Not too long ago, a friend of ours from Hong Kong adopted his first puppy. Growing up, he had never been around dogs. In fact, Isabella and Penelope were the first pups he ever truly interacted with, so when he decided he wanted to adopt a dog of his own, we were thrilled for him!
After his adoption process began for sweet Rosie Rae, he started asking questions regarding her first vet visit, what it entailed and what questions he should be asking. As my husband, Alex, and I began recapping what to expect, information regarding vaccines and ongoing medications, and more, I realized the information we have and our own experiences might be valuable to other first-time dog owners or dog parents who may be “out of practice” with a new puppy.
Now, keep in mind, I am by no means an expert. I am not a veterinarian, and my checklist is by no means professionally crafted. It’s based on our own experiences with Isabella and Penelope and years of growing up with dogs.
That said, I give you The New Puppy Checklist: Your First Vet Visit!
When planning your first vet visit, schedule your appointment within the first week of bringing the puppy home. With that in mind, if you purchased the puppy from a breeder, you may be required to bring the puppy in within the first 48 to 72 hours of bringing the puppy home. And sometimes if you’ve rescued the puppy from a shelter, they’ve already had their first visit and the first round of shots.
Regardless of the situation your new puppy came from, it’s essential to bring them into your veterinarian within the first week so your vet can assess the puppy’s physical health and you can begin or continue the vaccination process.
With the first checkup, I highly suggest booking the appointment for early in the morning. Veterinarian offices tend to be quieter during the early morning hours with fewer patients, making it less overwhelming. Not to mention, your puppy will likely be receiving vaccinations and getting these completed in the morning allows you to monitor your puppy for the full day to ensure there are no side effects.
During your first vet appointment, you’ll want to bring the following with you:
Your puppy should be receiving vaccinations at six to eight weeks old, after its weaned, and the puppy will need to return to the vet over the next few weeks to complete the booster shots for the vaccinations.
As far as vaccinations go, your puppy will have to be immunized against rabies, hepatitis, distemper, and parvovirus. Your vet will likely suggest other vaccinations as well depending on the lifestyle and activity your dog will be living.
For instance, if your dog is going to be swimming in lakes and rivers, veterinarians often suggest the leptospirosis vaccine as leptospirosis is commonly contracted from dogs drinking from rivers or lakes, among other things. If your dog is going to be playing with other dogs, attending daycare or other types of boarding, vets also recommend the Bordatella vaccine which protects against Kennel Cough.
Some vaccinations can be given as a combination. Isabella and Penelope both received the DHLPPC which protects against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvo, and corona.
PetSmart offers this vaccine schedule, and it seems most veterinarians follow the same, if not a similar, timeline.
Before you leave your vet, be sure you know what time their office closes and where the closest emergency vet is to your home in the event your puppy does have an adverse reaction to a vaccine.
In addition to vaccines, your puppy will likely go through a dewormer once or twice over the first few weeks, and your puppy will have to be treated for fleas and ticks and heartworm monthly.
Heartguard is the most common heartworm prevention, and it’s given in treat form once a month.
There are several different options when it comes to flea and tick prevention. Some people prefer collars, others prefer topical ointments, and other prefer pill/treat form.
I’ve used topical ointments before, and I didn’t care for the side effects. I’ve found that ointments like FrontLine not only make the dog’s fur oily where it’s applied, but it specifically made Isabella lethargic for several days after application. And apparently, this is a very common side effect.
Now, I use NexGard for flea and tick prevention for Isabella and Penelope, and it’s a treat they love to take with their Heartguard once a month. Having both of these monthly medications in treat form makes it a super simple process.
A few other decisions you'll need to make are regarding microchipping and spaying/neutering your puppy. Majority of the time if you rescue a dog, it is already spayed or neutered and microchipped before its allowed to be adopted out. If you’ve purchased from a breeder, you’ll have to decide whether you want to breed your dog in the future or if you want to get them fixed. You’ll also likely have to get them microchipped on your own.
When it comes to spaying/neutering, there are many health and behavior benefits which you can read about here. Typically, dogs are spayed or neutered between six to nine months, but it can be completed as early as eight weeks providing the puppy is healthy.
Both Isabella and Penelope were spayed before their adoption at 13 weeks, and I am a firm believer that their recovery process was quicker because they were younger. Since puppies tend to nap much more the younger they are, they tend to leave their stitches alone, and they do not tend to have as many post-procedure complications.
As far as microchips go, it’s important to understand it is not a GPS for your dog. It’s an under the skin (size of a grain of rice) social security card for your dog. When scanned, it shows your dog’s information and your contact information. Providing your puppy ever got out and didn’t have its collar and tags on, all it takes is the scan of the microchip to be able to get your puppy back to you.
Keep in mind your microchip must be registered! Even if the puppy had a microchip completed with the rescue, you have to go and register the microchip with a location company after adoption. For instance, I have Isabella and Penelope registered with 24PetWatch.
With so many dog food brands and different types on the market, it’s always helpful to get recommendations from your vet. Your vet will be able to make recommendations based on the breed, age and overall appearance of your dog.
Not to mention, your veterinarian will be able to recommend whether you should follow the portion amount of the dog food bag or whether you should adjust the portion to help your puppy gain weight (common for rescues) or not grow too fast (large breed dogs).
Our vet helped us find foods that would work best with both Isabella and Penelope’s lifestyle and was also able to recommend supplements to aid in common ailments their breeds succumb to.
Always keep in mind, no question is a dumb question. For your puppy to be as happy and healthy as can be, it needs to be cared for properly. The only way it can be cared for properly is for you to be as informed as you can be!
If your puppy is a rescue, I highly suggest completing a DNA test shortly after adoption. Often, animal shelters do not know the parents of puppies and are guessing on what the breeds could be.
By completing a DNA test, you know exactly what breed(s) your puppy is, and you’ll gain valuable insights on the breed(s) that will help when you’re training and keeping your puppy healthy. I’ll write a full article on this in the future, but I highly recommend Wisdom Panel for dog DNA tests.
Have any questions about the points I’ve covered here? Dog owners, did I miss anything? Let me know! Leave a comment or send me a message!