Many owners know to visit their Vet when their dog is sick, unwell or if there are health concerns. But, are you aware that routine health appointments can be extremely beneficial for your canine friend? This article will cover and discuss how often your dog should go to the Vets. It will also highlight the importance of regular Vet appointments and the benefits to your canine’s health and wellbeing.
Table of contents
The importance of registering:
The UK has a huge population of approximately 12.5 million dogs (PFMA, 2021)! Firstly, you’d be utterly surprised how many dogs in this Country are not registered with a Veterinary practice! It isn’t until these owners are faced with an extremely stressful, emergency situation that they try to register their dog in order to get them examined by a Vet. It is vitally important to register your dog with a local Vet practice as soon as they enter your home!
Vaccinations and routines:
Your Vet will often have the pleasure of meeting your beautiful puppy for the first time during their first vaccination and health check appointment. Your puppy’s first health check is one of the most important appointments in your dog’s lifetime. This is because your Vet will assess your puppy for any abnormalities and congenital problems (abnormalities present at birth). Some congenital conditions can be life threatening. Once your puppy has been health checked, if the Vet is happy they will then proceed to start your puppy’s vaccination programme. Vaccinations protect your beloved dogs from highly contagious, life threatening diseases such as parvo-virus, distemper, hepatitis.
After your puppy has completed their vaccination course, annual vaccinations throughout your dog’s entire lifetime are recommended. Although not every disease needs boosting every year, every year at least one disease will. Contact your local Vet practice to enquire about vaccination programmes.
As well as your dog receiving their annual vaccinations, they will also have a complete nose to tail health assessment including teeth and weight checks. Your Vet will also guide you on flea and worm control, neutering advice etc.
Let’s talk puppies:
Not only is their first appointment important to check your puppy’s health, but their first appointment is often an unforgettable experience. Therefore as Vets we need to make it a pleasant one. Most dogs see their ‘Dogtor’ at least once a year. Therefore, we want them to develop a strong association with their Vet from a very early age. This will reduce everyone’s stress level!
Following their first vaccination, Nurses will often administer their second vaccination and monthly clinics (if your practice offers this service). These consultations are vitally important for your puppies learning and development.
Puppies experience 3 key periods in their social development calendars and it is important to be aware of these. These are termed, the primary period, the socialisation period and the juvenile/enrichment period (Howell et al, 2015). I feel that as a Vet one of the most significant periods is the ‘socialisation period’ which occurs from approximately 3 weeks until 12 weeks of age (Howell et al, 2015). During this period, ‘fear responses’ can develop and these fear responses really can impact them for the rest of their lives. Think about it, Vets only usually see puppies for their first vaccinations around 8-9 weeks of age, this leaves a short window of only 2/3 weeks until their socialisation period has finished!
Puppy clinics can be a really positive and fun environment and your puppy will really benefit from this nice experience, as usually they are travelling to the Vets for a needle or when they are feeling poorly and sad!
Dogs are generally categorised as being ‘geriatric’ once they reach an adult age of around 7-8 years of age (although there are breed variabilities). We know that many disease processes are more common amongst older populations. Just like humans, older animals tend to require more health care. We also know that many conditions that are detected early enough are proven to have a better outcome and a higher treatment success rate. For example, osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in dogs and this degenerative disease is overpopulated in older canines. Therefore, it is important to ensure your older dog has regular check-ups (ideally at least twice yearly) with your Vet to ensure they are in the best of health.
Standard Veterinary prescriptions are valid for a maximum of 6 months and this is the law (your Vet may decide to issue a prescription for less than 6 months depending on the situation). Furthermore, any dog on long term medication will be required to attend a prescription check appointment twice yearly to check their weight, bloods and ongoing response to the medication etc.
Regularly attending appointments with your Vet can really strengthen the bond which you have with an individual Vet. Whilst your Vet can really form a positive relationship with your dog by getting to know their health and personality, your Vet can also form a positive relationship with you as an owner. Building trust with your Vet will benefit everyone involved and it will allow decision-making processes and communication more straightforward.
To conclude, it is extremely important that your dog sees their Vet regularly and it is even more important that your dog is registered at a Vet practice in the first place. Attending regular appointments can provide opportunities for Vets to pick up on certain conditions and diseases a lot sooner. But don’t let this put you off attending, the earlier diseases are diagnosed, generally the better the outcome!
You might also be interested in:
Howell, T, J, King, T, Bennett, P, C. 2015. Puppy parties and beyond: the role of early age socialisation practices on adult dog behaviour. Vet Med. 6: 143-153.
PFMA (2021) https://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2021 [accessed online 21/11/2021].