Congratulations on your new puppy! We are grateful that you have chosen us to help you as you and your new friend as you embark on this life-long journey together. We know that owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it is also a big responsibility. We’re hoping to help you and your new dog have a long, happy, and healthy relationship by providing some general information for you. If you have any questions concerning any subject related to your dog’s health just give us a call – we’re willing and happy to help you!
Spaying and Neutering
We recommend that you have your puppy spayed or neutered if you do not have definite plans to breed him or her. Spaying or neutering your pet has many benefits and ultimately is another way to better care for your puppy.
Female puppies: Spaying offers several advantages. The female’s heat cycles result in two to three weeks of vaginal bleeding. This can be messy if your dog is kept indoors. Male dogs are attracted from blocks away and are often able to go around, over, and through many doors and fences. Heat cycles occur approximately every six months. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries, making it so heat cycles no longer occur. In many cases, despite their owners’ best efforts, females become pregnant – spaying prevents unplanned litters of puppies. It has also been proven that as female dogs get older there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed. Spaying before she has her first heat cycle will help drastically reduce the chance of breast cancer and eliminate the chance of a uterine infection. We recommend spaying female dogs between four and six months of age.
Male puppies: Some of the advantages to neutering include a decreased attraction to female dogs in heat and a decrease in his aggression levels. As un-neutered dogs age, the prostate gland frequently enlarges and can cause difficulties with defecation and urination. By neutering your dog you also prevent him from ever having testicular cancer. We recommend neutering male dogs between four and six months of age.
Vaccinations are extremely important for the health of your dog. Many severe and life-threatening diseases can be prevented in dogs by having them properly vaccinated.
For vaccines to be effective in puppies they need to be given at the appropriate times – ideally puppies will receive vaccines at 7 or 8 weeks of age, 11 to 12 weeks, and 14 to 16 weeks of age. A single vaccination generally does not help the puppy develop a long lasting immunity to the diseases it is being vaccinated for (with the exception of the Rabies vaccine, which is given once at or after 16 weeks of age, then boostered a year later). Puppies are started on their vaccines at 7 or 8 weeks of age because prior to that time they are protected from disease by receiving antibodies from their mother through her milk. The protection this provides is effective, but only lasts a short while. The goal of vaccinating a puppy on the aforementioned schedule is to help it develop its own long-lasting antibodies. Vaccines given too early are negated by the presence of the mother’s antibodies. We recommend that you do not take your dog out on walks or to any uncontrolled environment until he or she has had the entire series of puppy vaccines, as puppies are still susceptible to contracting these diseases until they have completed the vaccination series (especially Parvovirus, which they contract from fecal material of infected dogs).
The puppy series of vaccines include vaccinations for Parvovirus, Distemper, Adenovirus Type II, Parainfluenza, Bordetella, as well as Leptospirosis, with a Rabies vaccine given with the last set of puppy vaccines. All vaccines are not equal, and it makes a difference what type of vaccine is used on your puppy. We use what we feel is the best vaccine available for your puppy, and do not recommend you purchase vaccines at feed stores or from catalogs.
After the initial puppy series of vaccines your dog will be on a yearly vaccination schedule to help maintain the immunity you’ve worked to develop in your dog.
Intestinal parasites are common in puppies. They can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies. Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of a deworming product that is safe and effective against several common worms of the dog. Some of the intestinal parasites that dogs can have can be transmitted to humans. Deworming is done at each visit for vaccinations. It is important to repeat the deworming, since medication only kills the adult worms, and within three to four weeks the larval stages of worm will become adults and will be susceptible to the medication. Dogs can be re-infected and periodic deworming throughout life, as well as an annual fecal exam is recommended.
Tapeworms are also common in dogs, and puppies become infected when they swallow fleas that carry tapeworm eggs. Exposure to fleas can result in a new infection in as little as two weeks. Infected dogs will pass small segments of tapeworm in their feces – these segments are white and look like grains of rice. They may stick to the fur around the tail. These segments are not shed every day or in every stool sample. If you find them at any time, please call our office so that we may provide an appropriate treatment.
Heartworms are also an important parasite. If a dog is infected, the parasite lives in the dog’s blood stream and can cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. We recommend a once-monthly heartworm preventative and an annual heartworm test for all dogs. Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog’s weight, and as the weight increases so should the dose.
Behavior and Disciplining
It is very important that you provide stimulating play for your puppy. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscle development. Your puppy will be less likely to use family members for these activities if you provide adequate puppy-safe toys. The best toys are lightweight and movable, such as wads of paper and rubber balls. Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided, and any toy that your puppy tears apart should be removed in its entirety and discarded (in order to prevent him or her from ingesting pieces of toy that can become lodged in the stomach or intestines).
Chewing is a normal puppy behavior. Almost all of a puppy’s 28 baby teeth are present by four weeks of age. They begin to fall out at about four months of age, and are replaced by the 42 adult teeth by six months of age. Therefore, chewing is an important part of puppy behavior as they teethe until about six or seven months of age. It is important to direct your puppy’s chewing toward desirable objects such as rubber chew toys and compressed carbohydrate bones.
Disciplining a young puppy may be necessary if its behavior threatens people or property, but harsh punishment should be avoided completely. Hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior. However, remote punishment is preferred. This consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher to stop the problem behavior. Some examples include spray bottles, throwing objects in the direction of the puppy to startle (but never hit) it, and making loud noises. Remote punishment is preferred because the puppy associates the punishment with the behavior and not with you. Discipline needs to be done when the puppy is in the act of doing the undesired behavior in order to be effective.
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Nutrition is an important part of your puppy’s health and a good diet imperative for proper growth and development. We recommend a nationally recommended brand of dog food (not a generic or local brand), specifically formulated for puppies. This includes diets from Royal Canin, Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba, and Purina One, among others. Although the cost may be more per bag or by weight, overall monthly costs are generally similar to generic brands. Puppies should remain on puppy food until they are at least 12 months of age. In the US, you should be sure that the food has been certified by the AAFCO, an independent organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. The certification should be on the bag and state that the food meets the minimum requirements for puppy growth and development. Many “gourmet” dog foods are actually not balanced, and will not provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy, happy dog, despite being flavorful.
Feeding dry, canned or semi-moist types of dog food are all acceptable, as long as the formulation is complete and balanced for puppy growth and development. Dry food is generally less expensive and the food is less likely to spoil. It also has an abrasive texture that may help to reduce tartar buildup on teeth. Semi-moist food may be okay for some dogs, and generally has a more appealing texture and odor for most dogs. However, it is often higher in sugar than dry or canned foods. Canned foods are the most appealing to most dogs, and have higher moisture content. They spoil quickly if left out, and need to be fed in meals. Dog treats are generally fine, provided that they don’t prevent your dog from eating his or her food.
Usually we do not recommend table scraps for dogs. Because they are generally very tasty, some dogs will begin to hold out for them and won’t eat their balanced dog food. Foods high in fats can cause upset your dog’s pancreas and intestinal tract. Some dogs are very sensitive to dietary changes and can become sick from table scraps. If you do choose to give your dog human food, be sure to avoid grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, caffeine, rhubarb, macadamia nuts, and sugar free gum. While we enjoy a variety of things in our diet, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another. It’s a good idea to buy a new bag of dog food before you run out of your current bag. Then you can mix the new food in with the old for 3 to 7 days (even if you’re feeding the same type of food) in order to decrease the chance of an upset stomach.
We recommend meal feeding puppies and dogs so that you can more easily determine how much your dog is actually eating. Puppies 5 to 12 weeks old should be fed three to four times daily. Feed a measured amount and if it’s not eaten within 30 minutes, pick it up. If the food is eaten in 3 minutes or less the quantity may not be sufficient. If a certain feeding is ignored by your puppy then you should discontinue giving that meal. By six months of age you can generally cut back to twice daily feedings, which is what we recommend for adult dogs. Dogs should be on an adult food from ages 1 to 7 years, then should be switched to a senior diet.
Regular dental care is as important for your pet as it is for you. Periodontal disease is the most common disease in both dogs and cats. Dental disease can be a constant source of infection for your pet, and can lead to heart and liver problems.
The best way to care for your pet’s teeth is to brush them daily and have a professional dental cleaning at least annually. Now is the time to get your puppy used to having his or her teeth brushed. You can use a soft-bristled tooth brush and pet-safe toothpaste (it lacks fluoride, so that it’s safe if your pet swallows some). Oral hygiene chews and treats also help prevent tartar and plaque build-up. Anti-plaque oral hygiene rinses or gels can be of added benefit when used regularly.
Regular dental care will help your pet have fresher breath, healthy teeth and gums, and a longer, healthier life.
Dogs can end up with a variety of external parasites, including fleas, ticks, lice, and mites. If you notice your dog scratching or chewing on itself it is a good idea to have it examined by its veterinarian. Some of these parasites can actually be spread to humans and other pets, while some are not contagious. There are many flea control options available, but not all are equally effective or safe. Prescription varieties tend to have fewer potential side effects, but all types need to be used appropriately. Never use medicine that has been designated for a dog larger than your own, and don’t use medicine that labeled is for another species on dogs or cats.
Ear mites are a common concern for pet owners. If your puppy is scratching at his or her ears, it is important to have your veterinarian examine him or her. Ear mites are only one of the things that can cause an itchy ear. If you notice an odor, brown wax or redness on the ear, it’s a good sign that something is going on in the ear canal. It may be mites, but could also be a bacterial or yeast infection, a grass seed in the ear canal, or an allergy triggering the signs. Your veterinarian will help you determine the cause and get some appropriate treatment.
The best time to help your puppy develop good social skills is between 5 and 12 weeks of age. This window of time is when he or she will undergo many new experiences and form memories that will affect his or her future responses to them. Helping him or her to have a positive reaction to new stimuli such as the veterinarian’s office and getting vaccinated, strangers visiting your home, loud noises such as vacuums and other home appliances, and meeting other dogs, will help shape how those things will be handled by the puppy as he or she matures. One good way to help the puppy interact positively with other dogs is to have friends or family members with vaccinated puppies and dogs bring them over for a play date. A way to make the postman or other strangers less intimidating is to have them give your puppy a treat that you provide whenever they stop by the house. Be sure that your puppy is exposed to both men and women of all ages so that they don’t develop phobias of certain types of people.
This is also a good time to start teaching your puppy basic commands such as come, sit, and stay. These are not just “tricks”, but could be necessary for your puppy’s safety at some point.
One method of identification for your pet is placing a nametag on a collar that your pet wears. Another commonly recommended method of identification for pets today is via a microchip device. It is a tiny device that is generally implanted under the skin between the shoulders with a needle. A special scanner can detect these microchips, and veterinary hospitals, humane societies, and animal shelters across the country have these scanners. Unlike a collar and name tag, microchips cannot accidently fall off or be removed by other people. We strongly recommend microchipping pets.
Puppies are born with a natural desire to keep their living areas clean, but don’t demonstrate that tendency until they are helped to understand the difference between living areas and toilet areas. It’s up to you to teach your puppy where you want him or her to eliminate.
Certain events will stimulate a puppy to eliminate. Some of these include:
- After he eats a meal or a treat
- After he drinks water
- Whenever he awakens after sleeping
- Every time you remove him from his kennel, safe-room, or playpen
- First thing in the morning
- After (and sometimes during) exercise or play
- Any other time he acts like he needs to “go”
Each time your puppy experiences one of these events, take him to a designated spot. Choose a word or phrase that you will use to tell him the purpose of the spot (like “go potty”), and after leading (or carrying) him to that spot, repeat that phrase quietly to your puppy. One he begins to eliminate, praise him softly, but not so exuberantly that you distract him. When he is finished, praise him all you want and give him a treat.
Being consistent will greatly expedite the training process. Take your puppy out to eliminate after each of the triggering events and any other time he displays body language indicating he needs to go (dedicated sniffing, circling, arching the back or tail, squatting). Soon he will begin to understand where the toilet area is.
Accidents will happen initially, but should become fewer as time goes on. If you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating inappropriately you can gently scold him and move him to the designated spot. If you do not catch him in the act, you cannot scold him for the mess, since he won’t correlate the scolding with his act of creating the mess. In these instances, simply clean up the mess thoroughly and try to help him get to the right spot the next time.
Home Health Exams
Since your pet cannot talk and tell you when it has a problem, it relies on you to notice things to help ensure that is remains in good health. Here is a checklist of things to do every week or so to help ensure that no problem goes unnoticed.
Is your pet acting normally and in good spirits?
Does it exercise regularly and not tire easily?
Does it have a good appetite?
Has it lost or gained weight?
Does it vomit?
Are its stools normal and regular?
Does it drink a normal amount of water?
Has it begun to drink more?
Does it have accidents in the house after being housebroken?
Does its coat look shiny and healthy?
Dose it scratch more than a pet should?
Are its ears clean and odor free?
Does its mouth smell bad?
Are its teeth white and clean?
Does it limp or have trouble getting up?
Does it cough or breathe harder than it should?
Are there any lumps or bumps on its body?
Are there any sore areas?
Are there any unusual smells?
If you ever notice anything unusual about your pet, bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. It may or may not be anything serious, but sometimes subtle changes can indicate significant problems. Besides your weekly home health exams we recommend you see your veterinarian at least once to twice yearly for checkups. Prevention and early detection are the keys to good health and long life.
In an emergency situation, keep your pet as quiet as possible and try to conserve heat by covering it with bedding. If necessary, apply the ABCs of first aid:
A = airway
B = breathing
C = cardiac function
Airway – Anything that obstructs the airway prevents oxygen from entering the lungs. Do your best to clear the mouth and throat of any obstruction such as vomitus, saliva, or foreign bodies such as balls, sticks, and grass. Be extremely cautious! Panicked and frightened pets may bite.
Breathing – If your pet is unconscious and does not appear to be breathing, try gently pumping the chest with the palm of your hand. At the same time, feel just behind the elbow on the chest to detect a heartbeat. Close the muzzle with your hand and blow into the nostrils. This is best accomplished by covering the pet’s nose with your mouth. Again, be careful! Injured pets may bite out of fear. If you do not know the health or vaccination status of an injured pet, avoid contact with bodily fluids and blood.
Cardiac function – If you are unable to detect a heartbeat or pulse, try pressing on the chest with your palm. Five chest compressions followed by one to two deep breaths is a simple form of CPR.
Specific first aid:
Blood loss: Once you have checked ABC above and if bleeding is severe, try to stop it by applying a dressing in the form of a bandage or clothing. If bleeding persists or soaks through the bandage, it is a medical emergency. Most wounds will require medical or surgical treatment. If they are treated within 4 hours they can often be sutured. Deep cuts after four hours are at an increased risk of infection and complication.
Burns and Scalds: Cool the burned area with cold water as quickly as possible. Cover the burned area with damp towels. If the injury is due to a caustic substance, rinse with cold water for 15 minutes and contact your veterinarian.
Eye injuries: Injuries to the eye are always very painful. If a foreign body can be seen (grass awn, stick, etc.) it might be possible to remove it by gently rinsing the eye with eye wash or contact saline solution. Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Seizures: Seizures can be due to many causes. These range from low blood sugar or calcium levels to epilepsy. If a nursing female has a seizure, remove the puppies immediately. All pets that are seizing or have had a recent seizure should be kept in a dark, quiet, confined area until medical help can be sought. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Heat Stroke: This most commonly occurs in hot weather when pets are left in cars without adequate ventilation. Body temperature rises dramatically. Clinical signs are excessive panting and obvious distress quickly followed by coma and death. Reduce your pet’s body temperature as soon as possible using cool water (not ice water) and transport it to the veterinarian while it is still wet. Keep the car windows open. Evaporation will help to reduce body temperature. Avoid using ice, as this may drop the temperature too quickly and cause additional complications.
Toxin ingestion: Common toxins that pets consume include chocolate, sugar free gum, grapes, rodent baits, and human medications. If your pet ingests any of these things contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Try to know exactly how much and what types of things were consumed, as this will help your veterinarian determine how severe the exposure has been. Most of the time having your pet vomit as soon as possible will help decrease the complications associated with the toxin ingestion. Your veterinarian can help your pet vomit as safely as possible.