A puppy's first vet visit is recommended by eight to ten weeks of age. The first vet visit is much like future visits, but there are a few things you should know.
Bring Your Paperwork
Chances are, if you got your puppy from a breeder, shelter, or rescue group, it has already received had some veterinarian care. Bring to your first visit any paperwork that you were given so that the vet can follow any care schedule that has been started.
Bring Stool Sample
A stool sample will be used to detect internal parasites such as hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, coccidia, and giardia. Almost all puppies have worms, and most are born with roundworms. Testing will allow the vet to determine which dewormer to give your puppy. Most vets will prescribe a second round of dewormer to be given three weeks after first round.
List of Questions
Bring with you a list of your questions. Write them down. Do not rely on your memory to remember all of your questions and concerns. Some common new puppy owner questions involve what type of food to use, when to neuter or spay, when a puppy can be exposed to other dogs, how to housetrain, when to start a flea and tick preventative, and many more.
The physical exam will check the puppy's vitals and weight, look for birth defects, and look for signs of infectious disease. The puppy can expect to have its heart, lungs, eyes, nose, ears, mouth, skin, genitals, abdomen, joints, and anal area checked for abnormalities.
Use a Carrier
A carrier is a convenient way to transport a puppy. It restrains and keeps the puppy safe while in the car, minimizes its exposure to other dogs and disease, and gives it a sense of security. When not in a carrier in a public place, carry your puppy. Many diseases are highly contagious for puppies, so never place them directly on the floor where other dogs have been.
During the first visit, your puppy will receive its first round of vaccinations. All dogs receive the DHPP vaccine at this time. It includes a combination of three core vaccines for distemper, hepatitis, and parvovirus. The parainfluenza vaccine is also given in the distemper combo to prevent one of the strains of kennel cough. If your dog will be boarded, going to day care, or attending training classes, it will receive the bordetella vaccine, which prevents an additional kennel cough viruses. The rabies vaccine may need to wait for the second round of boosters. It is given between 12 and 20 weeks of age, depending on state laws. In some areas, dogs are at higher risk for Lyme disease. This vaccine is controversial so be sure to discuss its pros and cons with your veterinarian.
Heartworm Preventative and Test
Heartworm is a parasitic disease caused by mosquito bites and targets the heart. Dogs six months or older need to be tested through blood work before starting a preventative. Dogs under six months can start a heartworm preventative at their first vet visit with no blood test needed.
Be prepared to make a few visits to the vet when you have a puppy. After receiving its first round of shots, a second round of boosters and dewormer will be required in two to three weeks, and additional boosters may be required after that. The booster schedule will depend on your dog's age and vaccination history. You will also want to discuss if and when to schedule the spay or neuter surgery. Some owners elect to have an identification microchip implanted while in surgery, although the microchip injection can be given during a regular office visit.