Pet owners face important decisions about the care of their pet, including everything from the food to offer, what kind of treats should be off-limits, and how much exercise they need. One question that many pet owners struggle with is when to take their dog to the vet.
Some err towards the side of caution and visit the vet for everything from a single sneeze to the dog skipping one meal. Others go the other way and fail to get medical attention for their dog until a condition has progressed significantly—sometimes to the point of no return.
The best practice is found somewhere in the middle, so we’ve put together a guide of when you should bring your dog to the vet and when a watch-and-wait approach is okay.
Before we look at when to visit a vet for illnesses, let’s look at routine visits.
How Often Should Your Dog See a Vet for Routine Care?
The answer you’ll get from vets to the question of how often a dog should be seen may vary slightly, but it will nearly always be either twice a year or, at the bare minimum, once a year. If for no other reason, your dog will need to be seen annually to get his routine shots, get a heart worm test, and ensure no parasites, such as worms, are present.
During routine visits, the vet will do a wellness exam, ask questions to learn about diet, exercise, and habits, and behavior. Depending on the dog’s age and health, the vet may also request that some bloodwork or other tests be performed. Finally, required vaccines will be given along with any non-required vaccines you may request, such as Bordetella to prevent Kennel Cough, which is usually required if boarding your dog.
Being seen for wellness visits, as opposed to only when the dog is sick, allows the vet to monitor changes in your dog’s weight and overall health. This can help the vet know that something may require a closer look before it becomes a serious issue.
A Word About Routine Dental Care
Dental disease is very painful for a dog, and it can lead to other, sometimes serious, health issues. Having your dog’s teeth cleaned regularly is an investment in your pet’s health—and it can help to extend his life.
Symptoms That Require Contact with Your Vet
Most dogs will get sick now and then. An upset stomach or one incident of vomiting or diarrhea doesn’t necessarily mean you need to load the dog in the car for a vet visit. It can be difficult to know what does require a call to the vet and what does not. Below are a few common symptoms, along with the recommended action.
Change in Eating Habits
If your dog skips a meal, it’s probably not cause for concern. If he goes two days without eating, you’ll want to get in touch with your vet. You should also contact your vet if you notice that a dog who is usually a modest eater is suddenly trying to devour everything in sight.
Bottom Line: Changes in eating habits should be addressed with your vet.
As with all symptoms, you must judge them based on the normal behavior of your dog. If your normally rambunctious dog doesn’t want to move off the couch, that could be the sign of a problem. Lack of interest in activities the dog usually loves, such as going for a walk or a trip to the dog park, is also cause for concern.
Bottom Line: Lethargy that lasts beyond one day warrants a call to the vet.
A dog throwing up once isn’t reason for alarm. Vomiting is simply a way for your dog’s body to eliminate something that doesn’t agree with them. This could be something they ate in the yard or even a new kind of treat. Prolonged vomiting, however, should not be ignored. If your dog vomits over the course of a few hours, call your vet. Also, if there is blood in the vomit, you should call your vet immediately.
Bottom Line: Prolonged or severe vomiting or vomiting blood is a reason to contact your vet.
When Is It an Emergency?
The Vet on Fourth offers extended hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7 days a week, so we’re usually available to take care of your and your pet’s needs. There are some cases, however, that should not wait—even for a few hours. The symptoms listed below require immediate medical attention, even if that means going to a 24-hour emergency vet facility.
- Open Wounds, Broken Bones
- Difficulty Breathing
- Bleeding from Rectum, Mouth, Nose, or Eyes
- Consumption of Items Toxic to Dogs* (chocolate, sugar-free gum, certain houseplants, etc…)
- Hard or Swollen Abdomen
- Inability to Stand
- Pale or Yellow Gums
- Vocalizing Pain (whining, crying, whimpering)
- Cannot Pass Urine (dog is in position to try and eliminate, but passes no urine, straining, or multiple trips to urinate)
*If you’re not sure something your dog ate is toxic, you can call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center 24/7 at 888.426.4435. A fee may apply.
The above list isn’t comprehensive, and often the decision comes down to knowing something just isn’t right with your dog. Waiting for symptoms to go away on their own often makes things much worse, but being able to get advice from a vet makes it easier to know you’re doing the right thing.
That’s one of the many reasons it’s so important to establish a relationship with a vet. When a veterinarian knows your pet, they are better able to offer advice—sometimes even over the phone—because they know what is normal for your dog.
When should you visit the vet? Once or twice a year for routine maintenance and any time there is cause for concern. Whether you bring your dog to your regular vet for allergies or to a clinic for an after-hours emergency, bringing him in will give you peace of mind that you’re doing the very best for your pet.
The Vet on Fourth helps pets and their owners enjoy more good years together. If you need a vet in the Longview area, we’d love to help you keep your pet happy and healthy!