Health Care Checklist for a New Pet

When bringing a new pet into your home, especially if obtained from a shelter, you don't know his health history or illnesses from which he might currently be suffering. It's important to find a veterinarian with whom you feel comfortable and begin taking care of your pet's health as soon as possible.

External Parasites

When you bring your new pet home, the first thing you should do is look for external parasites such as fleas and ticks. Your pet may need a flea bath or flea treatment so that the pests don't get into your carpet, which will make them harder to eliminate. While flea preventatives keep fleas from jumping on your pet, many of them don't kill fleas already living on your pet, so a flea bath may be necessary. However, don't combine the two.

Even if you don't see fleas, observe your pet's behavior. If he does a lot of licking and biting, he may recently have had fleas and still have eggs living on him and need a flea treatment.

Internal Parasites

Especially with a shelter pet, you don't know what kind of diet the pet has been consuming and if he has been in contact with feces of infected pets, which can lead to internal parasites, such as different types of worms.

Your veterinarian can obtain this information through a fecal exam and provide a deworming pill if necessary. Most internal parasites are easy to treat but can cause long-term problems if not found early.


Many illnesses can be prevented with vaccinations. If the shelter from which you obtained your pet cannot provide you with proof of vaccinations, it's important to take your pet to a veterinarian to obtain the appropriate vaccines.

Though expensive, a blood test called a titer can determine the level of antibodies of certain diseases in your pet's blood, which will tell you if he needs another vaccination. If the titer levels are high, he doesn't need another vaccination. Unnecessary vaccinations can cause reactions in your pet and should be avoided.

Overall Examination

As your pet gains your trust, give him an overall examination to determine what is normal for your pet. If he has any sensitive spots, mention those to your veterinarian during your first visit. Check for any unusual lumps. Most lumps are benign, but you should know what is normal for your pet so you know when it becomes abnormal.

For the first week, check your pet's urine and stool. Though it's normal to have runny stool when adjusting to a new diet and new environment, it shouldn't be prolonged. Any blood or worms in the stool should be reported to your veterinarian. Excessively concentrated urine can be caused by liver or kidney problems.

If your pet has any other symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, unusual ear odor, bad breath or excessive skin chewing, report these to your veterinarian. If your pet is coughing or sneezing, keep him from your other pets to prevent spreading of illnesses such as kennel cough.

When you bring a new pet into your home, your first focus as he adjusts to his new environment should be insuring proper health care. Look for any problems and make an appointment with your veterinarian to get started.