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TIMELINE OF MEDICAL CARE

It's a snap to keep your doggy in the picture of health when you know what kind of care she needs.

You probably know your dog needs food, shelter, exercise, a balanced diet and lots of love to stay healthy. She also needs regular checkups, vaccinations and other types of preventive care throughout her life.

Up to 6 Months Old

You'll probably visit your veterinarian three or four times during this period of your puppy's life to get her vaccinations, a critical step in keeping her healthy. You'll also work with your veterinarian to get your pup on the right track by choosing a nutritious diet, spaying or neutering your pet and beginning preventive measures to ward off dangerous parasites, including intestinal parasites, heartworms and fleas.

Remember, your veterinarian is your ally in preventing behavior problems. During these first visits, he or she can help you through the housetraining process and can give you advice on avoiding chewing problems and beginning simple obedience training.

Between 6 Months and 8 Years Old

Your adult pet doesn't need quite as much medical attention, although her complete annual examination is critical to catching any health issues early. During this visit, she should also get any necessary vaccinations and parasite evaluations like fecal and heartworm tests. Your veterinarian should also check your dog's teeth and gums and recommend dental care if needed.

If you have any concerns about your pet's health, nutrition or behavior, your veterinarian will address those during your pal's annual visit.

8 Years and Older

Believe it or not, you've got a senior pet on your hands and she needs more frequent visits to her veterinarian. Your pet needs a complete exam at least twice a year as well as her annual vaccinations and parasite evaluations.

At this stage, your veterinarian also may do a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile and urinalysis, and may perform other tests such as an ECG or radiography at least once a year to check for otherwise undetectable health complications including heart complications and masses in the chest area.

Your pet's nutritional needs will also change as she ages, and she may need more frequent dental care to keep her teeth and mouth healthy.