Most of the time, veterinary care is the most expensive aspect of owning a dog. Especially with large-breed dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, making sure you have access to good medical care for your pet is a critical step in responsible pet ownership.
It’s also better for the happiness and comfort of your Labrador Retriever to keep them on a good routine of preventive care.
But other than sick appointments, which can frequently come up out of nowhere, typically how often does a Lab need to go to the vet?
It’s important to find a great veterinarian you trust and get their recommendation for the right schedule for your particular dog, as your vet might have a reason for keeping your dog on a different schedule than other pets of the same breed.
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It’s also critical that you seek medical attention and care whenever your dog is ill, acting strangely, or seems to have developed an urgent care need.
What’s the average schedule and price for routine wellness care for a typical Lab in a given year? And what is covered at those appointments?
Every dog is different, but in general, here’s an overview of what new owners should expect for general wellness and preventive visits for a typical large-breed dog such as a Labrador Retriever.
Wellness Visits: Annual or Semi-Annual
Most Labradors will have wellness checkups every year where a thorough physical exam is performed by your veterinarian.
Some providers recommend annual wellness checkups once a year, and others recommend semi-annual checkups every 6 months.
In prior years, it used to be that once a year annual checkups were the norm. However, in recent years, we’ve noticed that most of the veterinarians we see and interact with are switching to a semi-annual recommended schedule of twice-yearly wellness visits for dogs.
We’ve had Labrador Retrievers all over the United States, and have had vets in many different locations. The most recent clinics we’ve worked with have all advised wellness checkups every 6 months for our Labradors, who are healthy and have no chronic medical conditions currently that need extra management.
Your Dog’s Age Matters
Younger Labrador puppies will have numerous wellness visits in the first few months of life, as well as throughout their first year, as they require more care and monitoring.
If you have a middle-aged or senior Labrador, you might need to be on a schedule of more frequent wellness visits too, in order to monitor your Lab for any health issues that may occur due to aging.
If your Lab has any chronic conditions, such as allergies or thyroid disorder, your vet may also advise you to bring them in more frequently to keep those conditions in check.
What Usually Happens at Wellness Vet Visits
Wellness vet visits for your Labrador will last approximately 45 min to one hour in length.
Your Lab will have their weight taken on a scale and be brought into an exam room.
A veterinary technician will take your Labrador’s temperature (beware: your Lab may protest this step) and note down any concerns you wish to discuss at the appointment.
The veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam of your dog, checking their eyes, looking inside their ears, and examining their teeth. Many treats will often be consumed during these exams by your Labrador to ensure their cooperation, but that will depend on their temperament and personality.
We had one chocolate Lab who couldn’t be bribed with treats at all during her exams and seemed to be very suspicious of any attempts to take her temperature or look in her ears.
One of the Labs of Labrador Wise loves going to the vet so much that he often jumps up and hugs our vet when she enters the room for his exam, and licks her during the entire wellness check. He’s a pretty excited patient at his vet appointments!
The wellness exam will continue with your vet likely listening to your Lab’s heart, checking their hips and joints, examining paws and skin, and discussing concerns with you.
Your vet may go over the typical vaccination schedule for your area with you and recommend which shots your dog might need at this wellness visit, as well as what shots they may be due for at their next appointment to help you with planning.
Your vet might also discuss any medications your Lab is on, or go over heartworm disease prevention or flea and tick medication and give you a prescription for them.
This is the time to ask questions about your Lab’s behavior, about the dog food you have them on, or any other general questions about care, grooming, shedding, microchipping, training, and any other pet issues.
Your Lab might need some extra treats, love, and encouragement during these exams, which can be stressful for the animals.
Remember that Labs’ excellent noses can pick up on other things and other animals at the vet clinic, as well as treatments that may be occurring in the building. This may cause your dog to act differently than normal and may result in a bit of nervous energy or dog anxiety.
Some vets will do home visits for wellness and vaccination appointments. If your dog seems to suffer from anxiety or stress going to the clinic, see if your vet is one that participates in doing home visits that may make it easier for you and your dog to keep up with routine care in a positive way.
How Expensive Are Wellness Visits?
Your vet will typically have a schedule of prices for regular wellness appointments, which are easier to predict and estimate because your dog is not sick or urgently ill for those visits.
Wellness vet visits for your Labrador will typically cost you between $40-$100 per appointment, not including the cost of vaccines or other medications administered at the visit.
If your visit ends up being very lengthy, and you have many questions that need to be covered, be aware that your vet may up-charge you for an extended visit that takes up more time.
We’ve had some vets in certain parts of the US not charge a wellness exam fee when you’re coming for vaccine-related appointments, which is really nice of them to do.
However, we’ve found that more recently, this benefit seems to be going away, and especially in higher-cost-of-living US locations, this benefit isn’t available from most clinics.
When you’re researching vet clinics and calling around to make an appointment, ask for typical prices for wellness visits and what frequency the clinic usually recommends for them. There are many expenses in Labrador ownership, but maintaining a wellness schedule for your dog is one of the many costs you can actually plan ahead and prepare for.
The Importance of a Dog Wellness Routine
Sticking to a schedule of regular wellness visits for your Lab is important in helping to manage their care and keep them healthy.
Just like with people, seeing your vet regularly can keep your dog in top physical shape, and allow your vet to spot problems or issues with your Labrador that can be treated before they become even more expensive or painful for your pet.
Follow your vet’s advice and recommended schedule and keep to your wellness and vaccine appointments. It’s easy to overlook wellness appointments when your dog seems to be healthy and acting fine, but it’s an important part of caring for your Labrador throughout a long and healthy life.