Pet Checkups at Every Stage

By Lindsey Johnson

Adding a new pet to the family? Be prepared for shots, vet appointments, dental cleanings, vitamins and vaccines. Sound like you just brought home a new baby? It is! So, before adding a new member to your family, review the veterinary care recommendations below to ensure you are familiar with how to provide the best health care for your pet based on species. Each species will have different needs, so always reach out to your pet’s veterinarian for questions.

DOGS

Birth to 1 Year Old

New puppies will visit the vet every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. During this time, the vet will monitor weight and give a series of vaccines including rabies, distemper-parvo, influenza, kennel cough and Lyme disease. They will also begin heartworm and flea and tick medications at this stage. They will then have a check-up at six months and get spayed or neutered somewhere between approximately six months and one year, depending on breed and vet preference.

Adult (1 year to 7-10 years, depending on breed)

Healthy adult dogs will then receive an annual checkup including blood samples, heartworm check and a dental exam. Vaccines at this stage include distemper-parvo and rabies at the first annual checkup, then approximately every three years afterwards. They may also receive the annual influenza vaccine, kennel cough prevention and others.

Senior (7-10 years and older)

Senior dogs require a biannual checkup including blood and urine samples, testing for kidney, thyroid and liver function as these tend to decline with age. At these visits, they will also receive vaccine boosters as recommended.

CATS

Birth to 1 Year Old

New kittens will also visit the vet approximately every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. At these visits, they will receive vaccines for rabies and distemper as well as testing for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. They will begin their routine flea, tick and heartworm medications at this time. Kittens will receive another check-up at six months and get spayed or neutered around this time.

Adult (1 year to 7-10 years, depending on breed)

After the first year, cats should get an annual checkup that includes blood work and a dental exam. They will receive vaccines including distemper and rabies at their first annual checkup, then approximately every three years afterwards. They may also receive the annual influenza vaccine and others.

Senior (7-10 years and older)

As a cat ages, biannual checkups are recommended, which include blood and urine samples that test for kidney, thyroid and liver function. They will also receive their vaccine boosters as recommended based on age and vaccination history

GOATS

Goats have become a popular family pet but they require a significant amount of veterinary care. The average lifespan for a goat is 15-18 years. Newborn goats will need their horns removed by a process called disbudding at a very early age. Male goats should also be castrated at a young age if they will not be used for breeding. Goats need to have their hooves trimmed approximately every six weeks and will need veterinary deworming twice annually. Goats do require vaccinations such as tetanus and enterotoxemia, also known as overeating disease. While there is not currently a rabies vaccine indicated for goats, there has been some off-label use of sheep or cattle rabies vaccines that may be recommended in some areas.

BIRDS

Pet birds should see an avian veterinarian when they first join a family. During this initial visit, the vet will screen for bacteria, viruses and parasites and perform blood tests to assess baseline organ function. They will also determine whether the bird is male or female, since there are different health problems associated with each.

After the initial visit, the bird will return for an annual check-up. Most caged birds do not receive any vaccines but some birds may need the polyomavirus vaccine.

Birds will also need to visit the vet if they will have their wings clipped. They may also need a vet visit if they have excess keratin buildup on the beak, requiring the use of a sanding tool to trim the beak. If your bird needs nail clipping and you are not able to do this at home, the vet can trim your bird’s nails.

HAMSTERS

Like many other species, hamsters should complete an initial visit with a veterinarian within the first 48 hours to establish care and ensure that all health guarantees are honored. Hamsters should have annual check-ups to monitor health and check for fecal parasites. The average lifespan of a hamster is two to four years, depending on specific breed. Senior hamsters (two years and above) should be evaluated by a vet twice annually.

RABBITS

Rabbits do not require any vaccinations but are encouraged to have annual veterinary checkups. It is also highly recommended to spay or neuter your bunny. Common health problems in rabbits include dental disease, external parasites, gastrointestinal problems and cancer. Routine vet care can help identify problems in earlier stages.

Making the decision to adopt a pet is a big responsibility. While they bring joy and companionship, there are costs and time investments associated with this decision. If you feel you are not able to fully commit to providing the best care, it may be time to delay the decision until you feel you are ready. Pets are family members too and will provide love and entertainment if they are given the same in return.

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