As much as our vets like us—and our dogs—sometimes they’d be OK not to see us quite as often. These vet-recommended best practices can help you avoid the time and expense of preventable visits and be a better partner in your dog’s overall health. 

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When you bring home a puppy it’s like you get two new friends—your four-legged furbaby and your veterinarian. Between vaccines and nail trims, procedures and preventatives, your vet plays a pretty big role in you and your pet’s life—both when your dog is young and as he ages.

But we can’t take our vets home, and they can’t always be there to tell us what we’re doing right (or wrong) for our canine companions. In order to make your trips to the vet more efficient and less stressful for everyone involved, here are five things your vet wishes you were already doing to help keep your dog happy and healthy in between visits. Hint: It’s never too late to start!

1. Slow Down on the Extra Snacks and Treats

It’s OK, we can all admit it. We like snacks, and we often like to share our love of snacks with our dogs. It’s alright to share a bite with your pup every now and again, but our vets wish we were limiting the unnecessary nummies we give our pets. In fact, treats should only take up about 10 percent or less of your dog’s daily caloric intake!

Dogs are being diagnosed with obesity and diabetes more than ever, and our veterinarians want us to know that what we feed them makes all the difference. So, save those treats for training time, and ensure your dog is provided a healthy, balanced diet.

2. Provide Daily Exercise

Many vets will tell you that numerous dog behavior issues stem from boredom and a lack of activities. No matter the breed, all dogs need daily exercise and access to both physical and mental stimulation. Take your dog for a long good walk or hike, play Frisbee, give them a toy to chew, or enjoy a game of hide & seek. Every. Single. Day.

Terrier puppy happily runs toward camera
Credit: Bigandt_Photography / Getty

3. Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccinations

Vaccinations are an important component of care for any dog, and they go a long way in preventing some very serious diseases. Although it can seem time-consuming in an already hectic life to make trips to your vet just for a two-second shot, it’s absolutely necessary—especially if you frequent dog parks or public spaces where other dogs may be present.

4. Use Preventatives on a Regular Basis

The old adage “too little, too late” applies too often when it comes to canine parasites. Especially if you find yourself scrambling to clean up those horribly pesky fleas your dog unintentionally invited into your house. If only you had just given that flea preventative on time!

Vets wish you would use preventatives monthly so you aren’t calling them on weekends wondering how to remove that engorged tick. “External and internal parasite prevention is a key aspect of preventative medicine with the goals of avoiding easily preventable diseases,” says Alicen Tracey, DVM at Den Herder Veterinary Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa.

Preventative care can do so much to keep fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, and even life threatening diseases like heartworm at bay. But they only work if used regularly!

“Using preventatives routinely not only helps avoid preventable diseases for your pet, but also ends up saving you money down the road,” Tracey says. 

5. Teach Your Dog to Enjoy the Vet

No veterinarian likes to see a dog that’s shaky, barky, growly, and absolutely terrified to be in their office. Once your dog has decided the vet is scary, it becomes an enormous challenge to change how they feel. Your vet wishes you would spend the time desensitizing and conditioning your dog to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells in a vet office—a critical part of puppy socialization that needs to continue through adulthood. 

“It is important to establish the vet office as a comfortable, and happy place for your pet to ensure that they feel at ease during their annual visits—as well as in case of emergencies!” Tracey says. “If your pup is fearful or having a tough time getting used to the veterinarian, consider asking for a 'socialization visit' where your pup comes in for a single positive experience.”

Your vet also wants you to spend ample time practicing body handling with your doggo, teaching them to enjoy the touches involved in things like nail trims or ear exams.

Following these best practices will help you be a better partner with your vet—even if that means you’ll get to visit less often.