Taking your furry pal to the veterinarian on a regular basis — even if they hate it — is an important part of keeping them healthy and happy. But how often should you schedule appointments? The answer will vary depending on a dog's breed, age, and overall health.
While the cost of a checkup visit (including making sure dogs are up to date on vaccinations and treatments) may run you anywhere from $50 to $250, keep in mind that preventive care and routine checkups can help keep pets healthier for longer — saving you money and stress in the long run.
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For young, healthy dogs, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends scheduling checkups at least once a year. During these appointments, a vet will perform a physical exam, check for signs of illness or injury, and update necessary vaccinations or booster shots.
For older dogs, or those with chronic health conditions, more frequent visits may be necessary. A vet may recommend biannual or even quarterly checkups to monitor their condition and make adjustments to treatment plans.
Dogs are considered senior or "geriatric" at different ages depending on breed and size. Smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas and toy breeds tend to have a longer lifespan and may not be considered senior until they reach 10 or 11 years old, according to VCA Hospitals. On the other paw, larger breeds such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards may be considered senior as early as 5 or 6 years old.
The general rule is that dogs are considered senior when they reach around 7 years of age, remembering that some breeds may age faster than others.
What Can I Expect During a Routine Checkup?
A routine checkup at the vet typically includes a physical examination, during which the vet will check vital signs such as heart rate, breathing, and temperature. A dog's eyes, ears, nose, and throat will be checked, as well as the condition of their skin and coat to note rashes or excessive dryness. The vet may also examine the dog's teeth and gums to look for signs of dental problems, and check joints and musculoskeletal system for signs of pain or discomfort.
A vet will likely ask the pet owner questions about the dog's behavior, diet, and exercise habits, as well as concerns or issues they may have noticed at home. The vet may also update vaccinations and provide preventative care such as flea, tick, and heartworm treatment. If vets find concerning signs or symptoms, they may recommend additional testing or treatment.
Prevention Is Key
Dental issues such as gingivitis and periodontal disease are one of the most common problems seen by vets, and if not treated in time, can lead to rotting teeth and infections. Regular dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning by a veterinarian can help prevent and treat dental issues, and maintaining good oral hygiene at home by brushing a dog's teeth regularly and giving them dental chews or toys is also important.
It’s worth noting that some dog breeds such as poodles, Yorkshire terriers, and Maltese, as well as some brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short snouts) such as bulldogs, pugs, and Shih Tzus are prone to dental issues due to their small jaw and crowded teeth; larger breeds such as boxers, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards also have a higher likelihood of developing dental problems due to their large jaws and teeth. Additionally, breeds that have a genetic predisposition to certain health conditions, such as golden retrievers, may be prone to certain genetic dental conditions and joint issues.
Treatment for other common ailments, such as parvovirus, kennel cough, and heartworm disease, can cost thousands of dollars and subject your dog to harsh medications and treatments — or even surgery. But these can be prevented by vaccines and regular checkups. Vaccines for parvovirus typically cost between $50 to $170, whereas treatment for it will run between $500 and $2,000 on average.
The Bottom Line
In addition to routine checkups, it's important to bring a dog to the vet if you notice unusual symptoms or changes in behavior. This could include symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or difficulty breathing. These signs could indicate a serious health problem, and prompt medical attention is crucial.
Overall, the key to keeping a dog healthy is to work closely with the vet to establish a routine that works best for you and your dog, and always be vigilant for signs of illness or injury. Staying on top of a dog's health helps ensure that your four-legged bestie lives a happy and fulfilling life for many years to come.