As a loving dog parent, it’s completely normal to ask yourself, “How often should I take my dog to the vet?!”. Our furry friends can’t exactly tell us, or always show us, when something is wrong. So it’s our job to monitor their health, know the signs of sickness in dogs and stay on top of their overall wellbeing. Regular visits to the vet are therefore an important part of pet care.

But how many times a year should we take them in for checkups? And if we notice something is off, how long should we wait before taking them in for an emergency visit? We’ll be addressing all that and more here.

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How often should I take my dog to the vet?

In short, you should take your dog to the vet at least once a year for an annual checkup. Doctors recommend that people go to the doctor once a year to make sure everything is in working order. And the same goes for pets! Doing this gives you a picture of what is going right, what might be on the edge of going wrong, and can help you catch issues early.

white puppy at the vet

Why should I take my dog to the vet yearly?

According to the Brandywine Valley SPCA, dogs who are at least one year old should go to the vet yearly so that they, as mentioned above, they can get general physical checkups. But during these visits, they can also get updated booster shots.

Going to the vet at least once a year helps ensure that if your dog does have any health issues, they can be detected and treated in a timely manner.

What to expect at your dog’s annual checkup

Over the course of the checkup, you will probably be asked general questions about your dog’s health, such as:

  • how often they eat
  • if bowel movements are regular and
  • if they get enough exercise

To prepare for your visit, take note of anything that seems off in the week(s) before. For example – if your dog’s sleeping patterns have recently changed, they’re eating less than usual, or drinking more.

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Pro Tip: Use a Tractive GPS Dog Tracker to monitor your dog’s activity and sleep levels and spot any unusual changes. Plus you’ll be able to see where they are, anywhere, anytime.

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At routine checkups, you’ll also have the chance to ask the vet any questions you might have. Some people are nervous about asking questions which may seem dumb or obvious – don’t worry! They’ve heard everything before; and this is your pup’s life we’re talking about here. Don’t let your pride get in the way of caring for your furry friend.

Your vet will check your dog’s weight and general appearance (such their posture and skin). They’ll check eyes, ears, nose – basically all the things that humans get checked for during our annual checkups.

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Finally, your vet will also check to see if your dog’s booster shots are all up to date. And if there’s anything else to prescribe (like deworming medicine).

Puppy care guide for new pet parents

My dog is a puppy. Should I still only take them once a year?

No! Since dogs grow much faster than humans, they rapidly will age out of being puppies – which means they very quickly will need vaccinations and, because their bodies change so quickly, to make sure that everything is growing and shaping how it should.

Recommendations vary depending on breed, but generally you should take your puppy to the vet about once a month. There is a lot to check and ensure, and you do not want to risk anything important being missed.

What if my dog is older? How often should I take my senior dog to the vet?

When your dog starts to get older, it can be concerning. While slowing down is natural in any animal – or human, for that matter – as they get older, there are always new challenges which are associated with age.

To make sure that everything is still going smoothly, and no undetected issues are cropping up, it is generally recommended to take your senior dogs to the vet at least twice a year, for something like once every six months. 

When else should I take my dog to the vet?

Finding the right balance between paranoid and caring can be tough. While you do not need to run to the vet every time they have a particularly loud sneeze, you do not want to ignore serious signs. While some of them can be rather obvious – a broken leg, refusal to eat food, blood in the stool for an extended period of time – the less obvious symptoms can be harder to see, as they can’t exactly say, “Hey, my stomach hurts!”

white dog biting tail on the beach
It may seem innocent; but a dog biting, chewing or licking their tail could be a sign of happy tail syndrome in dogs.

The American Kennel Club points out two symptoms that you may not think are particularly concerning – scooting on the floor and weight loss, the latter of which may not be very obvious – can actually be signs of worms, UTIs, or other significant issues.

Basically, if you notice something change in your dog’s behavior or appearance, and that change does not revert after an extended period, you should probably get it checked out.

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What other ways can you catch health issues in dogs early?

It does not have to come to physical manifestations of issues before you can detect an issue in your dog’s health or wellness. There are various pieces of technology you can buy for your pet, such as the Tractive GPS & Health Tracker, which can give you an indication of how your pup is doing and if something changes in their activity or sleep patterns. If something changes, that can also be a sign that it’s time to head to the vet.

So, when should you take your dog to the vet?

Generally, you should take your dog to the vet once a year for a checkup, barring the emergence of sudden symptoms. If your dog is less than a year old, they should probably go at least once a month (at least until the vet tells you otherwise). If you’ve got a senior dog, they should go once every six months.

But more than anything else, trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, take your buddy to the vet. They can’t say the words “Thank you,” but they’ll mean it.