A trip to the vet for an introductory well puppy exam should be one of the very first things you do after bringing home a new puppy. Younger pups need well exams about every month to check for physical and behavioral problems and receive vaccinations, but checkups will become less frequent as your pup ages. To maximize the benefits your puppy gets from these exams, actively take part in all discussion and decisions. No one knows your pup better than you do.
Medical History and Behavior Check
As your puppy's caretaker, you observe her daily behavior and have a better feel for her overall health than anyone else. The information you can provide your vet during a well puppy exam is invaluable. While your vet takes a medical history for your pup, which includes current and previous health conditions or complaints, information about house-training and behavior, and notes about energy levels, sleeping, eating and other issues, he'll ask you questions to determine if you have any concerns, even minor ones, that may point to a bigger problem. Provide as much information as possible, even if you think it is unimportant. Behavioral problems and training issues are better dealt with early in life.
At each well puppy exam, your vet will check your pup's body, skin and organs for abnormalities. During a standard exam, your pooch's eyes, mouth, teeth and ears will be examined, and her skin will be looked at closely for dryness, rashes and signs of fleas or other parasites. Your vet will examine her abdomen to check for enlarged organs or pain, and your puppy's heart and lungs will be checked for murmurs, irregular heart beat or symptoms of lung disorders. Your vet will also feel your pet's joints and bones and ensure they are working properly, and then he'll look at your pup's genitals for abnormalities. Your vet may collect stool, blood and urine samples for testing. If your puppy is at risk for any specific conditions, additional checks or testing may be necessary.
Vaccinations are a big part of well puppy exams and they are often the motivating reason pet owners bring their new pups to the vet. Puppies should receive vaccinations at six to eight weeks old and then every three to four weeks thereafter until they reach 16 to 20 weeks. Puppy vaccines protect again parvovirus, adenovirus, leptospirosis, distemper, parainfluenza, coronavirus, lyme disease and other illnesses. It is crucial that you follow the recommended vaccination schedule for your puppy if you want to keep her healthy.
Keeping parasites away is essential to a puppy's health, so vets typically dedicate a portion of each well exam to looking for and treating parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, heartworms, fleas, lice, mites and ticks. Young puppies may already be infected with roundworms or another parasite and will need treatment. Once your pup has her shots and any roundworms have been removed, you'll discuss parasite preventatives with your vet. The product you choose will depend on your puppy's age, medical history and the area where you live. Your vet will give you a schedule for keeping up with the medication and will let you know when to return to the office.
By Sandra Ketcham
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital of Kansas State University: Puppy Wellness Program
VCA Animal Hospitals: Wellness Examination in Dogs
American Animal Hospital Association: Wellness Exams
WebMD Pets: The Physical Exam: What to Expect at the Veterinarian's Office
About the Author
Sandra Ketcham has nearly two decades of experience writing and editing for major websites and magazines. Her work appears in numerous web and print publications, including "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "The Tampa Bay Times," Visit Florida, "USA Today," AOL's Gadling and "Kraze Magazine."