Preparing for Your First Veterinary Appointment

Getting ready for your pet’s first visit to the vet can be a bit daunting. Here are a few tips to help you prepare!

Jun 6, 2024By Dallin Darger
preparing for your first veterinary appointment

One of the most crucial components of maintaining your pet’s health and wellness is undergoing regular trips to the veterinarian. But, this area of pet ownership can cause a lot of anxiety, especially for new owners. How should an owner know what to expect, and plan accordingly?

Fortunately, you can follow a few basic guidelines to ensure your pet’s first veterinary appointment goes as smoothly as possible. Let’s take a look at some simple, helpful ways to start preparing for the visit!

Schedule Your Veterinary Appointment Ahead of Time

person holding silver tabby cat
Photo by Werzk Luuuuuuu on Unsplash

The first (and easiest!) step in preparing for your first appointment at the vet is scheduling the trip in advance. While some clinics take walk-in appointments, scheduling ahead of time is far preferable. An appointment will help guarantee that your pet receives the appropriate level of care and attention it needs, without worrying about time constraints or availability.

And, thankfully, scheduling a veterinary appointment tends to be a quick and straightforward process. Usually, it’s a simple matter of calling a nearby animal hospital or clinic with a good, reliable reputation. Sometimes you can even book online!

That said, this step can be a bit trickier if you own a less common pet. It’s very easy to find a veterinarian who specializes in feline or canine health problems. But, tracking down veterinary care for reptiles, rodents, or large animals might take a bit longer and require some travel.

Items to Bring to the Veterinarian with You

two hands holding pills
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

It’s also extremely helpful to have a list of things you’ll need to bring with you to your appointment. While every pet is different and it’s impossible to create a comprehensive or universal list, some common items owners bring often include:

  • Adoption papers (if available)
  • A list of current medications your pet is on
  • A prepared set of questions to ask your vet
  • Treats (to help your pet cooperate during the appointment)
  • Personal identification

If your pet has any existing medical records you’re aware of, it’s very helpful to have those records transferred to your vet ahead of time. You may already have these records as part of your adoption papers if you’ve adopted a shelter dog or cat.

It’s also a good idea to let your vet know what your pet’s diet looks like. You might bring a list of foods you incorporate into your pet’s diet, or provide photos of the packaging. This will help your vet understand what the animal’s nutrition looks like and if any adjustments should be made.

Prepare Your Pet for Travel

cat sitting on car
Photo by Ali Ramazan Çiftçi

One helpful way to reduce the stress and anxiety of your pet’s first trip to the vet is by preparing the animal in advance. If, for instance, your cat has anxiety or you own a high-energy dog, it can be enormously beneficial to acclimate your pet to travel. On the day of the appointment, this will lower the chances of any outbursts or unexpected behavior.

In some cases, this process can be as simple as routinely taking your pet for car rides. This way, there’s a lower chance they’ll experience anxiety when it’s time to get in the car.

Or, if you’re still getting used to carrying and picking up your pet, you might want to practice handling them before the appointment. Some owners even like to familiarize their pet with veterinary tools and equipment prior to the checkup!

Practicing crate training is also a fantastic way to prepare smaller pets for the trip. Teaching your small dog or cat to view their crate as a calm, relaxing environment is often key to reducing their stress before an appointment at the vet.

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance

french bulldog at vet
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Concerned about the financial details of taking your dog or cat to the vet? Pet insurance can be an indispensable resource to fall back on! And, if you’re unfamiliar with pet insurance, no worries; it works just like any other type of insurance.

When you get pet insurance, you make monthly or annual payments so that veterinary visits and emergencies can be partly covered by the insurer. In some cases, the coverage of your pet’s veterinary bills can reach up to 90 or even 100 percent.

As you might guess, this is extremely helpful not only for regular checkups, but also for sudden illnesses or accidents that you didn’t foresee. And, unlike for human medical insurance, you can freely choose your vet without concern for provider networks.

On the other hand, there are some downsides to pet insurance that are worth considering. For example, you might find that coverage excludes a preexisting health condition your pet suffers from. Likewise, there’s a possibility that routine checkups won’t be covered by your plan.

What to Expect During the Veterinarian Visit

dog veterinary exam
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

If you’re stressed about not knowing how your appointment will go, it helps to know that most first-time veterinary visits follow a very similar script. Typically, you’ll first fill out some standard paperwork providing background on your pet’s health, history, and lifestyle.

From there, your vet will perform a basic checkup and exam. Details can vary a bit, but this exam involves checking common areas (e.g., the heart, lungs, skin, teeth, etc.) for abnormalities. If your pet has not already been given vaccines, they will likely receive them during this visit. Pet vaccines protect against common conditions like rabies, parvovirus, Lyme disease, and influenza.

After the exam is over and your pet has been given their vaccines, you can take some time to ask your vet questions. These questions might involve medications, diet, exercise, or any other other topics concerning your pet!

Dallin Darger
By Dallin Darger

Dallin is a passionate, seasoned pet owner and enthusiast. He has, over the course of 27 years, owned and loved a litany of breeds, from Labrador retrievers and calico cats to angelfish and neon tetras. Much of his free time is spent researching and learning everything he can about unfamiliar and exciting types of wildlife.