AAHA-AVMA canine preventive healthcare guidelines

Note: These guidelines have been adopted jointly by the AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association.

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Frequency of visits

All dogs should have a veterinary examination at least annually. For many dogs, more frequent visits may be appropriate. Decisions regarding specific frequency of visits should be based on individual needs of the dog.

Health evaluation


History, including evaluation of life style and life stage, behavior, and diet


Comprehensive physical examination, including dental assessment, pain assessment, and body and muscle condition scoring


On the basis of history and physical examination findings, assessments are made for:

  • Medical conditions
  • Infectious and zoonotic diseases
  • Parasite prevention and control
  • Dental care
  • Genetic, breed, and age considerations
  • Behavior
  • Nutrition


Client communication and education plan to include:

  • Diagnostic plan:
    • Every dog should have:
      • Annual heartworm testing
      • At least annual internal parasite testing
    • Customized plan based on assessment:
      • Other diagnostic tests (including dental radiography)
      • Early disease screening tests
      • Genetic screening tests
  • Therapeutic plan:
    • Every dog should receive:
      • Year-round broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas
    • Customized plan based on assessment:
      • Tick control as indicated by risk assessment
      • Therapeutic recommendations
      • Dental recommendations
      • Behavioral recommendations
      • Dietary recommendations
  • Prevention plan:
    • Every dog should have or receive:
      • Immunizations with core vaccines in accordance with existing guidelines
        • Rabies virus
        • Canine distemper virus
        • Canine parvovirus
        • Canine adenovirus-2
      • Appropriate identification including microchipping
      • Reproductive and genetic counseling and spaying or neutering unless specifically intended for breeding purposes
    • Customized plan based on assessment:
      • Immunization with non-core vaccines in accordance with existing guidelines
      • Other preventive recommendations and counseling regarding zoonotic diseases
  • Follow-up plan:
    • Establish a plan for follow-up based on assessment and future care recommendations
    • Set expectations for next visit
  • Documentation:
    • Thorough documentation of the patient visit

These guidelines were developed jointly by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association to provide information for practitioners regarding the care and treatment of their canine and feline patients. The information contained in these guidelines should not be construed as dictating an exclusive protocol, course of treatment, or procedure. These guidelines are not intended to be an AAHA or AVMA standard of care. Development of these guidelines was supported through an educational grant from the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare.

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Copyright © 2011 American Animal Hospital Association (www.aahanet.org) and American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org).
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.