Getting your puppy (and you) ready for their first vet visit

Congratulations, you are now a proud pet owner.

As you celebrate each milestone, from excitable puppy to well-behaved adult dog, you will be responsible for your dog’s overall health. Get a head start! Schedule the first vet visit for your new dog or puppy before even bringing them home.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know for that important first trip to the vet. Vaccination schedules, waiting room nerves, ongoing health checks for puppies and dogs—we are here to guide you.

vet holding a puppy

Vets play a key role in your dog’s health

Your new puppy or dog's first vet visit should happen soon after you welcome them home.

Responsible breeders and animal shelters will have already carried out health checks on your dog or puppy. But the sooner they’re acquainted with a vet, the better.

Your vet is the person who can answer all your questions and help to keep your dog in good health. With time, they will know your dog’s health history intimately and have established a relationship with them. This will help in swiftly diagnosing and treating any future possible illnesses.

puppy in vet clinic
vet working on puppy health check

No first visit surprises, please

It’s a good idea to find a vet and schedule the appointment in advance of picking up your new puppy or dog. Perhaps you already have one on speed dial, thanks to a current or previous pet.

If not, do some research in advance and be sure to visit or call the practice. This will help you to get a feel of the environment and staff.

  • Is it clean?
  • Are people welcoming?
  • Do they have good reviews?

On your first visit, be sure to take all relevant medical records with you. These will be used to create your dog or puppy’s medical file.

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How to prepare your puppy or dog for their first vet visit?

It is important to help your new four-legged family member feel positive about the vet. Whether your pet is adopted or not, you should take the same care in your approach.

Here are four ways to properly prepare your pet for their first vet visit.

Check with the clinic that you can drop by with your pet ahead of their appointment. A calm period is optimal to minimise any anxiety for your dog or puppy. If they are familiar with the clinic, they should feel calm on check-up day.

Will you travel by foot, in the car or on a bike? Practise beforehand. Take your dog or puppy on a short outing, such as a quiet park. This will help them to understand that leaving the house is nothing to be anxious about.

If travelling by car, equip yourself with a dog crate or dog carrier bag, so that your pet is safe and secure while travelling. Introduce your pet to the crate or bag prior to the first vet appointment. You want to acclimatise them to the object so that they have a positive association.

You’ve successfully got your dog to the vet clinic, with no aggression or upset. But there may be other obstacles, such as the presence of other animals or a longer waiting time than anticipated. So, be sure to keep your puppy or dog on a leash.

Observe your puppy or dog’s behaviour in order to adapt accordingly. Here are a few more things that can help:

  • Bring your puppy or dog’s favourite blanket and a much-loved toy
  • Settle down in a quiet part of the room
  • Observe your dog or puppy’s body language
  • Stay calm if possible
  • Talk to your pet if they need reassuring

Now is the time to ask the vet any questions you have about your puppy or dog. As a responsible pet owner, the vet will be your strongest ally in keeping your puppy’s health stable. Give them as much information as possible, so that they have as clear a picture of your pet.

They will also be on hand to keep your dog or puppy calm during their first check-up. If there is an accidental pee, or a bit of aggression, remember to stay relaxed and soothe your pet. This can be an overwhelming experience at any age, no matter how much you’ve both prepared for it.

How your dog or puppy will be examined

During your pet’s first check-up, the vet may do the following:

  • Weigh your puppy or dog
  • Listen to their heart and lungs
  • Take their temperature (this can be done rectally)
  • Look at their teeth and gums
  • Check their eyes, ears, nose and feet
  • Check their skin and fur
  • Examine their lymph nodes and abdomen
  • This one isn’t always carried out but some vets may want to examine a stool sample, to see if worms are present

Once the check-up is complete, feel free to ask the vet any questions you may have concerning your new dog or puppy.

Be sure you fully understand how to administer any medication or treatments that the vet sends you home with.

Don’t forget to book a follow-up appointment for the required vaccinations for your puppy or dog.

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kid playing with puppy

Start right away with socialising your dog

The first three months of a dog’s life are a key moment in building their confidence. Your role as a responsible dog owner includes socialising your new canine as soon as possible.

A well-socialised dog should have confidence around people. When introduced to new sights, sounds, or places, they will not display signs of anxiety or aggression.

If your puppy comes from a responsible breeder, they should have benefited from careful exposure to new people and situations.

Even that first trip to the vet will be more stressful for a puppy or dog that hasn’t been socialised.

The training schedule for your new dog or puppy should therefore include socialisation. Here are the basics, to get you started:

  • Most things are foreign to your pet at this point, so gently introduce them to textures, sounds, smells, and people.
  • Involve family members in the socialisation process to keep your dog or puppy on their toes.
  • It’s important to find a healthy balance between not wrapping them up in cotton wool and not pushing them too hard.
  • Start socialising inside the home. Once they have had their vaccines, and you feel that they are ready, introduce your puppy or dog to external stimuli.
  • Check out puppy classes in your local area, which will expose your pet to other canines, in a safe and controlled environment.

If you’ve adopted an older dog, you’ll have to observe how they behave around other people and pets. Maybe you already discussed it in advance with the animal shelter.

It’s a good idea to take a positive reinforcement approach to your dog training sessions. By carefully showing them new places and people, you can help them to form positive associations. Praise them every time you reach a new milestone together. 


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Be proactive with a preventative care approach

There’s no fixed rule as to how often you should take your dog to the vet. It can depend on several factors, including age, breed specifics, lifestyle and general health.

However, be prepared to see your vet frequently during the first 12 months of welcoming a puppy or dog into your life:

  • On top of the required dog vaccinations, your vet will also need to take care of parasite prevention
  • Unexpected issues could come up, such as your dog being resistant to teeth cleaning, that require your vet to intervene
  • Monitor your puppy or dog’s growth pattern

Once your dog is an adult, they should be going to the vet for their annual vaccines, at the very least. Even if you think they’re in great health, it is always smart to book a yearly appointment. Once they are senior, more regular trips to the vet are also advised.

Regular check-ups are important because they allow your vet to track your dog’s overall health. There are things you can miss on a daily basis, such as gradual weight gain or dental issues. These can lead to more serious health issues if they are not spotted and treated properly.

You want your pet to be content and live a long, healthy life, so committing to preventative health care for your dog from day one is a sound investment.

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Find a vet

If your puppy's health seems unusual or is concerning, it is always advisable to consult a vet.

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