If you’re wondering how often you should take your dog to the vet, it depends on several factors, including 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 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, a diagnosis of an injury, or ultrasounds for pregnant dogs. Because there are so many reasons for taking your dog to the vet, you may worry about being responsible for how much a dog costs.
In this guide, we’ll go over the different reasons and times you may need to take your dog to the vet, how you can prepare for those visits, and how to make them more affordable.
You may need to take your dog to the vet for routine checkups, if they’re not feeling well, or if they get hurt. Let’s break down the types of vet visits you may encounter — and how often — by the stages in a dog’s life.
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 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 4 months old, and then a few more until they’re a year 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.
Puppies in their first 8 weeks likely need vet visits for:
- Wellness examinations
- Dewormer and heartworm medication
- Recommended core vaccinations (puppies may be given the distemper and parvovirus vaccines at this age)3
- Flea and tick preventatives
- Optional microchipping
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)3
- Optional vaccinations (such as bordetella, leptospirosis, lyme disease, and influenza)3
- Wellness examinations
Puppies that are 16 weeks – 1 year old likely need vet visits for:
- Additional booster vaccinations and rabies vaccinations3
- Wellness examinations
- Optional spaying or neutering4
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 cost of vaccinations and other vet expenses.5
While it varies by breed, dogs can be considered to be in their adult years from the ages of 1 – 7 or 10 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.
Although it varies by breed, dogs are considered to be in their senior years between the ages of 8 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 Just 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.
Dogs are pregnant for about 2 months, and the number of necessary vet visits will depend on the dog and the pregnancy itself.6 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 deworming medication, regular checkups (to ensure both momma and puppies are healthy), ultrasounds, and potentially the whelping.6 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.
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 the vet as quickly as you can:8
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 24 hours, especially if bloody
- Difficulty moving around, collapsing, or appearing disoriented
- Fast or weak pulse
- Seizure or loss of consciousness
- Sudden drop or rise in body temperature
- Suffering from any type of trauma (being hit by a car, running into a sharp object, falling from a far distance, etc.)
If your veterinarian 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.
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.
During a routine checkup, 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 This is an opportunity to bring up any concerns you may have. The vet may ask you to bring in a fecal sample to test for intestinal parasites.
Your vet may also perform a physical exam from snout to tail during a routine visit, 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.
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. These typically fall under the categories of urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), thyroid hormone testing, and biochemistry profile.1 Vets may advise more comprehensive blood testing for older adult dogs and senior dogs or additional tests like ultrasounds and X-rays. Depending on the situation, these tests may be done during the same vet visit or scheduled for separate times.
Dogs can be good at hiding signs of diseases in the early stages. While the costs of these tests and exams can add up, they could help your vet catch a health issue before it becomes a larger problem. MetLife Pet Insurance policies may cover things like diagnostic testing, exams, X-rays, and ultrasounds.5 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.7
Preparing for a vet visit can help it run more smoothly for everyone involved. Here are some tips to help.
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. Also, make sure to 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.
When it’s time to go to the vet, there are things you can do to help make it a less stressful event for your pup. Even dogs that are generally fine with visiting the vet may develop anxiety, especially if they’re feeling unwell. Getting a trazodone prescription from your vet, which you can give to your dog beforehand, may help them stay calm during a visit. You can also bring treats — although your vet may have plenty of goodies — or their favorite toy or blanket to help them feel more at ease. Try not to force your dog to do anything, as this may make them more scared or stressed. Positive reinforcement and encouragement may help.
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.
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” award at the 2023 Pet Innovations Award Program — can help you save money.