Adding a new dog or cat to the family can make your life exciting, but don't forget to schedule your puppy's or kitten's first vet visit. A pet's first vet visit sets a foundation for good health, and it's where you can get questions answered that will help you take good care of your pet.
First things first: How do I choose a vet?
A vet is like your own medical provider: you're likely to have a relationship with them for a number of years. Because of this, you want to make sure that you're choosing a vet you like and can trust, and with whom you can talk easily. If you're not sure how to choose a vet, ask trusted friends who have pets for their recommendations.
What can I expect at my puppy's or kitten's first vet visit?
Your new pet has likely already had a vet visit, whether you adopted them from a shelter or purchased from a breeder. Be sure to take those records with you so your vet knows if your puppy or kitten has already been vaccinated, dewormed, and started on any flea, tick or heartworm preventives.
At the vet, the first step will likely be a weigh-in. After that, the veterinarian will look over your pet closely, from head to tail and ears to paws. They'll also probably take a listen to the heart and lungs, and look for other ailments, such as hernias, mouth or eye abnormalities.
While examining your pet, the vet will probably talk to you about regular care you can do at home, such as trimming nails and bathing. He or she will also probably ask what questions you have about pet care. That's the perfect time to inquire about feeding schedules, potty training concerns, or any other questions you might have. (See below for some more ideas about questions you should ask your vet).
When it's time for vaccinations, your dog or cat might stay in the room with you, or they might be taken to another area, depending on your pet's comfort level or your own preferences. If your pet stays in the exam room with you, you might be asked to help hold your pet as vaccinations are administered. Puppies and kittens tend to be wiggly and active, making them harder to inject. Having your calming presence and firm hands can help calm them down and make it easier for the vet to do their work.
Either way, your vet will tell you where the injection sites are, as they may be tender afterwards.
What is the cost of my first vet visit?
The actual cost of your first vet visit will depend on your geographical area and specific vet, so call ahead to ask what you can expect to pay for an initial visit. The fee will likely cover the visit as well as any vaccinations and dewormer, so the cost will vary depending how many vaccinations your vet tends to give.
Your first vet visit cost may be considerably higher if your new dog or cat needs any medications or preventives.
What questions should I ask my vet's office?
Each vet practice has different policies. Take a list of questions to ask during the first vet visit. Some things to consider:
- What do I need to know about your office? Specific questions include: What number can I call after hours? Who do I call in case of an emergency? Does your office offer other services, such as grooming or pet boarding? Which doctors work when?
- How do I care for my pet in the early days? What food and treats do you recommend? How many treats should I give per day? What area trainers do you recommend? Do you have any tips for potty/litter training? Do you recommend microchipping?
- What's next? How often are visits required? When do you recommend spaying/neutering? Are same-day appointments available?
- Are fleas, ticks and other parasites common in our area that could affect my pet's health? What parasites are common in our area that could affect my pet's health? What preventives are available to manage those parasites and the threats they pose?
Regular vet visits are an important part of maintaining your pet's health. By establishing a strong relationship from the beginning, you'll be in the best position to make sure your pet stays healthy.