dog-first-vet-visit

Your Pet’s First Veterinary Visit: What to Expect

By Dr. Bruce Little

You recently adopted or purchased a new pet to bring into your family. You know your new addition needs to be examined by a veterinarian. First, find a veterinarian in your local area. Then, once you make an appointment, here’s what to expect from that visit:

Physical Examination

First, the veterinarian will examine your new pet from a physical perspective, to see if they seem to be healthy. Do they show any signs of congenital or birth defects, such as inverted eyelids that can damage the surface of the eye? Is your pet the appropriate size for an animal of their breed and age? If you aren’t sure of their age, your veterinarian can make an educated guess. In most cases they’ll come quite close to the proper age.

Your veterinarian will examine and gently push, pull, and poke your pet during this first visit. Here’s an overview of each area your veterinarian will examine, as well as what they’re looking for:

  1. Eyes: Signs of disease, discharge or tearing, or abnormal movement or reaction to light.
  2. Ears: Signs of ear infection such as pain, redness, swelling, tenderness, smell, or mites.
  3. Mouth: Signs of periodontal disease in teeth and gums, misaligned or crooked teeth, proper bite, or bad breath.
  4. Lymph and Thyroid Glands: Irregularities or changes in size.
  5. Coat, Skin, and Nails: Poor overall quality of coat, lumps or bumps, rashes, areas of hair loss or excessive dander, matted or saliva-stained fur, fleas or ticks, overgrown or ingrown nails, dehydration.
  6. Legs: Limited range of motion in all four limbs, signs of pain or discomfort, grinding sounds in joints.
  7. Tail: Abscesses, abnormalities in anal glands, fecal mats, growths, evidence of parasites such as flea dirt or tapeworm segments.
  8. Lungs: Wheezing, crackling, or other abnormal lung sounds.
  9. Heart: Weak or abnormal heart sounds, an abnormally fast or slow heart rate, irregular heart beats.

Parasite Check

You’ll most likely have to bring in a stool sample so your veterinarian can examine for internal parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and others that may live in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract.

The veterinarian will draw a blood sample to check for heartworms, and recommend treatment if heartworms are discovered, or place your pet on preventive medication if they’re free of heartworms.

Vaccinations

Your pet’s vaccinations will be brought up-to-date. Your veterinarian will set a schedule for subsequent vaccinations.

Discussion and Recommendations

  • You’ll chat about the proper weight and body condition of your pet, based on their breed and age. Your veterinarian will recommend proper nutrition.
  • You and your veterinarian will talk about socialization of your new pet, including ways they can intermingle with other pets in your household, or in your family environment.
  • You’ll also chat about bathing, grooming and proper hygiene for your new pet. The amount of grooming depends on your pet’s breed and length of their coat.
  • Finally, you’ll talk about proper house training and behavior.

Remember, this new addition to your family is just like another human member of the household. Be sure to ask any and all questions you might have, and if needed, get a written account of what your duties will be in managing your new pet with responsible pet ownership.

Take this list with you when you make your pet’s first visit to the veterinarian, so you both know to stay on top of your pet’s health. Both the pet and your family will enjoy each other much more if these examinations are completed.  

Don’t wait until your pet is sick to take it to the veterinarian. The veterinarian and hospital staff will need to see the new addition in its normal form to properly assess its health conditions.

Do you have any questions about your pet’s first veterinary visit? Ask in the comments below!