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A Trip to the Vet: Puppy’s First Visit

Adding a New Puppy to the Family

Adopting a new puppy can be an intimidating challenge for many people once they realize how much time and care a puppy takes—it’s like raising a child! A new puppy’s first visit to the vet can be daunting and new pet parents may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information covered during the first visit. The following guide breaks down various topics the veterinarian will cover when a new puppy visits for the first time. With this guide, any pet parent will soon feel more comfortable going forward with their furry friend’s care.

First Visit to the Vet

basket puppies

A basket of Havanese puppies being examined at 6 weeks old


It is important to take a new puppy for a physical examination as soon as possible to identify and prevent medical problems, stay current on vaccinations, and learn valuable information to help keep the new puppy happy and healthy. During the pup’s first visit, the veterinarian will do the following:

  • Weigh the puppy
  • Take the puppy’s temperature
  • Listen to heart and lungs
  • Examine eyes, ears, nose, throat, skin, coat, feet, genitalia, teeth/mouth, and palpate his/her abdomen
  • Test a fecal sample for the presence of intestinal parasites
  • Discuss the puppy’s history, lifestyle, medical concerns, owner’s questions, and future care

It is important to bring any paperwork that documents the puppy’s history including vaccinations, deworming, and heartworm/flea and tick preventatives so the veterinarian can give the best advice regarding the pup’s future care.


There are many vaccines available to help prevent disease in dogs. Some vaccines, such as the Rabies and Distemper/Parvo vaccines, are considered “core” vaccines and recommended for all dogs of various breeds and ages. Other vaccines, including Lyme, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza, and Kennel Cough, are considered “non-core” vaccines and are giving based on the dog’s exposure to various places. Certain groomers, boarding facilities and doggie day cares require particular vaccines to allow dogs to be there so check with local facilities to see what they require and discuss this with the veterinarian.

  • DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus): This is a combination vaccine that protects against the four above-listed viral diseases, which are the most common and contagious in dogs.
  • Rabies: Rabies virus is fatal and can be transmitted to all mammals, including humans, through the saliva of an infected animal (commonly passed through bite wounds). Most states require all animals be vaccinated for rabies.
  • Kennel cough (bordatella bronchiseptica): This vaccine is recommended and usually required for dogs who frequent the groomer, dog boarding facilities, or doggie day care. Kennel cough is a highly contagious bacterial and/or viral infection that causes coughing in a dog and harsh lung sounds.
  • Lyme: Lyme disease is spread through ticks carrying the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria is transmitted while the tick is taking a blood meal. As with humans, Lyme disease can cause lameness, fever, and swollen joints. Vaccinating against Lyme disease is recommended for dogs in heavily wooded areas.
  • Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of infected wildlife. Severe infection can cause liver and kidney failure. This vaccine is recommended for dogs who frequent areas with still standing water and where wildlife is often seen.
  • Canine Influenza: Symptoms of canine influenza are very similar to those of kennel cough. Canine influenza often frequents areas where dogs are within close quarters to one another including grooming facilities, boarding facilities, and doggie day care.

Intestinal Parasites

Since most puppies are born with intestinal parasites from their mothers, the veterinarian will help determine a proper deworming protocol for the puppy based on history. The veterinarian will also send out a fecal sample to be tested at the lab to determine if there are further parasites to be treated. Because certain parasites are transmissible to humans, it is important to wash hands after cleaning up after the puppy.


“Mack” going for his first hike at 12 weeks old

Common intestinal parasites and how they’re transmitted:

  • Roundworms: the most common parasite in dogs, roundworms are transmitted to the puppy during pregnancy, through the mother’s milk, or if the puppy eats eggs present in another fecal sample
  • Tapeworms: usually diagnosed by finding the segments in the stool, tapeworms can be transmitted by ingesting fleas or rodents
  • Hookworms: can only be diagnosed by microscopic examination of the stool and is spread through contact with hookworm eggs or when ingested orally
  • Whipworms: dogs become infected by ingesting soil contaminated with eggs or other substances containing dog feces
  • Coccidia: single-celled parasites, they are transmitted by swallowing soil contaminated with coccidia
  • Giardia: single-celled parasites that live in the intestine and are transmitted when dogs drink water infected with giardia

Visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) website for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the parasitic diseases that threaten dogs and humans alike.

Monthly Disease Prevention

All puppies should be started on heartworm and flea/tick prevention as soon as they’re old enough.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease in pets caused by foot-long worms that infiltrate the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets. The disease can cause heart failure, lung disease, and damage to other organs. By giving pets a once-monthly preventative, the risk of a pet getting infected with heartworm disease is greatly diminished. See the chart below for a breakdown of several different products.

Heartworm Disease Prevention

Flea/Tick Prevention
(It’s flea and tick time!)

Fleas and ticks are nasty little creatures that live in the environment and can be a nuisance to pets and owners alike. Using a monthly preventative decreases the risks of infestation and also helps reduce the pets’ risk of certain tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. See the table below for a comparison of many popular products on the market.

Flea and Tick Comparison

Talk to the veterinarian at the first appointment to determine which heartworm and flea/tick prevention products are right for the new puppy. Serious medical conditions can be avoided by using monthly preventatives.


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