you know what symptoms to keep an eye out for and take your dog to the vet as necessary.


dog with ball in mouth - how often should i take my dog to the vet

Working dogs

Working dogs have different nutritional needs than domestic dogs, and they can also be susceptible to different health issues. These can include cruciate ligament injuries and arthritis. Working dogs might also be more likely to encounter paralysis ticks in some parts of the country. Working dogs can be crucial “employees” that perform essential jobs, so twice-yearly check-ups may be recommended to keep them in top condition.

Canine athletes

Similar to working dogs, dogs who participate in canine sports like agility and flyball can be prone to sprains, strains, and even cruciate ligament injuries. Monitor your dog for any signs of lameness and get them checked out by your vet if you have any concerns.

Service animals

Service animals perform a range of very important tasks, so they need to be in good health to do their job properly. While they’re not prone to any specific health conditions, twice-yearly wellness exams will keep them at the top of their game.




As you can see, many factors can affect how often your dog should go to the vet. And if you’re ever in doubt about how frequently your pup needs a physical, ask your vet. They’ll be able to tell you everything you need to know to ensure that your fur-baby gets the best possible care.

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