Q: I just brought home a new puppy and I was told he had all of his shots. Do I still need to make him an appointment with the vet?
A: There is nothing a veterinary team loves more than a first puppy visit! In the middle of a stress-filled day, puppy snuggles and kisses fill us with joy. I am sure all veterinary teams are like mine – the minute a puppy comes in the door, we all drop whatever we are doing and come running. People crawl on the floor to play, high pitched squeals fill the air, camera flashes come out and suddenly, life is great again. But, fun and games aside, getting your puppy a veterinary exam within the first week or two of ownership is vital to their long term health.
During this first exam, your vet will make sure your puppy doesn’t have any underlying health problems, such as a heart murmur, inguinal or abdominal hernia, open fontanel, or other congenital defects that may affect his ability to grow and thrive. These medical conditions can be present at birth and will often go unnoticed if not checked for right away by a veterinary professional.
So, what does it mean when a breeder tells you the puppy has had all of his shots?
Usually, that means the puppy has had one or two of his puppy series and has possibly been dewormed. However, for some viruses, such as parvo and distemper virus, a puppy may not develop long term immunity until around sixteen weeks of age (4 months). This means that puppies will need vaccine shots every two to four weeks until at least 4 months of age in order to develop protection from potentially deadly viruses.
Essential vaccines vary depending on area but often consist of Distemper, Adenovirus, and Parvo virus for starters. Your vet will also advise you on other vaccinations your puppy may need depending on your particular circumstances. For example, in my region of the country we advise that almost every dog gets the Lyme vaccine. Around Arizona, they will likely recommend the rattlesnake venom vaccine. Or, for owners who plan on taking their puppy to training classes, boarding facilities or to groomers, the Bordetella vaccine for kennel cough will be advised.
Even if your puppy is in perfect health and does not need any vaccines for a few weeks, the first vet visit is a valuable experience.
Your puppy will get to socialize with a group of people who love animals and will learn early on that a trip to the vet doesn’t have to be scary! He will get treats, lots of positive attention, and will gain familiarity with the strange noises and smells of a veterinary clinic. Plus, the veterinary team will be your greatest resource during those first few months of puppyhood, so best to get off on the right foot with them. They can give you advice on house breaking, chew toys, crate training, behavior problems, socialization, and so much more!
So listen, I know that when you first bring your puppy home he’ll likely be quiet, scared, and sleepy, so there’s no reason you need to run over to the vet right away. Take time to make sure you and your new pup adjust to this big life change but, once you both are comfortably settled, bring your puppy in to see your local veterinary team. Trust me- it’s not only good for his health, but it’s good for theirs too.
Give your furry friend a pet from me,