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dog parent basics

How to prepare for your puppy’s first vet visit

Know what to expect and what you need to bring — there’s poop involved 💩

Updated July 21, 2020

Created By

Isabelle Bosquette,
puppy pulling leash

sometimes we just don't wanna go to the vet 🤷‍♀️

The essentials

  • 🗓 Puppies need their first vaccination at 6-8 weeks
  • Costs vary greatly — Your first visit could cost up as much as several hundred dollars when it’s all said and done. 💰
  • It could take several hours — Be prepared to drop your dog off for an entire afternoon.
  • Follow appointments are required — Puppies should visit the vet every few weeks from the age of six weeks to four months.

Here’s what happens during your new puppy's first vet visit

It starts with a full checkup of your puppy at 6-8 weeks old, examining their skin, fur, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, feet, and genitalia. The vet will also weigh the puppy and check his heart rate. Finally, they will check for intestinal parasites and conduct a fecal exam. They will let you know in advance, but it’s likely they’ll ask you to bring along a stool sample from your puppy.

Next, the vaccinations

On your first vet visit, your puppy will receive its first round of vaccinations. On later visits, the puppy will need further rounds of vaccinations (generally about every three weeks until the dog is 16 weeks old). So remember to keep up with their vaccination schedule! There are two core vaccines. The first is commonly noted as DAPP or DHPP. It protects puppies against canine distemper, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

👉 Read our in-depth guide to puppy vaccinations for a super in-depth (and science-filled) explainer on each shot.

The second is the rabies vaccine. This might be given on their first vet visit or later vet visits depending on the dog’s age and the relevant state law. There are also other non-core vaccinations, but these will vary based on location and lifestyle (whether they spend more time outdoors or indoors, exposure to dog parks, etc.)

You’ll probably discuss preventative meds 

You should talk to your vet about flea and tick prevention as well as heartworm prevention on your first vet visit. Based on a number of factors, they’ll either recommend medication, topical treatment, or a specialized collar for fleas and ticks. Because most puppies are born with roundworms, you’ll likely also receive a deworming medication. The American Heartworm Society now recommends year-round prevention for all dogs in the USA. 

Optional: A conversation about microchipping your pet

Microchipping isn’t mandatory, but your vet will likely recommend it. The process involved inserting a small electronic chip between your dog’s shoulder blades. That way, if your dog ever gets lost, any vet will be able to identify him by scanning the microchip. This process can happen on your puppy’s first vet visit or during the spaying/neutering procedure. 

Optional: spaying and neutering 

Veterinary opinions vary regarding how early puppies should be spayed/neutered. While shelter veterinarians often recommend it as early as eight weeks, general practitioners prefer doing it after the rabies vaccines at 12-16 weeks. 

Spaying or neutering can usually be done on puppies as young as eight weeks. So it won’t necessarily happen on your first vet visit, but it should still definitely be discussed. Besides preventing unwanted canine pregnancy (and a large number of puppies in shelters), spaying and neutering have various other health benefits, such as reducing some health risks and helping with behavior problems.

What you need to bring

Bring any information you have about your puppy’s health history. This might include a health certificate from a breeder or vaccination records from a shelter. If the puppy is taking any medications already, such as those for flea or heartworm prevention, make sure you bring those as well. You should also bring a stool sample from your puppy. (In a plastic bag, of course.)

Everything you need to bring to your first vet visit:

💩 a stool sample
📄 all health and medical records
💊 all current medications (if applicable)

Here’s what happens next

After your first vet visit, it’s important to follow up by scheduling future appointments for your puppy to complete their vaccination schedule. For most of the core vaccinations, puppies will need the first round at 6-8 weeks, the second round at 9-11 weeks, the third round at 12-14 weeks, and the fourth round at 16-17 weeks. After that, there will be booster shots when they’re a year old.

However, this schedule varies slightly from vaccination to vaccination. For rabies, the first vaccination will happen at around 12-16 weeks (depending on state law), and then there will be booster shots from 12-36 months.

It’s important to schedule your first visit as soon as possible

Very young puppies have antibodies from their mother’s milk that protect them against diseases; however, these antibodies start wearing off at around six weeks old. Six to eight weeks is really the best time to schedule your first vet visit.

Another reason to schedule your first vet visit early on is to get started on what the American Veterinary Medical Association calls the “Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship.” This refers to the three-way relationship between you, the vet, and your puppy. It’s important to have this relationship early on so the vet can get to know your pup and comfortably diagnose him if and when any future health problems arise.

The cost of a visit to the vet

👉 Read our vet costs report for an in-depth analysis of routine, preventative, and emergency care.

The total cost varies based on location, breed, age of your dog, and the vet. Ballpark, you’ll probably spend around $200 or more.

The exam might cost around $45 – $75. The average cost for an inclusive package of core vaccinations will likely be between $75 and $100. Similar to heartworm medication, flea and tick meds can cost around $20 a month. The average cost of microchipping your dog is around $45.

Spaying and neutering costs are more varied and often depend on the dog’s weight. Our team’s seen costs range anywhere from $45 at a low-cost clinic to as much as $300 at an animal hospital. Spaying will usually cost a bit more than neutering because it is a more complicated process.

Fees vary greatly depending on where you live. Here in Central Florida, our exams are $60, and that’s the lowest price in town! Other hospitals charge $70 to $75. Some places offer packages to keep client costs down; some places don’t. Low-cost spay/neuter clinics charge the prices that you’re quoting here. Average hospitals like ours are closer to $250 to 300 depending on many, many factors. — Erica Irish, DVM

However, again, these prices will vary based on many factors. Some clinics will offer package deals in order to keep costs down, and others won’t. Healthcare costs for your dog can definitely add up, which is why it might be a good idea to take out a canine health insurance policy.

FAQs

How can I make my dog more at ease during their first vet visit?

It’s natural to be nervous during your first vet visit. However, dogs feed off your energy, and if you’re stressed out, that will make them stressed, too. It can help to make your vet appointment in advance, so you don’t have to worry about availability.

It might also be helpful to stop by the vet office beforehand, get the lay of the land, gather brochures and other information about vaccines, etc. and introduce yourself to the staff. If you’re more comfortable and relaxed in the setting, that can really help the puppy relax as well.

Does it make a difference whether I got my dog from a breeder or a shelter?

Whether your dog is coming from a breeder or a shelter, you still have to be really diligent about vet exams and vaccination schedules. Breeders may start the vaccination schedule and/or deworming medication before your adoption. In many states, it is actually a law that they do. That means you have to remember to get all the relevant paperwork from your breeder about what vaccinations the dog has received.

However, that doesn’t mean you should delay scheduling your first vet visit. Regardless of where your dog comes from, scheduling your first vet visit is the first step in giving them a long and healthy life.