Brown dachshund with owner and vets

Dogs need to go see a vet a few times a year.

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How often do dogs need to go to the vet?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

If you have a dog, you will need to make trips to see a vet, even if your pet is fit and healthy. But you may not know how often you need to go and why you need to go. 

Dogs need to go to the vet at least twice as a puppy for their course of puppy vaccinations. They must also be microchipped and registered, but this often happens at the first puppy vaccination at eight weeks of age.

They should then visit the vet annually if they are fit and well, or more frequently if they have health problems. If your dog is on long-term medication, they will need to visit the vet regularly for health check-ups in order to have a repeat prescription.

Does my dog need to go to the vet?

Your dog needs to visit the vet for their vaccines or if they are unwell. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, you should contact the vet practice for individual advice about whether an appointment is necessary or if instead you yourself can simply monitor the situation for a couple of days. If your pet is showing any signs of pain, then a vet appointment is always necessary.

If your pet has symptoms including (but not limited to) difficulty breathing, collapse, not bearing weight on a leg, a very bloated tummy, fits, suspected poisoning or severe vomiting and diarrhoea, you should contact a vet as an emergency. If in doubt, it is always better to check with your practice.

Does my dog need annual check-ups?

Your dog should have annual check-ups to keep their vaccinations up-to-date. This is also a really important opportunity for the vet to pick up on early signs of disease and to give your pet a general health check. You can use these appointments to ask the vet general questions about your pet’s health and cover topics such as diet, weight loss and flea or worm treatments.

How much is a routine vet visit for a dog?

The cost of a routine visit varies between practices. You can enquire about prices over the phone, and it's never a problem to call around different vets to find out this information.

Do you have to take your pet to the vet?

It is not compulsory to take your pet to the vet, if they are healthy. There is also no legal requirement to have your pet vaccinated, although microchipping and registration are obligatory. However, you should be aware that they will not be protected against some very severe diseases, including parvovirus, which has a very high mortality rate.

If an animal is in pain or deemed to be suffering, then you have a legal obligation to take action, which essentially means seeking veterinary care. Failure to do so is considered to be an act of cruelty and can result in prosecution.

I can't afford a vet. What do I do?

If you cannot afford veterinary care, you should contact your practice for advice on what help is available. Some areas of the country have charity-funded veterinary clinics or practices that offer payment plans. If your pet is insured, you may be able to claim for treatment under their policy.

What happens if a dog is not vaccinated?

They will not be protected against the diseases that dogs are routinely vaccinated against. These usually include parvovirus, canine distemper virus, leptospirosis, adenovirus 1 and 2, and sometimes kennel cough. Pets that are going to travel can also be vaccinated against rabies. If your pet is exposed to any of these diseases and has not been vaccinated, they are at a much higher risk of contracting them – and some of these cause severe illness or are fatal.

Do indoor dogs need vaccinations?

Indoor dogs should be vaccinated because they can catch a disease even without contact with other dogs. This happens if a person or other animal enters the home carrying the virus or bacteria on their hands or clothes. Parvovirus, for example, can survive in the environment for many months.

Can a vet tell if a dog has been vaccinated?

A vet cannot tell whether a dog has been vaccinated unless they see a vaccination record. There are also certain blood tests that can check for immunity to diseases in your pet.

Can you get in trouble for not vaccinating your dog?

If your pet is travelling outside the UK, it is compulsory to ensure that they have received certain vaccinations. You must not lie about the vaccination status of your pet, and in certain cases this would be considered a legal offence.

If your pet will not be travelling then it is not compulsory to vaccinate. However, many boarding kennels or dog day-care facilities have vaccination policies that you should adhere to. If your dog is not up-to-date with vaccinations, you should make the vet practice aware of this if they need to be admitted for veterinary treatment.

At what age do you stop vaccinating your dog?

In fact, vaccination isn't something you should stop with your dog: you should continue vaccinating your pet annually throughout their life.

What is the vaccination schedule for a dog?

A dog usually receives their course of puppy vaccinations at eight weeks and then at 10-12 weeks. They then need annual boosters.

Other diseases, such as kennel, cough can be vaccinated against annually. If your pet is travelling outside of the UK, they will also require a rabies vaccination and a pet passport. Make sure to give the vet practice plenty of notice, at least a few months, to allow time to get everything in place.

Can I vaccinate my dog myself?

Definitely not. Pet vaccinations are classified as a drug that must only be prescribed by a vet and must only be given following a vet health-check. They can be less effective if given to a pet that is unwell. Following the health check, the vet will then administer the vaccine themself or can delegate to a vet nurse.

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