Golden retriever at the vet

You should take your dog to the vet for many reasons.

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Do I have to take my dog to the vet?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Once you have a dog, you should get used to visiting a vet, for everything from an annual check-up to asking for advice because your pet is sick. 

Even if your pet seems healthy, annual check-ups are recommended. It is your legal responsibility, as the dog’s owner, to make sure that you take your dog to the vet, if they are suffering or in pain. If you are worried about your dog’s health, or unsure whether they need a vet check you should contact your practice for advice.

Here we have listed the main situations when you should contact or head to the vet. 


For routine de-worming there are treatments that you can administer at home. These can be purchased through the vet practice, as long as your pet has been seen for a health check during the last 12 months. If you are worried that your pet has a large number of worms, especially if they are a puppy or losing weight, contact the vet practice for advice before administering treatment.

A broken nail

A vet visit is necessary for a broken nail as they can lead to an infection, if left untreated. They are also extremely sore and your pet will require pain relief and anti-inflammatories. Treatment will depend on how low down on the nail the fracture is. Your pet may require a sedation, so avoid feeding any meals or snacks before the appointment.

Annual check-up

It's not compulsory to take your dog to the vets every year, but it is recommended. At their annual health check the vet will examine them and might pick up early signs of an illness. Most dog vaccinations also have an annual booster and these can be given at this appointment as long as your pet seems healthy.

Ear mites

You should always take your dog for a check-up if they have an ear problem. There are many causes of ear irritation in dogs, and it is important to make sure that they are receiving the correct treatment. Your pet might actually have a bacterial or yeast infection, an underlying allergy or something else, like a grass seed stuck in their ear. The vet will be able to use a tool called an otoscope to look down your dog’s ears. If necessary, they might take swabs to look for signs of infection or parasites.


Ringworm is a fungal infection and is highly contagious to people. You should take your dog to the vet to confirm diagnosis and for appropriate treatment to help prevent the spread of it. The vet may use an ultraviolet light to examine the skin, as this can detect certain types of ringworm. Other tests can include taking hair or skin samples.

You should avoid children or immunocompromised people from coming into contact with your dog.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough can be caused by several bacteria and viruses, and has a characteristic sounding ‘hacking’ cough. If you think your dog has kennel cough but is otherwise bright and well in themselves and has a good appetite, you may not need to visit the vet. Most dogs will recover without treatment within a few weeks. However, kennel cough is extremely infectious, so you should keep your dog away from other dogs. While your dog has the cough, avoid using leads that pull on their neck and irritate their airway.

If your dog has other symptoms including nasal discharge, lack of appetite or lethargy, you should contact your practice for advice and to arrange an appointment. Let the clinic know that your dog has a cough, and ask where you should wait on arrival to avoid infecting other dogs in reception.

It can also be very helpful if you record a video (with sound) of your dog coughing. This may help the vet to determine the cause.

An ear infection

You should always take your dog to the vet for an ear infection. They will need to confirm whether the cause of infection is bacterial or yeast, and whether there is an underlying cause such as a skin allergy. They will then be able to prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Ear infections should not be left untreated as this can lead to further problems such as aural haematomas. A haematoma is when a small blood vessel inside the dog’s ear flap bursts and causes a build up of blood between the two layers of connective tissue. This can occur when a dog has an ear irritation and keeps scratching or shaking their head.

Your dog is pregnant

If the litter is planned, you may want to take her to the vet for a health check and to discuss what to expect, depending on your level of experience. The vet might also be able to do a scan to give an approximate idea of how many puppies there are. If you think that your bitch is close to whelping (giving birth), it is helpful to let the vet practice know, as this helps them be prepared in case you need any advice or an emergency visit. If the pregnancy was unplanned, you should visit the vet practice to discuss what options are available.

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