Your 12-Month Health Check

By Edwina Gildea on 15 December 2017

Time flies when you’re having fun. This saying is highly applicable to the first year of puppy ownership. No doubt you have had many fun experiences over the past year with your rapidly growing furry friend and with good health on board you will continue to build on those experiences as your puppy develops into an adolescent dog over the coming years. To ensure your rapidly maturing dog continues to enjoy good health it is important to visit your vet for your first annual vet check and to vaccinate against the diseases that can prove fatal.

Life can be hectic and time moves so quickly that remembering to make the appointment for your first puppy vaccination booster can easily evade you. It is likely that your vet will be in touch to remind you that your not-so-little canine friend is soon due his/her booster. Although he/she has previously had vaccines, it is essential that these vaccines are boostered at the correct intervals. The key diseases that are vaccinated against in the UK are Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza and Parvo virus. The duration at which the protection lasts for the different diseases varies for different vaccine brands and your vet will be able to update you on their current protocol. The protocol your veterinary practice will apply will be based on the vaccine they use, the herd health, as well as the disease prevalence within the locality.

It is important to return to your vet at the time advised as the duration of protection for some diseases lasts just one year e.g. Leptospirosis. Returning later than the advised time will require that you restart the vaccine programme to ensure your dog is fully protected. As these diseases are still prevalent in the UK and can prove fatal, it is important for the health and wellbeing of your dog that they are not left exposed due to a drop in protection.

So, what will happen at the 12 month health check?

At the initial health check, your vet will examine your dog from head to toe checking for any signs of illness that may be detected by an elevated temperature or enlarged lymph nodes. They will also check your dog’s coat for any sign of parasites e.g. fleas or ticks. They will feel the abdomen to detect any abnormalities and the mouth to determine if there is any dental disease. Following the physical examination, if your dog is in full health your vet will vaccinate it to ensure it has the appropriate protection for the forthcoming year. As kennel cough is the most common disease that affects dogs and is very transmissible, your vet may also advise to vaccinate against it. Although it is not life threatening if a dog gets kennel cough, it significantly affects the quality of life of your dog for the few weeks that it’s suffering. This may occur at your 12-month check-up or your vet may ask you to return at another point.

Having checked for the presence of external parasites e.g. fleas/ticks, your vet will discuss measures to treat any current parasites as well as preventing future challenges. This will also incorporate management of intestinal worms that can also affect humans i.e. Toxocara canis.

Following the full health check, your vet will fill in your dog’s health booklet so that you have a record of what has been checked, vaccinated and prescribed. The health booklet or vaccination card will act as a record you can refer to at home to check when the next visit is due. Your vet will also send out the relevant reminder to ensure the next health check is not missed.

Your vet may want to see you annually or more often depending on the overall health of your pet. As your dog is currently young, this interval is likely to be annually but as it matures, just like humans, it is more likely to develop age related ailments. The signs of some of these conditions e.g. osteoarthritis can be subtle and gradual and can be difficult to detect for most owners. It is for this reason that annual health checks are so important as they allow your vet to check the health status of your dog and to intervene sooner in the management of disease. The early detection of disease leads to much better outcomes longer term and so is an important factor is the health and wellbeing of your favourite furry friend.

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MVB MRCVS, National Veterinary Manager


Edwina joined Pfizer Animal Health in 2006 as an Area Veterinary Surgeon moving into the role of the National Veterinary Manager role in 2014 and more recently becoming the Companion Animal Veterinary Lead. Over this period, she has been involved with Zoetis R&D, marketing and technical teams at national and international level in bringing many innovative companion animal products to market. Prior to this, she worked as a general practitioner in the livestock and companion animal sectors in both Ireland and Scotland. Whilst at Zoetis, Edwina has maintained contact with general practice with weekend locuming to retain her clinical skills and continued insight into veterinary practice.