As a dog parent, you know that regular visits to the veterinarian are essential to ensuring your pet’s health and happiness. But how often should you take your dog to the vet, and what can you expect when you’re there?
When it comes to veterinary visits, the right frequency depends on age, health, and lifestyle. Generally speaking, annual checkups are recommended for most adult dogs, while more frequent visits may be necessary for seniors or dogs with medical conditions.
Here's how to plan and what to expect at your pet’s visit to a vet’s office.
How Often Should I Take My Puppy to the Vet?
The youngest of puppies need to visit the vet every 3–4 weeks — up to the age of 16 weeks — to receive core vaccines for conditions like rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus.
They’ll also need to be dewormed every couple of weeks between 2 and 8 weeks old; this will likely take place before you’ve taken your furry friend home.
These vaccination visits will stop at around the 16–20 week mark, but you’ll need to take them to the vet again at the age of 6 months. At this visit, your vet will make sure your dog is growing properly and examine their teeth, eyes, ears, and paws. Your vet can help you decide when the best time is to have your pup neutered (spay for females, castration for males). This can depend on their lifestyle, size or breed, temperament, and other factors.
How Often Should I Take My Adult Dog to the Vet?
A generally healthy adult dog should visit the vet once a year.
"During [an annual] visit, the vet will perform a comprehensive physical examination to ensure your dog is healthy,” explains veterinarian Dr. Kirsten Ronngren. “This will include steps like listening to the heart and lungs, palpating the abdomen, feeling lymph nodes, assessing overall body condition, and examining the oral cavity for things like dental disease, among other things."
How Often Should I Take My Senior Dog or Dog with Chronic Conditions to the Vet?
For senior dogs or dogs with pre-existing medical conditions, more frequent vet visits may be necessary. Twice a year is a good rule of thumb. However, your veterinarian may suggest a more frequent schedule depending on your dog's specific needs.
“If a pet [is a senior or] has a chronic illness that requires monitoring, I recommend biannual visits or I structure a ‘game plan’ for that pet,” explains Dr. Ashley T. Randall, owner of West End Animal Wellness Center.
These twice-yearly checkups are also a prime time to ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
What to Expect at an Annual Vet Visit
Update on Vaccinations
"Annual checkups may involve some important vaccinations, such as those for Bordetella or rabies," says Dr. Ronngren.
As we’ve mentioned, dogs should receive a series of core vaccines to protect them against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus.
Dogs will usually receive these vaccines as puppies between the ages of 6 and 18 weeks. But they’ll need regular boosters for all core vaccines one year after their first dose. After their second dose, they’ll need additional boosters every 1-3 years (depending on the type of vaccine).
Non-core vaccines are given based on the dog's lifestyle and risk factors. These include vaccines for Lyme disease or canine influenza. Your veterinarian can help determine which non-core vaccines are necessary for your dog.
Some vaccines cost more than others, but they generally range in price from about $20 to $50, depending on where you live. Find out what various vaccinations cost in 25 US cities.
Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Check
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms can cause serious health problems for your dog. Regular parasite control is essential to prevent infestations and protect your dog's health. Your pup should be placed on preventative flea, tick, and heartworm medications as early as 8 weeks old. Your veterinarian can also recommend an effective parasite prevention plan.
But despite our best efforts, parasites do sometimes break through. If your vet suspects a parasitic infection, they’ll likely perform or order further diagnostic testing, including skin examinations to detect fleas or ticks and fecal examinations to detect intestinal worms.
Curb the Risk of Future Health Issues
Plenty of minor health issues can become much more serious (and expensive) if they’re not diagnosed in a timely manner. Dental health is a good example: After your veterinarian examines your dog’s teeth, they may recommend more frequent dental cleanings to stave off serious infections and other health issues.
How Much Does a Vet Visit Cost?
Veterinary costs vary wildly by state (as with any costs), but that doesn’t mean you have to be completely blindsided at checkout. Here are some basic expenses you might see pop up for an average annual exam:
Average Veterinary Costs (Routine and Preventative Care)
Complete exam: $50-100
Core vaccines: $25-$75 each
Fecal screening: $25-$75
Heartworm test: $25-$60
Basic bloodwork: $50-$250
Heartworm prevention: $100-$125/year
Flea & tick control: $200-$300/year
Dental cleaning (without extractions): $300-$800+
Remember, these are only the potential averages of what you could pay at an annual visit. The costs for specific visits to treat illnesses or accidents will vary by factors such as location.
If Your Dog Seems Unwell, Forget the Schedule
Taking your dog to the vet with the right frequency — whether that’s every few weeks for a young puppy, once a year for a healthy adult, or twice a year for a sick or senior dog — can help you be proactive about your pet’s health.
At the same time, don’t ignore your pet-parenting-spidey sense! You don’t need to wait for obvious signs of a debilitating illness or injury to schedule a sick visit. If you have any reason to suspect your dog is sick or injured — perhaps their eating habits have changed, they’re oddly lethargic, or they simply seem off — don't wait until the next scheduled appointment. Take them to the vet and find out what’s wrong.
Whether your vet diagnoses a health problem at a regular checkup or during a sick visit, your dog may enjoy a much better health outcome and a much less costly course of treatment if their condition is diagnosed and treated sooner rather than later.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Vet Visits?
This is an important question. Here’s the answer: ManyPets insurance covers qualified claims* for veterinary examinations or consultations that are required to diagnose or treat an illness or injury. This includes:
Diagnostics (lab work, x-rays, MRIs, blood work, and other necessary tests)
Medication (vet-prescribed medications approved by the FDA)
Treatments (medically necessary rehabilitation, acupuncture, or chiropractic treatment administered by a vet)
Surgeries (any procedures needed to treat illnesses or injuries)
Supplies (any medically necessary items, as determined by your veterinarian)
Hospitalization (boarding at a veterinary clinic as required by your veterinarian)
Euthanasia and cremation (but for now, let’s just think about keeping your pet healthy as long as possible)
The ManyPets dog insurance policy does not cover routine or preventative vet visits that are not related to an accident or illness. But if your vet detects a potential injury or illness at a routine exam, your dog's insurance policy can cover the resulting diagnostic testing and treatment. And we’ll accept claims for treatment at any licensed vet.
Now, since this post is all about ensuring your pet’s long-term health — which certainly includes heading off health issues before they start —we're happy to inform you that ManyPets also offers a Wellness plan that can reimburse you for routine and preventative care, including checkups, vaccinations, dental cleanings, flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, and more. (See your policy for details, as they are subject to change at any time.)
*Conditions that pre-date your policy effective date, or occur during your waiting period, will be excluded as pre-existing conditions (with potential waiting period exemptions for customers who directly transferred from another provider). Please refer to our sample policy for more coverage details.