Becoming A Regular
The first trip to the vet can be intimidating. Obviously for your puppy, and maybe less obviously, for you.
The first few weeks (let’s be honest, months) are filled with so many questions. Should we go for a walk now, why does her poop look like that, is she going to be safe for ten minutes in her crate while I run to the bodega?
For puppies, their first few months are marked by their immunizations, so you’re going to be a regular at your vet’s office. Your first visit is just as important for you as it is for your dog.
Some Light Prep Work
Before we dive into the exam itself, let’s go over what you need to prepare before even arriving at your vet’s office.
Most of the prep is gathering paperwork. Any and all previous medical records (whether from the shelter, breeder, or just a note of when flea medications were last given), notes on any previously known health concerns, make note if they’re on a worming schedule, and write down what food you’re currently feeding and how much.
My best tip is to get all of this information to your vet ahead of your visit. Whether by emailing or dropping off the files in person, it’s one less thing to remember during the chaos of getting out the door.
If you’re signing up for pet insurance, here are some great places to start your research:
Getting Off The Ground
We never know why other dogs are going to the vet, so my advice is that its better to be safe than sorry. Pick your puppy up off the ground and carry them around, especially if they haven’t completed their immunizations. Their immune systems are often not fully developed, making them even more susceptible to the bacteria and viruses that might be present.
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De-Mystifying The Exam Room
The initial exam is to get to know you and your dog, administer a few vaccines, or take tests if those are needed. Your vet will chat with you while they perform a physical examination of your dog. They are looking for anything out of the ordinary as far as their age, what stage they are in their development, and any breed-specific abnormalities.
A lot of what happens at this first visit is chatting about your dog. Like any medical situation, being honest is important.
What Questions You Should Be Asking
This visit is a great opportunity to ask any questions that have popped up during your first week together, but what else should you be sure to ask?
Get to know what services are available at the office.
We’re talking emergency services, off-hours availability, do they offer nail trims, can they take x-rays on-site or process blood-tests in-house?
What vaccinations are needed, and what will the schedule for them be?
Some vaccines last three years, others for six months. When you’re first inoculating a puppy, many of the shots require an initial dose and boosters over the following months.
Many vets offer a “puppy pack” bundle which typically includes shots, boosters, and a yearly exam in an all-included package. Find out if your office has one and what’s included.
Is their current weight healthy?
It’s impossible to know exactly how much a dog will weigh once fully grown, but you can always ask for benchmarks that you should be looking for, and when you should be increasing their daily calories.
Do they have a microchip and is the information up to date?
If they’re a puppy, ask when getting chipped would be appropriate.
If they’re older, make sure the information is up-to-date. Microchips are so useful and having relevant information attached to them is clutch in emergency situations.
My puppy has been doing _____. Is that normal?
No matter what it is, funny looking poop, whining at the bathroom door, rolling around on the couch like they’ve got an itch they can’t seem to scratch, ask! Your vet sees hundreds of dogs every week and can walk you through the why behind what’s happening.
When can we start socializing?
Before they are vaccinated, puppies are in quarantine. It’s for their own good, but you want to make sure that their initial exposure to the world involves positive experiences with other dogs. Early socialization will help your dog make friends, keep their cool around other canines, and make them an upstanding member of their (eventual) dog park.
This office isn’t so scary...
It’s no secret that most dogs would rather be anywhere but a vet’s office. One way to help combat their potentially negative associations is to stop by the office and grab a treat. That’s all! Just stop in, say hi, grab a treat and go. If they’re closed, or have a hectic waiting room, stop outside for a mid-walk snack session on your own.
Some offices even offer “happy visits” which include going into the exam rooms with a vet to help those super-anxious dogs get used to their surroundings without the stress of an examination.
With any new situation, your dog is going to look to your reactions to figure out her own. So keeping your cool will help her be more confident too.