Updated: Jan 20
The moment you’ve been waiting for is finally here, and your new puppy is safe in your arms. Your wiggly, fluffy bundle of joy is covering you with puppy kisses! Your heart is so happy that it could burst at any second. Your puppy is licking the tears of happiness that are trickling down your cheeks. Your family decides to show off your puppy at a dog-friendly lunch spot, followed by a trip to a pet store to pick out a new toy, a puppy playdate, and finally, snuggling into its new bed. Pump those puppy breaks! Not so fast!
It’s time to take your puppy to a licensed veterinarian first! There are lots of equally important components to consider when selecting a licensed vet, so don’t just use one factor to choose a trusted practice. Here’s how to choose the right veterinarian.
Why Does My Puppy Need to See a Veterinarian Right Away?
Did you know your puppy will need to visit a licensed veterinarian within the first 3 calendar days or 72 hours of her arrival to establish a wellness/baseline check? Taking your puppy to the vet before anywhere else is the best way to protect your pup from the very beginning before it is exposed to all sorts of preventable dangers.
Avoid parvovirus exposure at all costs!
One of the biggest reasons you need to take your new puppy to a licensed veterinarian right away is to protect your puppy from parvo. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or by indirect contact with a contaminated object. The virus can wreak havoc on a vulnerable puppy, mostly affecting the stomach, small intestines, bone marrow, lymphopoietic tissues, and sometimes even the heart. There is no cure for parvo, and it can be a fatal disease.
When your puppy arrives from a breeder, your puppy has been vaccinated for parvo, and every measure has been taken to protect your puppy from this virus. To prevent parvo the best you can, you must avoid exposing your puppy to possible contaminated areas until 2 weeks after his or her 4-month booster is completed. These places can include but are not limited to:
Anywhere unvaccinated dogs play
Areas where dogs are walked
Vet clinic floors
Near the feces of other dogs
Any public area could contain parvo
That’s why we ask you to rethink that very first trip to the pet store, lunch date, dog park, or other places where your precious, vulnerable pooch could inadvertently pick up a life-threatening virus.
What exactly IS a veterinarian?
To become a veterinarian, a person needs much more than just a love of animals and a short certificate from an online program. There may be people who proclaim to be veterinarians but are actually not licensed. A veterinarian, also known as a veterinary surgeon or veterinary physician, is a doctor who practices veterinary medicine licensed by the applicable state licensing authority for treating diseases, disorders, and injuries in non-human animals.
People aiming to be veterinarians need to graduate from a four-year bachelor's degree program. After undergraduate education, it takes an additional four years of vet school to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and obtain licensure to practice in the person’s particular state. Aspiring vet candidates can expect to spend 8-10 years in higher education.
Finding the Right Veterinarian For Your Puppy
Choosing the right veterinarian for your puppy could be an overwhelming experience if you wait until your puppy is already in your arms. It’s a great idea to start searching for a vet as soon as possible after selecting your new canine companion.
You may be fortunate to have several vet offices around you. However, you can easily avoid decision fatigue by taking a step-by-step approach.
1. Word of mouth recommendations
Your neighbors and local friends who own dogs are a great place to start. They have already been through the process of finding a reputable vet and share with you exactly why they prefer their practice. In addition, they can offer names of practices they do not recommend for specific reasons. You’ll hear some of the same names repeated either way, so pay attention to the overall satisfaction you notice rather than relying on one person’s experience.
2. Online reviews
The internet can be a wonderful place to find a vet office, but as with anything online, you have to weed through some thorns before you find the roses! If you start with a Google search of “vets near me,” you’ll find several businesses along with reviews. Some reviews will include thorough details, so pay more attention to these rather than the ones offering no comments. In addition, avoid vague statements like “Good vet” or “Don’t waste your money.”
Another great place to find a trusted veterinarian is local social media groups such as Facebook groups or NextDoor. You’ll certainly find a variety of opinions, and just like your friends and neighbors, the same veterinary practices will be mentioned. You may even find people for future puppy playdates as well!
3. The convenience factor
Because you’ll be going to the vet quite a bit in the beginning and at least once a year moving forward for many years, you’ll want to consider which factors are important to you for convenience. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a vet to see what you prefer:
How far do I want to drive for a visit?
Is it easy to get an appointment?
Do they offer same-day, evening, or weekend appointments?
What is the process for after-hours emergencies? Do they have an urgent care or hospital they are affiliated with or recommend?
Do they offer boarding or grooming services?
Are there fees associated with missed appointments?
Does the office have a solid online presence or app where you can make appointments, ask questions, or easily access records?
Veterinarian Practices to Avoid: Scare Tactics and Money Makers
Not all vet offices or veterinarians are created equally! It is so important to spend time doing due diligence when selecting your vet. Sometimes a vet chain or practice has a bad reputation for a reason, so it’s important we warn you about what we have unfortunately experienced.
Where not to take your puppy: Pet store vets
You may find it convenient to see a vet attached to a pet store since you’re already there buying toys or food. However, we do not recommend chain vets like Banfield or similar businesses. First, these businesses charge significantly more money for regular puppy exams than the industry average. These facilities put profits over proper healthcare. Second, facilities like these may run completely unnecessary, expensive tests on unaware puppy parents using scare tactics that prey upon a puppy’s potential health problems. Third, be aware of any wellness plans these places offer, and always read the fine print before signing up for anything. And lastly, customers speak loudly of their distrust and poor experiences on Trustpilot, where 88% of 307 reviews gave Banfield Hospital a one-star review.
Choose a vet knowledgable in state regulations
Unfortunately, some vets might ignore the papers your puppy comes with by not recognizing previous vaccinations. Starting and (charging for) a round of vaccinations over again is cruel and unnecessary for a puppy.
Vaccinations are rarely a one-shot-fits-all situation. Licensed breeders in certain states are legally by law allowed to administer vaccines. State regulations for breeders may be different than the state regulation for the buyer and the vet they are seeing.
In addition, different states have different age requirements for vaccinations. For example, rabies shots must be done in some states at 12 weeks and some up to 16 weeks. If that state has a different mandate, then it is not wrong – just different. All vaccinations must be in compliance with the breeder's state according to the proper age.
A quality vet understands the puppy’s transition period
Any change in location and situation for a puppy can be stressful, even if the utmost care is taken to ensure their comfort. A puppy can have a hard time leaving its home, all it has ever known, with no mama or littermates around anymore. Transit, even short distances, can be disorienting and stressful. Therefore, stress-related illnesses can appear in the first few days as a puppy is adjusting to her new environment. An uninformed veterinarian experience will be quick to assume normal adjustment symptoms related to stress, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and hypoglycemia are actually something more serious and can order expensive, unnecessary tests.
Another situation to be wary about is a vet assuming where your puppy came from based on a small window of behavior. We’ve already established how a puppy goes through an adjustment period, exhibiting temporary behaviors as they get used to their new lives. For example, just because a puppy may be skittish does not mean your puppy comes from a puppy mill – and any vet suggesting this connection does not recognize symptoms of separation anxiety and may not be trusted with other health conditions if they are quick to make assumptions that are false. Puppies are living, breathing animals with emotions and should be treated as such without untrue accusations being made, and a good vet will be able to recognize the adjustment period for what it can entail.
A good vet understands parvo
Veterinarians in certain regions of the United States are not as experienced with parvovirus which may lead to misdiagnosis, emergent care, and extremely high vet bills. Your puppy may have just received vaccinations before leaving, including a parvo shot.
If a puppy’s SNAP test shows positive, the vet should run a RealPCR through IDEXX, as most SNAPs cannot prove alone that parvo is present. In fact, in the majority of cases, the “parvo” was actually hypoglycemia, which shows many of the same characteristics. It is well-documented online that recent parvovirus inoculations lead to false positives from SNAP tests. As a result of just going off SNAP tests, vets may insist on extremely expensive, unnecessary parvo treatment without even using a RealPCR through IDEXX to see if it is indeed parvo.
Vets understand natural parasites
Did you know that all puppies carry parasites? The difference between harmless and harmful parasite is if it is live and active or not. Some vets play up the fear of Giardia and Coccidia. They may administer unneeded medication and charge for unnecessary, expensive treatment. The vet may instill fear, saying it’s a “life or death” situation, but that can be a way to scare and entice fear in a new puppy owner to get more visits and funds.
A reputable vet is honest
An honest vet will be there to answer any questions you have about unexpected illnesses that may arise. They will not pass you off to an animal urgent care or emergency clinic immediately. Rather, a great vet will take the time to tell you if the incident is something minor that can be treated during a business day during regular hours and save you thousands of wasted dollars when there really was not an emergency.
A great vet is not negligent or careless
Being a responsible pet owner requires finding and employing a good veterinarian. But not all vets are good, and occasionally even good vets can make mistakes or act carelessly. In that case, you may file a malpractice claim against the veterinarian. Legal claims for veterinarian misconduct have historically been very uncommon, but more pet owners are bringing these claims each year.
Not all errors at the veterinary clinic or the animal hospital are due to a veterinarian's lack of expertise or sound judgment (or lack thereof). Simple neglect, such as improper handling of an animal before or after treatment, might result in puppies becoming hurt. Misconduct can take the following forms:
Error in a dog's sickness diagnosis
Recommending the incorrect course of therapy
Halting a dog's treatment while it still requires veterinarian care
What to Expect at a Veterinarian Visit
Now that you’ve selected a trustworthy, reputable vet, here’s what to expect during the first vet visit. A great veterinarian will help educate you in identifying any common medical conditions to look out for and help you prevent them before you start. They’ll also recommend you stay up to date on flea, tick, parasite, and heartworm prevention which keeps horrible inside and outside infestations at bay.
It’s important you follow through with regular visits to help keep your puppy healthy and ready to mingle. Your new vet will get your puppy up to date on any vaccinations needed and recommend an appropriate vaccine and wellness visit schedule. The next check-ups will occur around every month after the initial visit until about 16 weeks. A spay or neuter appointment may be set. After this time period, you’ll probably visit around once a year for well checks and for any issues or illnesses that may pop up. You may have questions to ask your veterinarian during your first visit, so now would be a good time to go over any that you have.
Microchipping your puppy provides a permanent form of identification in the unfortunate case of a stolen or lost puppy. Your vet can recommend when to get your puppy microchipped and perform the procedure if your puppy isn’t already microchipped from the breeder.
Know what vaccinations your pup already received
When you adopt a puppy from SacBulldogs, you can expect it will arrive happy and healthy. You can rest assured knowing your puppy is up-to-date on all vaccinations at the time of the puppy's scheduled delivery. Our hand-selected, pre-screened breeders follow our strict vaccination and deworming protocols, and each puppy has undergone an extensive veterinary health check prior to travel. Be sure to thoroughly read through all papers that arrive with your puppy.
Since your puppy arrives up-to-date on all vaccinations, you should not have the dog vaccinated within the first 10 days in order to avoid over-vaccination unless the puppy is of age and due for its next round of vaccinations.
To avoid a veterinarian not honoring your previous breeder vaccinations, it’s important to know what your paperwork says to avoid over-vaccinating your puppy and having your wallet take a hit, too.
Know when to spay or neuter your puppy
Spaying females or neutering males is the process of surgical sterilization. This procedure will lead to a longer, healthier life. Your puppy should be spayed or neutered before your puppy is 9 months of age if its predicted adult weight is under 45 lbs. or before 12 months of age if its predicted adult weight is over 45 lbs.
In addition to keeping unwanted litters of puppies from ending up in shelters, spaying and neutering can have so many health benefits. Their reduced desire to roam away from home, preventing stains from females in heat or territorial marking, and lessened aggression are all benefits of spaying and neutering your puppy. Certain large breed male dogs require neutering between 12 months and 18 months of age to avoid prostate cancer from a lack of hormones due to insufficient testosterone levels prior to 12 months of age. Spaying your female will help prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs. Neutering your male puppy prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
Trust Your Instincts
Now that you’ve chosen a convenient vet office that comes highly recommended, who is there for the health and well-being of your puppy rather than operating on fear tactics and misinformation, trust your instincts on the impressions you get during your first few visits. Is the facility clean and brightly lit? Is the staff helpful and pleasant? Did you feel the vet techs and veterinarian thoroughly answered any questions you had?