Puppies need to see the veterinarian more often than dogs at any other stage of life. That’s because puppies – generally considered dogs under about one year of age, with some exceptions – are rapidly developing and have a lot of vulnerabilities adult dogs don’t.
Let’s talk about how often puppies really need to see the vet.
Visit #1: At Around 8-10 Weeks Old
When puppies are born, they get antibodies from their mother than give them natural immunity for a couple of months. Once those immunities start to wear off, it’s time for vaccinations. In general, veterinarians encourage puppies to remain with their mothers until they’re at least 8 weeks old. Your puppy’s first round of core vaccinations may occur in their maternal environment and should include distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis.
If you adopt a puppy right at 8 weeks old, be sure to ask which vaccinations, if any, they’ve already had (and don’t forget to request paperwork!) Regardless of whether or not your puppy has had their first round of vaccinations, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian no more than one or two days after you bring your puppy home so you can be sure your pup is healthy, worm-free, and hitting their milestones appropriately.
Visit #2: At Around 12-14 Weeks Old
Your puppy’s second round of core vaccines are due about two weeks after they have their first. This visit will include boosters of the same three vaccines as the last visit: Distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis.
This is also a good time to re-asses any tangential health concerns your puppy has, like teething issues, worms, or fleas. You should also start discussing a spay/neuter plan with your veterinarian and a timeline for that procedure, which is generally recommended at anywhere from 8 weeks to 8 months, although earlier statistically provides the best protection against some forms of cancer. Your veterinarian can help you determine the right schedule for your dog.
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Visit #3: At Around 16-18 Weeks Old
At this point it’s time for your puppy’s final round of boosters of the three core vaccines she’s already had: Distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis. It’s also when your dog will get their first annual rabies vaccination, which is a legal requirement in all 50 states. Your dog may or may not need follow up rabies vaccinations on a yearly basis, but your veterinarian will talk to you about which dosage is right for your situation.
This is your last “vaccine visit” of the year, and also a great time to talk to your veterinarian about ongoing health concerns you might have. Be sure to ask about the right puppy food formulation for your dog, a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and flea and tick protection. (Your puppy should be on flea and tick preventatives year-round, not just in the summertime.)
Also, be sure you’ve talked to your veterinarian by this point about which, if any, optional vaccines are right for your dog. Bordetella vaccinations are required by most boarding facilities, and you may want to consider vaccinating against Lyme disease or Lepto if you live in a particularly high-risk area.
Visits #5-#8: As Needed
Let’s hope your puppy doesn’t need eight vet visits in their first year! That being said, some pups will. A perfectly normal, healthy puppy probably won’t require more than 3-4 visits that first year, but if your puppy has worms, complications arising from a spay/neuter procedure, or any kind of ongoing health concern, you’ll need to keep extra-close tabs on their health that crucial first year.
Puppies are also more likely to need emergency or urgent care veterinarian visits because they’re naturally curious. They often break bones, eat things they shouldn’t, and come down with viruses as their immune systems work to catch up to the adult dogs around them. The more adult dogs your puppy is around, the more likely it is they’ll get sick while they’re young.
Is your puppy overdue?