A first visit to the vet with your new pet can be a really positive experience. To make it just that for both you and your pet, it's worth considering in advance what that first appointment should be about, whether it's to check up on your animal's health or to ask any questions that may be bothering you.
Here we'll go through everything you need to know.
What can I expect at my first vet visit?
When you turn up to the practice, you will be asked to take a seat in the waiting room. If your puppy has not yet received their full primary vaccination course, you should keep them in a carrier or on your lap away from other dogs. Kittens should always be kept inside a suitable carrier.
When the vet calls you through to the consultation room, they will ask some background questions about your pet’s health and perform a physical examination. This check covers all the different body systems and includes looking at the eyes, ears and teeth, listening to the heart and lungs, feeling the tummy, taking a temperature and checking for congenital conditions (those that are present before birth). They will also check whether your pet is microchipped.
Your vet will then explain any health concerns that might have been detected when examining your pet. They will also cover topics such as vaccinations, flea and worming, diet and behaviour. This is also your opportunity to ask any questions you might have about caring for your pet.
How much does the first vet visit cost?
The cost of a first vet visit will depend on factors such as whether your pet is due any vaccinations at the appointment, and what treatments are necessary if your pet is poorly. You can phone the practice in advance to ask about prices. Some vet practices also run a pet health scheme and the cost of the first visit may be included in these.
What questions should I ask at my first vet visit?
It can be helpful to make a list of any questions you think of before the vet visit, as there can be a lot of new information to take on board. You should ask about vaccinations, and flea and worm treatment. Ask about whether the practice runs puppy socialisation sessions, and if you can bring your puppy down to the practice regularly just to visit reception and have some treats (without having a vet appointment). This is great because then your puppy will have positive associations with the practice, and won’t only associate the vets with feeling poorly. It is also worth asking about pet health schemes and pet insurance.
When should puppies go to the vet for the first time?
Puppies should first visit the vet with the breeder by the time they are eight weeks' old. This is the age by which they must be legally microchipped and registered. They will often receive their first puppy vaccination at this appointment.
When you get a new puppy, the first vet appointment that you take them to is likely to be for their second vaccination at 10-12 weeks of age. Ideally you would book an appointment for a few days after you have brought them home, as this gives you a chance to think of questions that you would like to ask the vet. This also allows you to monitor their behaviour and get a feel for whether you have concerns relating to their health. However, you should see a vet sooner, if you are worried about your puppy.
What to bring?
Bring with you any paperwork that you were given by the breeder or the rehoming centre. It is particularly important to bring your pet’s vaccination history, which is a record of what vaccinations they have been given and the dates that these were administered.
It is useful to make a note of what diet your pet is eating, and the names and dates of any flea or worm treatments given. Make sure you have a good supply of treats with you to reward good behaviour and provide a distraction if needed.
When should your first vet visit be scheduled?
Your first vet visit should be scheduled a few days after you bring them home to allow time to monitor them and identify any health or behaviour concerns. You can book an appointment sooner if you are worried or if vaccinations are due. Phone the practice to register your pet and to book their first visit.
How to prepare your puppy for the first vet visit
Knowing how to prepare your puppy for the first vet visit can help take away some of the stress and make it a great experience for you and your pet. If you’re travelling by car, a puppy should be in a suitable crate, dog carrier or car harness. Get your puppy used to the car gradually as part of the training process, gradually increasing the length of journey. If possible, try to get them a little more used to the car before your vet visit. You should keep your puppy on a lead when you get to the practice.
Try to stay calm and positive about the appointment, as puppies are very good at picking up on your emotions and will detect any worry. The first visit can be a really positive experience, and you can speak to your practice to see if they have any tips for keeping your pet happy and relaxed during the visit.