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What to Expect at the First Vet Visit for Your Adult Dog

Featured Image: Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock

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Congratulations on your new adult dog. Adult dogs, while not as popular as puppies, do have some advantages of being socially and physically mature.

For those of you who have never owned a pet before and have recently welcome an adult dog into your home, I would like to give you some tips on taking your dog to the veterinarian and what will likely happen during the visit.

First off, you probably did a bit of shopping right after you adopted your new BFF. Make sure you have a dog leash and a non-choke collar. Most importantly, make sure to have your dog “under control” in the waiting room. To make it simple, here’s a checklist for you to follow:

  1. Bring your dog harness or collar, and a leash.
  2. Keep you and your pet entertained while waiting. Most veterinary hospitals have Wi-Fi, so your smartphone or tablet will keep you busy. For your dog, bring some dog toys and (if allowed) some dog treats.
  3. Call ahead, the day before, to confirm the appointment and to see if there are special instructions, such as not feeding your dog for 12 hours before the visit.
  4. Try to be early. Because this is the first visit with your newly adopted pet, there will be registration paperwork to complete. Many vet hospitals have these on their websites, too. If possible, have this completed prior to your appointment.
  5. Be patient. Veterinarians strive to minimize wait times, but medicine is unpredictable. What may have been scheduled as a routine appointment can turn into a lengthy problem which causes everyone else to be late. Just be thankful that the reason for your visit is only a checkup for your newest family member, not because he is sick!
  6. Bring all of your adoption records. These are important for letting the veterinarian know what diseases may have been tested for, which vaccines were administered and what preventive treatments were provided while your friend was being housed in the shelter/rescue facility.
  7. If someone besides you is taking Fido for the first visit, make sure you, the primary caretaker, are available by phone/text. Your family veterinarian will have many questions about things like diet, exercise, environment, etc. that only you can answer. Not knowing certain facts limits our ability to provide you with advice and information important to good pet care at home.

The Exam

After you register and make your way into an exam room, here’s what’s likely to occur.

First off, if not done during registration, an assistant or a “tech” will weigh your dog. He or she may also ask you a few questions like, “How’s Fido doing at home?” or “Is this your first dog?” Then, some basic vital signs will be measured and recorded: temperature, heart rate and respiration rate. If you were asked to bring a stool sample, the vet tech will take it to be analyzed in the lab.

Expect the veterinarian to spend quite a bit of time discussing your dog’s history. Be ready for questions about when the adoption took place, from which shelter or rescue organization, and whether there were any concerns of the caregivers before you were so heroic as to adopt. The more specific the answers you provide, the better. Things like knowing the brand of dog food and the exact amount you feed your dog are really helpful.

Nowadays, many, many tests can be performed on blood, urine and feces. However, core testing of the blood for heartworm disease and feces for parasites will definitely be recommended. Heartworms are parasites spread by mosquitoes; infestation can lead to heart failure. This parasite lives in the pulmonary arteries, which are the vessels that connect the heart to the lungs. It is a deadly disease, but it is easily tested for and preventable with monthly medications.

Additionally, other tests are bundled with the heartworm test. Ticks carry infectious agents that cause damage to blood cells and other organs. Such infections include Lyme disease and hemotropic parasites (Ehrlichia and Anaplasma). The in-hospital tests for these infectious diseases are accurate and early detection is paramount in treatment success.

While your pet may be a very healthy adult dog, it’s at this stage where additional tests may be recommended. Things like a cell count and “chemistry panel,” which gives information about internal organs, the concentration of minerals like salt, calcium and chloride and a urinalysis, are helpful in healthy animals to establish a “baseline.” So, if your dog does come down with something, there is a record of how things were beforehand.

It’s likely that your dog received vaccines at the shelter or with the rescue organization; your veterinarian will discuss what was given and when the next vaccines should follow. Many vaccines are available; however, the core vaccines are against viral diseases such as rabies, distemper, parvo and adenovirus. Your veterinarian will discuss core vaccinations and what the recommendation is for boosters. Many veterinarians no longer recommend yearly shots, because many vaccines provide protection for a period of time longer than a year. However, the vet may recommend a vaccine titer, which determines the antibody level against those viruses.

You will leave this appointment with a lot of advice and some handouts about things like diet, vaccinations, heartworm disease and parasite prevention. Your veterinarian’s main concern is the health of your newly adopted best friend, so please speak up if you don’t understand something or are concerned about a test or an anti-parasitic drug that may be recommended. The trust you have in your veterinarian is crucial to your pet’s good health.

I hope this gives you some insight into what to expect when bringing your newly adopted adult dog to the veterinarian.

Want to learn more about vet visits? Check out: How to Make the Most of Your Vet Visit.


By: Dr. Brian Roberts
Dr. Brian Roberts graduated from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996. After graduation, he completed a year-long internship in small animal medicine and surgery at The Animal Medical Center in New York City. At the time, it was the busiest small animal hospital in the world, seeing 50,000 to 60,000 cases per year. Upon completion of the internship, Dr. Roberts took a position with Veterinary Specialists of South Florida in Cooper City, which is just west of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he grew up. At the facility, Dr. Roberts completed a residency in emergency and critical care, becoming board-certified in 2003. He remained at Veterinary Specialists as the director of emergency services, head of the internship program and resident mentor until 2011. Dr. Roberts accepted a teaching position at St. Matthew’s University, School of Veterinary Medicine located in Grand Cayman. He is a professor of small animal medicine and head of the clinical sciences department.