How Often Should Your Pet See Their Vet?

Your pet’s veterinarian isn’t only there for medical emergencies. Just like their human owners, pets require regular healthcare checkups to make sure they’re in good physical health and address any health issues that may arise both now and in the future.

Whether you’re a brand-new pet owner or someone who has owned pets for years, you might be uncertain about how often your pet should be scheduling appointments with your local vet clinic—especially when it comes to making regular wellness visits for a full exam, updated vaccinations, and other less urgent medical needs.

While your vet may have their own preferred timeline for making regular appointments for wellness exams, here’s a quick overview of the most common vet visit schedule recommended for dogs, cats, and other animal companions.

How Often Should You Take Your Dog to the Vet?

For a healthy, adult dog, most vets recommend bringing in your dog for an annual wellness exam. At this exam, your vet will evaluate your dog’s health, provide any required vaccinations, listen to your specific health and behavioral concerns, and make recommendations for any medications, supplements, specialized food, behavioral interventions, or other services that may be helpful to your dog.

In some cases, the decision of when to take a dog to the vet may be based on the reasons you’re making an appointment. If you’re only a few months away from your pet being due for a wellness exam, for example, a vet may offer to perform the wellness exam at that time.

Keep in mind that for certain scheduled services, such as vaccinations and boosters, vets may be unable to administer these services before they are due. And, for older dogs, your vet may recommend increasing your annual wellness visits to twice per year, or once every six months, to make sure any developing health concerns are properly monitored and managed.

How Often Do You Take a Cat to the Vet?

The recommended vet visit scheduled for cats is similar to that of dogs: For a healthy cat with no specialized care needs, an annual visit is sufficient during their adult years.

As cats age, your vet may recommend an accelerated schedule for wellness exams. Many vets recommend bumping up to twice-annual wellness visits once a cat reaches 10 years of age. Your own vet may recommend a more aggressive or relaxed schedule based on how your cat’s health develops as they age.

Recommended Puppy Vet Schedule for New Owners

While adult dogs, cats, and other pets are often adequately served by visiting the vet once or twice per year, puppies can expect to make more frequent visits during their first year of life. As far as when to take a new puppy to the vet, pet owners are encouraged to bring in puppies for a vet visit every month until they reach six months of age.

By six months, your puppy should be up-to-date on vaccinations and may have been spayed or neutered, if you choose to do so. At this point, your puppy won’t need to visit the vet again until its first birthday, and then every year after that.

If you’re a cat owner, you may be asking: “When should I take my cat to the vet before it’s fully grown?” The schedule is a little different for kittens than for puppies: Veterinarians typically recommend a vet visit every three to four weeks for the first 16 weeks of your kitten’s life. Since you’ll already be making a lot of visits during this period of time to get your kitten up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters, it should be easy to combine these wellness visits and vaccinations into a single appointment.

When to Take a Dog to the Emergency Vet

While regular wellness visits are important to support your dog’s health through preventative care and monitoring of potential health concerns, some pet owners will have their dogs going to the vet for more urgent needs, such as illness or injury. While an illness or minor injury can often be handled at a regular vet clinic, there are cases where dogs and other pets should be brought immediately to an emergency.

Consider bringing your dog to the emergency vet if it experiences any of the following medical problems:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Open wounds that won’t stop bleeding
  • An elevated heart rate and/or panting
  • Audible crying out in pain
  • Severe limping or motionless limbs
  • Dizziness
  • An inability to stay standing
  • Unconsciousness

If you’re uncertain whether your pet requires emergency veterinary services, call your vet office and/or your local pet emergency line for more help in evaluating your pet’s condition and determining whether to seek out care. When in doubt, it’s always wise to schedule a visit with your vet and make sure your pet’s health is well-supported by access to excellent healthcare.

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