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Veterinarian checking dog‘s health

The essentials

  • Annual check-ups are a key part of your dog’s preventative care — Just as nutrition and exercise are crucial to your pet’s overall health, visiting the vet is, too!
  • The frequency of checkups and visits depends on your dog’s breed — Certain breeds have or are prone to specific health conditions that may need to be monitored closely by a veterinarian.
  • The number of vet visits per year also depends on age — Puppies and seniors tend to go to the vet more often than healthy adult dogs.

Typically, all dogs should see the vet for an annual wellness exam at least once a year. Regular annual wellness exams can help prevent health problems like illness and disease, and help pet parents to catch forming health conditions early on. Preventative care is key to keeping our dogs healthy.

👉 The cost of vet visits isn’t one of the fun parts of dog ownership, but keeping up with preventative health care will save you money in the long run — and keep your furry friend healthier for longer!

When should I take my dog to the vet?

The number of vet visits per year can vary depending on your dog’s age, breed, and overall general health condition.


Age plays a huge role in the frequency of your vet visits each year. If you adopt a puppy, you’ll get used to going to the vet regularly. Experts recommend monthly wellness exams during early puppyhood — typically once every 3–4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old, following a basic vaccine schedule.

During puppy wellness visits, the vet will examine them to make sure they’re developing well and staying healthy. Along with vaccinations, your vet will also start giving your pup heartworm, tick, and flea medications that they’ll need to continue taking for their entire lives.

Since puppies need a series of vaccine boosters for full protection, puppies have more frequent vet visits in their first year of life, just like humans!

Dr. Erica Irish
A puppy with a harness getting a vaccination in its skin on its back

Adult dogs will typically only need to go to the vet for annual wellness exams, or occasionally for a booster or two. Sometimes your visit may include a fecal test for parasite prevention, annual blood work, heartworm tests, dental exams, and vaccination updates — only as needed or recommended.

Senior pets should see the vet for a routine exam semi-annually, approximately every six months. This is because older dogs tend to have particular health needs and are more prone to illness and age-related injury. In addition to the regular annual vet visit, your vet may recommend some diagnostic tests for your senior pup to assess their overall health further.

Another common part of senior dog vet care is dental care, as dental disease is nearly epidemic in older dogs. Tartar build-up can lead to tooth decay, inflamed and infected gums, gingivitis, and eventually more serious problems later on.


When your dog transitions from puppy to adult, the timing and frequency of annual wellness visits vary based on your pet’s size and breed. An example of this is seen with certain types of dogs, like brachycephalic breeds , such as pugs, French bulldogs, and English bulldogs, who will need extra care due to increased health risks.

Due to their flat features and short noses, these dogs are prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome , causing airway abnormalities. Their ineffective panting and trouble breathing make them vulnerable to heatstroke and other illnesses.

In addition, these breeds frequently suffer from other health issues like eye disorders, skin fold infections, and dental difficulties. So they may have to see the vet more often.

Overall health

Your dog’s lifestyle and their overall health also play a role in how often they go to the vet. Healthier pets will likely go less often than pets with chronic conditions or other illnesses.

Preventive care can minimize the amount of additional trips you take to the vet each year. Each annual wellness visit allows your veterinarian to catch “silent” conditions at the earliest signs of disease, as well as any other secondary conditions they might lead to.

For example: Veterinarians can “catch” conditions like obesity and dental disease at your pet’s physical. Both of these conditions go hand in hand and can lead to more serious issues like infection, diabetes, and heart disease. It can be avoided by routine care and follow-up.

Planning ahead for your pet’s specific health needs is a vital step for their long-term care. Pets with chronic conditions and endocrine disorders will probably need more frequent visits regularly than your average pet. Regular testing like ultrasounds, blood work, X-rays, and physical exams can help prevent these conditions from getting worse.

Early detection can potentially slow or minimize the onset of diseases. Treatment such as changing your dog’s diet, medication, or therapeutic interventions, is possible by discovering illness early on.


If you are unsure or think your dog might be pregnant, bring them to the vet as soon as possible. Generally, if you know your dog has mated with another, it’s best to take them to the vet within about 28 days after mating. An ultrasound can confirm pregnancy at this point.

A prenatal checkup for dogs is crucial for any pup that’s pregnant. Your vet may do an ultrasound and blood work and cover their pregnancy nutritional needs. An ultrasound checks for the possibility of puppies, and blood work checks your dog’s hormone levels.

Around day 45, your dog will be in their third trimester, and they will likely require more frequent vet appointments. Your vet may do X-rays and suggest a C-section , depending on the breed of dog, the size of the puppies, and the birth canal.

Unexpected vet visits

Even for a healthy and active adult dog, the unexpected can happen. And part of owning a dog is preparing for the unexpected. Certain times will require an immediate emergency trip to the vet, like breathing troubles, pale gums, and a hard swollen abdomen, among others.

These signs may indicate a potentially life-threatening condition requiring emergency veterinarian care. They could signal shock, bloat, respiratory distress, or another major condition. Serious illnesses such as organ failure or severe infections might also exhibit these symptoms.

Health concerns, like changes in eating and lumps and bumps, will require a vet visit — but they’re not usually an immediate emergency. If you’re unsure if your pet needs to be seen, consider calling your veterinarian or an emergency vet for medical advice.

When to immediately go to the vet 🚨

In an ideal world, annual and semi-annual check-ups will be the only vet attention your canine companion needs. But emergencies are bound to come up, and knowing the signs can help you make a quick decision to get your pet to the vet as fast as possible.

If your dog shows any of these symptoms, go to the animal ER right away:

👉 You know your dog best. If you think your pup’s behavior has suddenly changed, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to your vet.

Signs your dog should see a vet, but it’s not an emergency 

While certain times call for an immediate trip to the vet, other times are not necessarily an emergency but still require a vet visit. You should still see a vet if you notice changes in eating habits, bumps, vomiting, diarrhea, or a runny nose. However, these are typically not immediate emergencies.

  • Change in eating or drinking habits. Skipping a meal isn’t that unusual for a dog, especially on hot summer days or in a new environment. But more than one missed meal could be a red flag. Keep an eye out for any unnatural changes in your pet’s eating or drinking habits — and if they extend past a few mealtimes, consider going to the vet.
  • Lumps and bumps. As animals get older, it’s not uncommon to find a few small lumps and bumps on their body. While many of these masses are benign and aren’t any cause for concern, it’s best to ask your vet to make sure they aren’t something more serious.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog throws up once or twice and shows no other signs of illness, they’re probably fine. It’s the same for occasional diarrhea and isn’t usually anything to worry about. However, call your vet if the vomiting or diarrhea continues for longer than six hours or contains blood.
  • Runny nose. Runny and stuffy noses aren’t entirely uncommon in dogs. However, you should contact your vet anytime you notice your pet has a runny nose or thick nasal discharge accompanied by other signs of illness (such as fever, dehydration, lack of appetite, or fatigue).

Routine vet visits are one of the best ways to give your dog a healthy and happy life. How often you see your veterinarian depends on your dog, their age, and any conditions they may have. While most adult dogs go to the vet once a year, they can go more or less frequently depending on their unique needs.

Your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, and any underlying medical issues may require more regular or specialized veterinary care. Some breeds, such as giant breeds, may be prone to joint pain and other problems, or small breeds can be susceptible to dental issues. They may need more frequent veterinary care as part of their healthcare.

Frequently asked questions

When should I take my senior dog to the vet?

Senior dogs need more frequent vet visits than younger adult dogs. They have more particular health needs and can be more prone to illness and age-related injury. For that reason, senior dogs should see the vet approximately every six months.

How often should I take my dog to the vet for checkups?

Puppies need to see the vet about once a month up until about 4-5 months old, adult dogs (1-7 years) usually only need to go once for annual visits (depending on your pet’s overall health), and senior dogs (8+ years) should be seen twice a year.

How much is a routine vet visit for a dog?

On average, a routine checkup for your pet can cost anywhere between $50 and $250. The cost of routine vet checkups can vary based on the area you’re in and can also vary depending on your pup’s age and health history.

Can a dog get kennel cough from a vet visit?

Kennel cough is an extremely contagious upper respiratory virus. It’s easily and quickly spread, and can be transmitted through the air. It can also be transmitted by coming into direct contact with an infected animal, or by sharing a contaminated object (like your pet might by greeting an infected dog on a walk or drinking from a contaminated water bowl at the park).

It’s characterized by a hacking cough lasting a few days to a few weeks. It can also lead to more serious infections like pneumonia. The Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine protects dogs against this.

Although it’s easily spread, getting it just from an exam visit is very unusual. The time your pet spends in the room is brief, and the rooms are typically cleaned between uses.

Will a vet see my dog without shots?

Yes, many rescued or adopted dogs may not be up to date on shots, and puppies will need shots. Once you make your initial appointment, though, it’s important to consider getting up-to-date on vaccinations. Your vet will recommend the shots your dog needs based on age and the area you live in.