Get your dog’s health records in order

Getting this accomplished will save time and embarrassment – and could keep you from paying for unnecessary procedures


I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and money in the past couple of months to get my dogs’ health records together – after being embarrassed to admit to a new veterinarian friend that my dogs were overdue for some routine veterinary attention. I feel much better knowing that they are now current – on vaccines, routine blood work, heartworm and tick-titer tests, and prescriptions for heartworm prevention.

So much of my time and attention (and dog-budget) went to taking care of my elderly dog Otto last year that the younger dogs got sadly neglected. And even though I advise everyone I know to note all of their dog’s vaccines, medication refills, and vet appointments on a calendar, I neglected to do this for Woody and Boone for over a year. Ack!

After a conversation about rabies vaccines with my son (whose dog was due for a rabies booster), I started wondering when Boone’s most recent rabies vaccine was – and realized that he was overdue for his first three-year rabies vaccine by about, oh, a year.  Worse: To even determine this fact, I went looking for the file folder where I kept all of Boone’s paperwork – and discovered I had never made one! All of his puppy-kindergarten diplomas and veterinary receipts and test results and even adoption papers were mixed in with all of the same sort of paperwork in either Otto’s or Woody’s folders. I have never even made him a file folder of his own!

Also, because I had about 10 months’ worth of extra monthly heartworm preventatives after Otto passed away, and because all my dogs’ weights were/are close enough, I hadn’t taken Woody or Boone in for their annual heartworm tests because I had extra prevention to give them; I hadn’t needed to make those appointments in order to have enough preventative on hand for almost half a year. Bad, bad dog, Nancy!

Well, if you’ve ever been going through the final illness, or the final, rough year of a beloved dog’s life, you know how easy it is to neglect the other, young, healthy dogs’ needs. I’m not defending myself, just explaining. I had a trying year with Otto, punctuated with a couple health emergencies with Boone, and the routine stuff just got shoved to the side.

In order to get everything caught up, I had to call three different veterinary clinics and request that all of Woody’s and Boone’s records be sent to my newest vet’s office. My dogs have both been seen and treated at the large emergency/specialty hospital about 30 minutes from my home, the closest clinic to my home (which is expensive and where it is difficult to get appointments within a month), and a much-less-expensive country clinic where it is also difficult to book appointments in a timely manner. Clinic #4, owned by my new vet friend, is going to be my new primary vet, so I’ve had hospitals 1 through 3 send their official records to her. I feel sorry for the veterinary receptionist who had to make sense of it all, but after going through all that paperwork, I finally have a full record for each dog in one place and don’t have to guess or dig to confirm the dates of anything.

I also put reminders on my digital calendar to make appointments for next year’s veterinary checkups. I’ve long used wall calendars to keep track of these things, but in my increasingly digital world, the Google calendar does a better job of reminding me of things than any paper calendar can do.

The last thing I have to do: I prepaid for fecal tests for both dogs, and need to collect a fecal sample from each dog and deliver them to my new vet for testing. The day after the dog’s last appointment, I duly collected a fecal sample from each dog’s morning deposit, and put them (triple zip-locked) in the refrigerator so I could deliver them to the clinic later in the day – but got busy and failed to drive to the clinic until what the receptionist said was too late for an accurate test (the samples should be refrigerated if there is going to be a delay, but should still arrive to the vet’s office within 4 to 6 hours). D’oh! I need to choose a day soon where I will collect samples of the dogs’ poop and drive it right to the vet, and then we’ll be completely on track for 2024.


  1. My vet and most vets in my area have electronic records so I can look up treatment history and reminders for vaccinations and regular treatment like annual heartworm and fecal tests. My vet also reminds me, pointedly, by email, text, and snail mail, when rabies vaccines are due starting a month in advance. In addition, my town requires me to produce a current rabies certificate when I renew my dogs’ annual license. Finally, my vet has a good relationship with the specialty vets in the area, so there is good communication and sharing of medical records and my primary vet is always current. My human physicians have converted to electronic medical records, and it’s easy to share information with other physicians and medical centers; I hope all vets move to EMR (electronic medical records); it’s overdue.

  2. I have my vet email invoices after every visit, then i enter the details into a spreadsheet with a column for the date, vet clinic, vet, dog’s weight, reason for visit, charges, insurance reimbursement, invoice number, etc. Important vaccinations are in easy to see colored bold text. I still have paper files for test results, rabies certificates, licenses, and other important records, but the days of huge, bulky files are long gone.

    And yet I still have the printed records for every dog I’ve owned over the past 50+ years. Sentimental value, I guess. If I still have their records (in addition to all those photos), they’re not really gone…sigh. I’ll never stop missing them.

  3. I have a large binder that has all of Mathew’s veterinarian records,and I take it with me when we travel to have quick access when we’re on the road. Some places (kennels, vets,)require that you show the original rabies certificate so it’s helpful to have documentation handy. This works well for us!

  4. I keep a binder on each dog but they also e-mail them to me and each dog has an e-mail folder so I can save e-mails to it.

    Interestingly, just discovered the Freyja Grey’s birthday was three months off. When I adopted her they told me she was two years old. The vet and I agreed that she was more like one year old. Her “intake” date was June 3 and that is the date they gave her. So arbitrarily her birthday was June 3, 2020. I was checking and updating the info on both of the dog’s chips and I noticed that her chip was registered on March 6, 2020. Well, now I have a birthday. She may have been chipped as a puppy and simply never registered as I didn’t put that date in. It may not be her birthday but her “chip day” but it is likely more accurate than any of our guesses or the shelter’s arbitrary assignment. I adopted her June 27, 2021 so a year and 3-4 months is consistent with the vet’s examination and my estimate of her behavior. Although they are rare every once in a while she will still get the Zoomies. But she’s a husky so not that surprising.