How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

Four Minutes
May 03, 2024

If you’re wondering how often you should take your dog to the vet, it depends on several factors, including their breed, age, health conditions, lifestyle, and what vaccines or checkups they’re due for. For example, a dog with diabetes may need to go to the vet more frequently than a healthy dog.

Wellness exams — or routine vet checkups — are only one reason for visiting the vet. There are also visits for vaccines, treatment for health conditions, diagnosis of an injury, or ultrasounds for pregnant dogs. With various reasons to visit the vet, you might be concerned about the expenses involved in caring for your pet, which is where pet insurance can provide financial support.

In this guide, we’ll go over the different reasons and times you may need to take your dog to the vet, how to prepare for those visits, and how to make them more affordable.

How Often Should a Dog Go to the Vet?

Regular vet visits are essential for your dog’s health and overall well-being. You may need to take your pooch to the vet for routine checkups if they’re not feeling well or if they get hurt. As a general guideline, puppies typically require more frequent vet visits — usually monthly — while adult and senior dogs may require annual or biannual visits.

Let’s break down the types of vet visits you may encounter — and how often — by the stages in a dog’s life.

Puppy Vet Visits

From birth to 1 year old, puppies may require a lot more vet visits compared to other stages in their life, with vets recommending a monthly visit.1 This is partly because puppies typically have a set vaccine schedule to abide by. Also, puppies can get sick more easily because their immune systems are still developing. For this reason, they may need extra exams and/or treatments for health issues like parvovirus, heartworm, joint problems from rapid growth, or canine influenza.

Generally, healthy puppies need a vet visit for different vaccines and wellness checkups every 3 – 4 weeks, until they’re about 4 – 5 months old.2 You may also need to schedule a vet visit if you decide to spay or neuter your puppy. During these visits, it may be a good time to ask your veterinarian about different ways to help your puppy stay healthy — like nutrition, parasite prevention, and training.

When should I take my puppy to the vet?

Puppies in their first 8 weeks likely need vet visits for:

Puppies that are 10 – 12 weeks old likely need vet visits for:

  • Recommended core vaccinations (like the standard DHPP vaccine, which includes vaccines for distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and parainfluenza)4
  • Optional vaccinations (such as bordetella, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and influenza)4
  • Wellness examinations

Puppies that are 16 weeks – 1 year old likely need vet visits for:

  • Additional booster vaccinations and rabies vaccinations4
  • Wellness examinations
  • Optional spaying or neutering7

The average cost of core vaccinations can run you $75 – $100 for three rounds of shots, with rabies costing around $15 – $20, and optional vaccinations up to $100 per shot. All costs will depend on your location, the size of your dog, and other factors.

While the health care costs of a puppy’s first year may seem like a lot, vaccines and regular checkups can help prevent more serious health problems from developing. A dog insurance policy may be able to help cover some of the costs of vaccinations and other vet expenses.

dog at the vet's office

Adult Dog Vet Visits

While it varies by breed, dogs can be considered to be in their adult years from the ages of 2 – 6 years. Generally, it’s recommended that healthy adult dogs visit the vet once per year for their annual wellness exam and any vaccines they may need.1 However, vaccine boosters (whether required or optional) and parasite prevention treatments aren’t always due on the same date. You may need to pop into the vet for a quick booster shot, titer test, or preventative treatment outside of the annual checkup.

An adult dog’s breed, age, underlying health conditions, lifestyle, and environment may influence their need for additional vet visits beyond a routine annual exam. Most healthy adult dogs may get by with about one vet visit per year. However, whenever your furry friend isn’t feeling their best, you may want to schedule a vet appointment instead of waiting for their routine visit.

Senior Dog Vet Visits

Although it varies by breed, dogs are considered to be in their senior years between the ages of 7 and 10 or above. When a dog outlives their average lifespan, they’re considered geriatric. Generally, it’s recommended that healthy middle-aged, senior, and geriatric dogs visit the vet twice per year for a routine checkup and any needed vaccinations.1 Like adult dogs, you may need to stop by the vet for vaccines or boosters that aren’t due on the same date as their checkup.

Senior dogs may be more likely to suffer from health conditions, illnesses, and injuries due to their older age. This means you may be taking your senior dog to the vet for more than just their routine visits.

Pregnant Dog Vet Visits

Dogs are pregnant for about 2 months, and the number of necessary vet visits will depend on the dog and the pregnancy itself. If you’re breeding your dog, you’ll likely need to set up prenatal vet visits to make sure she’s healthy enough to carry puppies. If your pup has an unplanned pregnancy, your first vet visit will likely be when you notice or find out she’s pregnant.

Once there’s a pregnancy, you may need to go to the vet for regular checkups (to ensure both mom and puppies are healthy), ultrasounds, X-rays, and potentially the whelping. You’ll also be able to discuss whether an at-home birth is an option or if your dog may need to have her puppies in the vet’s office. If there are any concerns or complications during the pregnancy, that could also require a trip to the vet.

When Should You Take Your Dog to the Emergency Vet?

Pet health emergencies can be very scary. Do your best to remain calm in a stressful situation, so you can get your beloved companion the care they need. While we can’t say for certain when you should take your dog to the vet immediately, here are some instances where it may be a good idea to visit an emergency vet as quickly as you can:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 24 hours, especially if bloody
  • If your pet has eaten something poisonous (like chocolate)
  • Seizure or loss of consciousness
  • Eye injuries
  • Severe bleeding that doesn’t stop within 5 minutes
  • Heat stress or heat stroke

If your veterinarian’s office doesn’t have emergency hours, ask them where the nearest emergency animal hospital is and what their contact information is so you’re prepared. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also has a 24-hour Animal Poison Control hotline, which you can call for help if you believe your dog was poisoned. And if you have a MetLife Pet Insurance policy, you may have access to a 24/7 vet chat for when you need quick assistance.

Are Expensive Vet Bills Giving You a Bellyache?

Pet Insurance Can Help

What Happens During a Vet Visit?

Now that you know how often you may need to take your dog to the vet, let’s go over what could happen during a vet visit.

Routine vet visits:

  • Your vet may ask general health questions — about diet, thirst, exercise, elimination patterns, and more — to see how your dog is behaving and getting around.1
  • The vet may ask you to bring in a fecal sample to test for intestinal parasites.1
  • Your vet may perform a physical exam from snout to tail, where they’ll check your dog’s vitals, heart and lungs, weight, bone and joint health, dental health, and general physique.1
  • As dogs get older, the vet may also check for lumps and growths.1

Additional testing and visits:

Depending on what the vet discovers after a full wellness exam — or if you brought your pet in when they aren’t feeling well — your vet may recommend specific diagnostic or screening tests.

  • Tests typically involve urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), thyroid hormone testing, or biochemistry profile.1
  • Your vet may advise more comprehensive blood testing for older adult dogs and senior dogs or additional tests like ultrasounds and X-rays.1 Depending on the situation, these tests may be done during the same vet visit or scheduled for separate times.

How To Prepare for a Vet Visit

Preparing for a vet visit can help it run more smoothly for everyone involved. This is an opportunity to bring up any questions or concerns you may have, so consider making a mental or physical list beforehand to ensure you don’t forget anything during your appointment.

To help you get started, here are some age-related questions that may be helpful when you see your vet.

Access a Printable List of Questions to Ask Your Vet Here

Questions to ask a vet


  • Which core vaccines are needed for my puppy, and at what age should they get them?
  • Am I feeding my puppy the proper diet for healthy growth?
  • How often should I feed my puppy?
  • Do I need to clean my puppy's teeth? If so, what’s the best way to do it, and how often?
  • When should I spay or neuter my puppy, if at all?
  • Should I get pet insurance for my puppy?

Adult dog:

  • Is my dog up to date on their vaccinations?
  • What preventative measures should I take to maintain my dog’s overall health?
  • Is my dog getting enough exercise?
  • Are my dog’s gums and teeth healthy?
  • When should my dog get bloodwork done?
  • Are there any behavioral changes I should be aware of in my dog?

Senior dog:

  • What common illnesses or health conditions is my dog susceptible to at this age?
  • Are there any changes I should make to my senior dog’s diet or exercise routine?
  • How can I help my dog maintain mobility and joint health as they age?
  • Should my dog be taking any nutritional supplements?
  • What vaccinations will my senior dog need?
  • Are there any signs of vision loss or changes that I should be aware of?

Vet visit tips

Here are some additional tips to help ensure you have a productive vet visit:

  • Keep your dog's vet records in an easily accessible place, since you may want to bring them with you to each exam.
  • Know what food your dog eats, how much they have per day, any other food or treats they get, and any supplements or medication your dog is on, as your vet may ask you for this information.
  • Grab a fresh fecal sample for an annual checkup, if requested by your vet.
  • Your vet may require payment at the time of services, so make sure you have a plan to pay your bill.
  • Keep your pup’s stress levels down by bringing treats or comfort items or getting a trazodone prescription from your vet.

Pet Insurance May Help Cover Vet Costs

No matter your pup’s age, routine and unexpected trips to the vet tend to come with pet parenthood. But costs shouldn’t keep you from being able to get your dog the care they need. A MetLife Pet Insurance policy can help make pet care, from birth to crossing the rainbow bridge, more affordable by potentially reimbursing you for covered and approved expenses.

For instance, MetLife Pet Insurance policies may cover things like diagnostic testing, exams, X-rays, and ultrasounds. And with optional wellness plans that cover routine vet visits and vaccinations, the care your pet needs doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

You can take your pup to any licensed vet in the U.S. and customize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs. Plus, there are no breed or age restrictions on our policies. Start by getting a free quote today, and see how MetLife Pet Insurance — winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” award8 at the 2023 Pet Innovations Award Program — can help you save money.

We Can Help Cover Vet Bills While You Focus on Your Dog’s Care

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Wellness Examination in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals,

2 “Pet Wellness Exams: How to Prepare,” PetMD, 2022

3 “Prevention, Diagnosis, and Management of Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) Infection in Dogs,” American Heartworm Society

4 “Your Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations,” American Kennel Club, 2024

5 “Flea and Tick Protection for Puppies,” American Kennel Club, 2024

6 “At What Age Can My Pet Get Microchipped?” Bergen County Veterinary Center

7 “Reproductive Health,” American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)

8 “2023 Pet Insurance of the Year Award” Winners, Pet Independent Innovation Awards

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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