Bringing a puppy home for the first time is an exciting experience that comes with a great deal of responsibility. From the second your new friend walks their little paws through the door, you will not only need to start training your new pup but also take them for their first visit to the veterinarian. Here we’ll walk you through what you need to know about your puppy’s first vet visit.
When To Take Your Pup For Their First Visit
Most puppies go home to their pet parents at around 6 to 8 weeks, which is the perfect time for a first visit to the vet. You can push their first visit to 10 weeks of age if necessary, but the longer you wait, the more you put your pup at risk.
Always bring along any paperwork if your puppy has previously visited a vet. Some breeders start their pups’ vaccinations and deworming before sending them to their new home. If so, your veterinarian needs to know to continue your puppy on the proper dosages.
What Happens At The First Vet Visit?
A lot takes place during your pup’s first visit to the vet, and if you aren’t prepared, some of it can seem confusing. Let’s take a look at what you should expect.
- Physical Examination: The vet will give your new puppy a thorough once over. They will check your dog’s body, skin, coat, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. They will also test your pup’s vision, hearing, and alertness.
- Vaccinations: Puppies become susceptible to several diseases and conditions when their mother’s milk antibodies wear off at around 6 weeks of age. Fortunately, vaccinations are there to protect your pup. Four core vaccines are recommended for all puppies - distemper, canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus, and rabies. The rabies vaccine is recommended for all puppies and is also required by law in many states.
- Medications: Besides the examination and vaccinations, your pup will also get a medical prescription if any problem is detected. The most commonly prescribed medicine is a dewormer for dogs since most puppies are born with worms.
In addition to those core vaccines, several non-core vaccines are available for pups. Some non-core vaccines are for pets living in specific geographic locations or leading a lifestyle that puts them at risk for disease. Ask your veterinarian if they recommend any non-core vaccines for your dog.
Your puppy’s vaccinations will typically start at around 6 weeks. They will receive boosters every few weeks until they are finished with the shots at about 4 months old. After that, vaccination boosters will be given annually or on a schedule set by your veterinarian.
- Fecal Exam and Deworming: Before your pup’s first visit, your vet tech or veterinarian will let you know if you should bring a sample of your dog’s stool for a fecal exam. Most puppies are born with roundworms and will receive a deworming medication that will either be administered at home or at the vet’s office.
- Flea and Tick Prevention: Protecting your pup from fleas and ticks is essential, not only because these pests are annoying but also because they can carry disease. Many preventive products can be started on puppies as young as 8 weeks old. Ask your veterinarian to recommend medication, topical treatment, or a collar that protects your new pal properly.
- Microchipping: A microchip is like an ID tag that lives inside your dog’s body. It is about the size of a grain of rice and contains your pet’s information. If your pet is ever lost and returned to a shelter or vet’s office, the chip can be scanned, and your pet safely returned to you. It’s great technology, and many veterinarians strongly recommend it. The cost is typically low, and the procedure is simple. The chip is injected into your dog’s shoulder blades. However, even if you decide to have your pup microchipped, it should still wear an ID tag.
You must never hesitate to ask questions. Moreover, you should stay calm and positive when heading into the vet’s office for the first time. If your pup finds you calmer, it will be more at ease.
How My Puppy's First Vet Visit Nearly Cost Me $1,000
I adopted my first dog back in October. Lexi, a 12-month-old mixed breed, is a loving, licking doofus. She's my new sidekick and constant companion. Yet, even though I work in the pet industry, puppy ownership has already thrown me some curveballs, especially Lexi's First Vet Visit.
Earlier this week, I took Lexi to get spayed at the vet. At the front desk, I was told the price would be $340. When I met with my vet, she strongly recommended I upgrade to the $740 spay package with " more reliable medication and anesthesia." She was insistent about the upgrade and pushed hard.
Unfortunately, I simply can't afford that. I went with the less expensive package. It was hard to turn down the advice of a professional I respect. Worse, I feared it meant my dog was somehow not "worth" the expense or that I was judged for making this tough decision.
My point isn't that vets are wrong somehow. I believe a great vet is essential to any pet's health. But maybe there's a problem with the system. Who wants to choose between saving money and doing what's best for their pet's health? not this guy.
Luckily for pet parents, a new normal is on its way. Pet insurance works well for many Americans to manage these costs. But what about a program that doesn't charge more for older pets or pets with pre-existing conditions? PetPlus is that and so much more. I'll talk more about it below.
The Battle Over Pet Medications
While at Lexi's vet visit, I also asked for a heartworm and post-operation pain medication prescription. Unfortunately, my vet's office was not cooperative in handing over the prescription, suggesting it was unsafe to get them elsewhere. Again, a great vet is an excellent ally in any pet's health, but there's a problem here. The truth is that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) runs an accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites).
According to the FDA, all Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:• are appropriately licensed in the states from which they ship drugs•, have completed a 19-point review and online survey•, undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation• undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years.
Many veterinarians have gotten used to making a sizable chunk of their income from pet medication sales. The status quo has been that vets sell the medications they write the prescriptions for, which, not surprisingly, has kept market competition from allowing pet owners to get the best price.
So I opted to get Lexi's medications through my company's membership plan, PetPlus, and paid $70 instead of the $170 I would have to pay at the vet's office. (Note: Price difference does not represent an employee discount. That's the price anyone can get on PetPlus with a PetPlus membership, starting at $3/month.)
The thing here is that when you buy pet meds online, you can save a lot of money. Online retailers can buy medicines in quantity at a wholesale rate. Hence, they can afford to give you a discount on the pet medication.
However, that’s not the case with veterinarians. They can’t buy in bulk as they might not have the amount to invest. Moreover, they will need to stock the medicines and also ensure selling them before the expiry date to prevent loss. Hence, they usually don’t buy any pet medicine in bulk and end up charging you over to get profit on them.
A Scary Turn
I got a call later that day saying that the spay went well but that the vet found a lump on my dog's belly, which needed to be checked out at the lab. That would cost another $140. I had the choice to refuse, but if it was something terrible, I decided to get the test.
Luckily for Lexi and me, the biopsy showed that the lump was a benign tumor that should take care of itself in a few months. I'm certainly glad I got the test done, but it was a good chunk of change. Of course, I was fiercely worried about my dog's health, but the amount of money I paid was also on my mind.
I also knew my veterinary expenses could skyrocket if the biopsy results showed something terrible. And I know I'm not the first pet parent to feel these conflicting fears!
As I worry over these costs, I think about ways that I can save money here and there on my dog to try to balance them out. I didn't know having a 1-year-old puppy would be filled with lab tests, biopsies, and medical costs, but that's just the roll of the dice with a pet.
One of the best ways to save on costs is through pet meds. As stated above, buying pet medications online can save you a lot of money.
On What Drugs Are You Spending Too Much at a Vet?
Did you know vets charge 567% more than the cost of this medication? Yes, you read that right. Prednisone for dogs is a corticosteroid. It mimics the cortisol hormone to prevent inflammatory and immune responses. Prednisone is an allergy medicine for dogs and helps them fight allergies.
Tramadol is an NSAID pain reliever for dogs. While usually prescribed post-surgery for severe pain, vets also recommend using it for painful conditions like arthritis or cancer. At times, Tramadol is also used as a cough medicine for dogs, but only in rare cases.
Veterinarians charge up to 1,000% extra on this medication. Amoxicillin is an effective antibiotic medication that can help fight infections. Hence, if your vet finds any infection, he will prescribe Amoxicillin for dogs.
So What Can a Pet Parent Do?
I admit that I'm a bit biased because I work for PetPlus, but I prefer to call it more informed. I would only try to make the best choices for Lexi and myself. Since you never know what's coming down the pipeline regarding your pet's healthcare, options like buying medications online or signing up for PetPlus are worth it. It was worth it for me.
More on Puppy Care
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