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Soon after you get your new puppy or dog, you should take him to a veterinarian for a checkup. The doctor will check your dog to make sure he is healthy.
When you take your dog for his checkup, keep him on a leash or in an escape-proof carrier. He might be frightened and try to run away. Veterinarians like carriers that open from above so they can remove your pet easier.
Keep your dog from being friendly with other animals in the waiting area. Some animals may have diseases that are “catchy”; others may not be friendly and may hurt you or your dog.
Your veterinarian will give your puppy a physical examination much like you get when you visit the doctor. Here are some of the things the doctor will do:
- Weigh your pup and take his temperature. Your veterinarian will also take your pet’s pulse and breathing rate.
- Listen to your pup’s heart and lungs.
- Touch your dog’s stomach to feel the organs inside.
- Look inside your dog’s ears to make sure there are no infections or parasites.
- Check your pet’s genitals. If your pup is a male, your veterinarian will make sure there are two testicles; if the dog is female, your doctor will check that there is no infection.
- Examine the eyes, nose, skin and under the tail to make sure there is no infection or parasites.
- Look inside your pup’s mouth to make sure the teeth and gums are nice and healthy.
You probably won’t be able to hold your dog while the doctor examines him. An assistant may help the doctor hold your pet during the checkup. The assistant is specially trained to handle animals. Also, your dog might be frightened while he is in these new surroundings with all of those strange sights and smells. Your pup will like it better if you stand in front of him where he can see you. He’ll feel better if he knows you are there.
If your pet is still young, you can get him used to being examined by doing some examinations at home. Once in a while when you are playing with him, gently hold his head still and inspect his ears and eyes and inside his mouth. And then tell him “Good Doggie” when he does a good job.
Puppies need to have some shots to protect them from getting illnesses. These are called vaccinations. Your puppy will need several over a 6 to 12-week period. As he gets older he will need to have booster shots every year.
The vaccine should protect your dog against
- canine distemper virus
- canine adenovirus
- canine parvovirus
When your dog is 3 to 4 months old he will also need to have a rabies shot. This shot protects your dog from getting rabies and is required by law in order to get a license.
Your dog will also have a blood test to make sure he doesn’t have heartworms. Heartworms are parasites that look like spaghetti and can grow up to a length of 14 inches inside a dog’s heart. The disease is spread from dog to dog (and to cat) by mosquitoes. As they grow inside the heart, they make a dog very sick.
We prevent heartworms by giving either monthly tablets or by applying a liquid each month to the pet’s back. This medicine can also prevent other parasites, like fleas, intestinal worms, ticks and mites. The choice of medication is a decision you will make with your veterinarian.
If Your Dog Is Sick
You should take your dog to the veterinarian if he is sick or injured. Make sure you can tell the doctor all about your dog, like when he started to be sick and what his symptoms are. If your dog already takes medicine, tell your veterinarian what it is and when he takes it. If you think your pet ate something poisonous or something that could hurt him, take the container with you so your doctor can see it.
If you don’t understand something, ask your veterinarian to explain. When you leave make sure you know what you have to do at home, like giving medicine or returning for more tests. Ask your veterinarian to write everything down.
When You Get Home
Do everything the doctor tells you to do. He may want you to give your dog medicine or keep your dog quiet. If your dog doesn’t seem to be getting better, or if he seems to be getting worse, make sure you let the veterinarian know.
Finally, if your pet’s doing well after treatment, let your veterinarian know. Knowing your dog is better will make him happy, too.