The First Vet Visit For Your Puppy or Kitten
Taking your dog or cat to the vet for the first time, and the appointments that follow, are some of the most important things you can do to help preserve their health, well-being, and safety. These initial visits give your vets the chance to provide critical preventive care, examine your new pet for signs of potential health issues, and diagnose any health conditions which your young pet may already have.
Puppies should generally have their first veterinary appointment at the age of 6 weeks, while kittens should have theirs at about 8 weeks. Your vet will give you information about how frequently you will need to bring your companion in to see them throughout their first year.
What Should I Bring to the First Vet Visit?
If possible, try to bring the following items to your pet's first veterinary appointment. The more information the vet has, the better they will be able to treat your puppy or kitten.
- Any veterinary records you received from the breeder or shelter
- A written list of important questions or concerns that you might have
- Notes on how much and what types of foods and treats you offer at home
- A carrier or a leash and collar( ask when you make the appointment for the clinic's policy for pets in the waiting room)
- Toys for distraction / small treats to reward good behavior
- Any forms provided by your veterinarian that you have already filled out
- A stool sample, as fresh as possible
What Happens at Your Puppy or Kitten's First Vet Visit
Like with any first medical appointment, the first steps of your puppy or kitten's first veterinary appointment will require you to fill out some paperwork. This is to make sure your vet has all the relevant information about your new pet such as their name, breed, age, etc. Your vet may also ask you some questions about your pet's temperament, hereditary health history, and more.
This initial discussion is a great opportunity for you to not only give detailed answers to your vet's questions to ensure they know everything they can about your pet's health but also to ask questions of your own.
Next, your vet will give your puppy or kitten a total physical exam. This includes checking their coats and skin condition, level of alertness, internal health, face condition, signs of swelling, and more. If your dog or cat is of a breed that is predisposed to certain congenital defects, your vet will also specifically check for those too.
After your pet gets their physical exam, your vet will use all of the information they have gathered to advise you on a suitable preventive treatment plan for your puppy or kitten.
Preventive care for pets includes starting them on a course of preventive treatments for parasites like ticks, fleas, and heartworms. It also involves planning out a year of vaccinations and boosters against common conditions that affect dogs and cats.
Finally, your vet will speak with you about "fixing" (spaying or neutering) your dog or cat to help prevent a whole host of problematic behaviors, inadvertent litters, and serious diseases as they grow older. Some vets will recommend microchipping to help you to find your pet if they ever become lost.
Treatment of Common Conditions
This final step may not always come up during your kitten or puppy's first veterinary appointment, because it depends on how your vet's assessment of your pet's health goes. If your veterinary professional finds any health issues in your young pet, it will be their top priority to ensure they are definitively diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Illnesses or conditions that may be non-threatening to an adult pet can be quite serious to the weak immune systems of puppies or kittens.
Some Common Conditions Diagnosed in Puppies and Kittens At Their First Appointment
While ideally your puppy or kitten will be in perfect health when they come to visit our vets for the first time, it does happen that a young pet will have a condition that is impacting their health requiring treatment at their first visit. The following are some of the common health conditions that may require treatment during your pet's first appointment:
- External Parasites: External parasites are an incredibly common health issue for pets and can include fleas and ticks. If external parasites are found on your pet, our vets will also test your companion for any signs of illnesses commonly transmitted by these pests.
- Internal Parasites: Internal parasites, like external ones, can be quite common in young pets. This is especially the case if you got them from a rescue that has not provided them with deworming treatment. This health issue is so common, that some events may prescribe dewormers regardless of test results just to be sure your pet isn't harboring any unwanted passengers
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): This virus is second only to physical trauma as the cause of feline death and can be transmitted to kittens through their mother's milk, saliva, or sharing of water bowls. While this illness isn't a death sentence, it will require immediate treatment.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): This illness is serious and incurable, however, especially for indoor cats it is very manageable. If your vet detects signs of FIV in your cat at their first appointment, they will explain the steps you will need to take to keep your kitten, and any other cats in your household, safe.
- Canine Parvovirus: This incredibly serious and contagious disease can be incredibly deadly to dogs, especially puppies with their weak immune systems. If your vet detects this illness, they will leap into action. While preventable through vaccinations, canine parvovirus requires intensive veterinary treatment and hospitalization to treat.
- Congenital Defects: This broad umbrella of conditions includes things like facial deformities such as underbites, congenital blindness, and bone disorders. Our vets will examine your pet for particular congenital defects based on their breed and heritage (if a breeder has provided you with their hereditary health information). Treatment for these issues can vary just as much as the issues themselves, and your vet will be sure to explain their treatment or management plan in detail.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.