The puppy’s first experience at the vets is a really important part of socialisation to ensure it is a positive experience and that they view the vets as a positive place in the future. Many puppy owners refrain from taking their puppy to the vets unless it is for an illness, vaccinations or microchip.
The wonderful thing about being part of a Puppy Friendly Practice is that we provide you with opportunities to bring your puppy with you for non clinical visits such as puppy chats, weigh ins for flea and wormers to provide your puppy with a really fun, positive experience so they get used to the environment, the staff, the waiting room and consulting rooms.
In this post we are going to look at some of the ways you can get prepared at home for your puppy’s first visit to the vets and also look at some of the things a Puppy Friendly Practice can help you with too to ensure your puppy LOVES coming to the vets.
When should the First Vets Visit be?
The timing of your puppy’s first visit to the vets depends on how old they are when you collected them from the breeder and whether they have had their first vaccinations or not. But regardless of this, it is always good practice to get your puppy health checked as soon as you take ownership. Give them 24 hours to settle into their new surroundings and then visit your vets.
As part of one of our Puppy Friendly Practices, you as a puppy owner are also eligible for a free Puppy Chat with and registered veterinary nurse (RVN) which takes around 30 minutes. If you registered your puppy with your practice before bringing your puppy home, you will have been invited for this puppy chat before collecting your puppy. If you haven’t had your puppy chat already, you can book it in as soon as possible and take your puppy with you for the positive socialisation experience. Our nurses are trained to ensure this is a really great experience for your puppy, read more about the Puppy Chat here.
We do not generally recommend bringing your puppy in for their first health check and vaccinations at the same time as the puppy chat as the appointment will just be too long and can be all too much for the puppy to take in. Although it can be a hassle bringing them back twice, the socialisation experience of trips to the vets when they are not having injections or treatment is so beneficial for them and so worthwhile between 8 and 16 weeks of age.
How to Prepare your Puppy for the Vets.
There are lots of things you can do daily at home to help prepare your puppy for visits to the vets, not just before the first visit but routinely as your puppy is growing to help build positive associations. There are also things that can help on the actual day to make the trip run as smoothly as possible. Let’s take a look at some of these things.
Getting your puppy used to daily handling is really important for helping them grow in confidence for future visits to the vets, groomers, applying medications and so much more. This is something that you can work on really easily at home, it will give them a really positive start and positive handling, really will stay with them for life.
Daily handling during the socialisation period will ensure your puppy grows up to be happy and confident being handled in new situations.
It can be helpful to do this with two people, so one can focus on the handling and the other focus on trickle feeding the puppy treats. If you are doing this on your own you can consider giving the puppy something to focus on like a licky mat or stuffed kong to keep them occupied whilst you are handling.
Begin by gently and slowly stroking all the areas you know your puppy is happy to be touched in a way that is calming and not excitable. Treat them after each stroke for remaining calm. As your puppy accepts all the familiar areas, you can then progress to stroking some of the other areas but don’t feel pressured to have to cover all areas in one session, work at the speed of the puppy.
The areas of the body that need to be handed regularly are:
- looking in the ears
- looking in the eyes
- lifting the lips to look at the gums
- gently opening the mouth
- feeling along the body and tummy
- examining the fur
- running hands down each leg
- lifting each leg and feeling between the pads and the toes
- running hands down the tail
It may be too much to complete a full body examination the first time so always move at the speed of the puppy. Treat them and talk in a reassuring voice when they are still and remaining calm.
If the puppy shows discomfort or is less happy to be examined, move more slowly in these areas and repeat very gradually as the puppy begins to accept each step.
Obviously, if there are any areas you get a real response of discomfort, you must mention these to your veterinarian when you visit to get them check out. This daily handling is just about making being touched all over a normal part of every day life that the puppy is willing to accept.
For young puppies and smaller adult dogs, they are often examined by the vet on an examination table. You can help to prepare them for this situation really easily at home.
For this we recommend you chose a stable surface such as a table or kitchen island and put a towel or piece of vet bed down so it is less slippery for the puppy. Have your tasty treats at the ready and ideally a second pair of hands.
Take this process more slowly, as being up on a raised surface will be a new experience for them. Give plenty of treats and a rewarding tone of voice and as your puppy accepts this situation you can progress to some of the gentle handling exercises.
It is really important that your puppy’s first visit to the vets is not the first time they wear their collar and lead. If it is then the chances are they will be so focused on the new thing around their neck that they fail to take in all the new experiences at the vets as a positive experience. You can learn more about this in the socialisation post.
Begin positively introducing the collar to your puppy the day you bring your puppy home so they are completely happy and accepting of it. If you have introduced the Adaptil Junior collar, your puppy should accept a normally puppy collar really easily. The Adaptil junior collar is worn all the time (except for bathing) and releases appeasing pheromone messages to give the puppy comfort and security. Learn more about the Adaptil puppy range here.
Introduction to the Car
Another thing to do before your puppy’s first visit to the vets is to get them used to going in and out of the car, going for short journeys so that it isn’t another completely new experience on the day of the vets visit. You can sit in the car with them and some tasty high value treats and let them investigate and become familiar with the car. Then progress to closing the door, starting the engine and work towards very short journeys to begin with rewarding the puppy at each stage for remaining calm and accepting the new environment.
You may not be travelling in the car but where possible introduce them gradually and with short exposures to whatever mode of transport you will be using and remember to take your bag of high value treats with you when working on any socialisation exercises.
On the Day of the Visit
On the day of your visit the following things can ensure it all goes as smoothly as possible:
- allow plenty of time for the journey so you are not rushing to get there and stressed on your arrival.
- try and book your appointment for a quieter time of day so it will be as calm at the practice as it can be.
- make sure the puppy has had the opportunity to eliminate before leaving for the vets.
- take a bag of high value, mixed treats with you.
- take a blanket so you can help them to feel supported when carrying them and waiting on your knee.
What to Expect during the First Vet Visit.
All of the staff in our Puppy Friendly Practices are trained to ensure your entire journey is a relaxed and stress free for you and the puppy as possible. Here are some of the things you can expect from your visit.
In the Waiting Room
At a Puppy Friendly Practice you will always receive a warm, friendly welcome from our teams. Waiting times will be kept as short and stress free as possible. Occasionally, if the waiting room is really busy or if waiting times are longer than usual, you may be given the option to wait in the car with your puppy as this can prove to be less stressful for a young puppy. A treat will be offered to your puppy in the welcome room (with your consent of course) to help associate the vets to a positive experience.
As we recommend for all socialisation, always take a mixed bag of high value treats per with you so you can reward calm and well-mannered behaviours as your puppy is waiting to be seen, you don’t just have to rely on the veterinary staff to give your puppy a treat.
All of our Puppy Friendly Practices have an Adaptil Calm Diffuser in the waiting room to provide a reassuring and calm environment for all dogs coming through the doors. All these additional touches help to make the experience as positive as possible for your puppy.
In the Consulting Room
You will receive a warm welcome from the vet seeing your puppy who will make every effort to make friends with your puppy before commencing any examination. The vets have access to treats to help make the appointment a positive experience For longer appointments such as puppy chats, where the puppy will be in the room for an extended duration with the nurse talking with owner, the puppy will be offered a vet bed to settle on and a tasty stuffed kong to keep them occupied and distracted.
During your puppy’s first healthcheck and vaccination appointment your vet will ask you some general questions about your puppy’s history and how they are settling in to you home. You will need to give them any information you have from the breeder with regard to vaccinations or worming regimes.
You can expect the vet to check the following:
- A weight check
- A complete physical examination from head to toe including the eyes, nose, ear, legs, skin, coat, feet and genitalia.
- The mouth, taking a closer look at the teeth, gums and alignment of the teeth and jaw.
- The eyes and ears using a magnification light.
- Feeling the abdomen, lymph nodes and joints.
- Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
- Check for microchip and insert one if not been done already.
- Give vaccinations and a record card.
Depending on the age and history of the puppy, other things that may be checked are stool samples, urine sample or a blood sample to check for heart worm.
Your vet will discuss the right flea and worming program for your puppy and dispense these. They may also outline the details in their preventative health care plan if they have one available.
Cost of the Visit
Veterinary costs vary depending on where you live. The initial trip to the vet with a puppy is quite routine and not too expensive. Most veterinary practices offer a preventative healthcare plan which is a really great way to save money on routine puppy care and budget for costs throughout the year.
Normally a standard puppy healthcare plan will cover all the costs of annual vaccinations, flea and worm treatment, a urine test and one or two health checks a year and a discount off medications. This is well worth considering as preventative health care is certainly money well spent to prevent more serious or costly health problems later down the line.
Insurance for your puppy is another great way to make sure you can cover the costs of any unexpected illnesses, accidents or visits to the vets. Many breeders give 4-6 weeks free insurance but if not, this is often something that your vet can offer to.