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    How Often Should Your Pet See a Veterinarian?

    Your four-legged friend needs wellness visits, too. Here's what to expect at each stage of life.
    By Linda Formichelli
    WebMD Magazine - Feature
    Reviewed by William Draper, DVM

    You know your cat or dog needs regular checkups to stay tail-waggingly healthy. But how often does he need to visit the vet?

    The answers depend on your pet's life stage, says Susan Barrett, DVM. She's the head of Community Practice at Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

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    Kitten or Puppy: Birth to 1 Year

    You'll need to bring your kitten or puppy in for vaccines every 3 to 4 weeks until he's 16 weeks old.

    Dogs will get distemper-parvo and rabies boosters, and may also be vaccinated against health woes such as kennel cough.

    Cats are tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, and they get vaccinations that cover several diseases.

    At this stage, your pet will also start heartworm and flea/tick prevention medications.

    The vet will check your pet to make sure he's growing well and shows no signs of illness. She'll check again at around 6 months, when you bring your pet in to be spayed or neutered.

    "We'll also check to see how housebreaking, training, and socialization are going," Barrett says.

    Adult: 1 to 7-10 Years (Depending on Type of Pet and Breed)

    During this stage, vets recommend yearly checkups, in which the doc gives your pet a head-to-tail physical. She'll also take a blood sample from your dog to check for heartworms. (Cats are normally not tested because the tests are hard to interpret.) The vet may recommend other tests based on any problems your pet has or anything unusual she sees during the exam.

    Your pet will get distemper-parvo and rabies booster shots during the first yearly checkup, then usually every 3 years after that. (The frequency of rabies boosters depends on state law.)

    Your dog may get other vaccines to prevent illnesses like kennel cough, and outdoor cats should get feline leukemia vaccines.

    It's helpful to bring in a stool sample from your pet, which your vet will check for intestinal parasites.

    Senior: 7 to 10 Years and Older

    Vets suggest twice-yearly checkups for older pets. Your cat or dog will get vaccines when needed and will get a thorough physical, along with tests to follow up on any problems. Blood and urine tests can give your vet the scoop on your pet's kidney health, thyroid hormone levels, and more.

    Tell your vet about any changes you've seen in your pet -- if, for example, your cat is drinking more water or your dog is no longer excited by his daily walks -- because these can be signs of a new problem such as kidney disease or arthritis.

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