Raising a puppy can be a daunting and challenging task but one that is rewarding as well. One of the cornerstones of good health for your puppy is regular veterinary care.
Here’s a checklist of things you’ll need to do in your puppy’s first year.
1. Find a good vet.
Ideally you want to find out which veterinarian you plan to use before you get your puppy. Ask your friends that are dog owners which vet they go to. If possible, visit the clinic beforehand and look around, is the waiting area clean, are the staff courteous and helpful? Find out if the surgery hours will fit your schedule and if they handle emergencies after hours. Many practices have multiple vets, but we find it is best to stick with one veterinarian who knows your pet well so ask the staff if you will be able to request an appointment with a specific veterinarian. Picking a vet is a personal choice, try to find one that is relaxed, really listens to you, thoughtfully answers your questions and generally puts you at ease. If your first veterinarian makes you uncomfortable in any way, keep looking until you find one that is a good fit for you and your puppy.
2. Look into pet health insurance.
Pedigree puppies normally leave the breeder with 4 weeks free health insurance. Consider taking out pet health insurance to follow on from this. This can ease the cost of veterinary care especially if emergencies occur. Far too often new owners arrive at the vet with a very sick puppy and insufficient funds because they just spent all their money on purchasing the puppy and puppy supplies. Expect to spend on routine veterinary care which is not normally covered by insurance.
3. Get the necessary vaccinations.
Newborn puppies do not have immunity at birth; they get antibodies from the mother which helps protect them from disease while their immune system developes. Vaccinations are a vital part of your puppy’s veterinary care that will help prevent serious disease. Most pedigree puppies should have received at least their first vaccination when they leave the breeder and will need a booster, usually at 10 – 12 weeks and annually thereafter.
4. Have your puppy de-wormed regularly.
Many puppies already have intestinal parasites contracted from the mother before they are even born. Therefore it is important to have your vet de-worm your puppy regularly. Left untreated intestinal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms and hookworms can cause anaemia and weight loss which can be fatal. Common intestinal parasites of dogs can cause problems in people as well so not only do they affect your puppy’s health but yours as well and anyone that may be exposed to the puppy’s faeces. Regular de-worming and picking up after your puppy can go a long way in minimizing health risks. All puppies should have had regular de-worming from the breeder, but you will need to continue this every month until 6 months old, then 3-monthly. The dose may vary as the puppy grows, so be aware of puppy’s weight.
5. Learn how to prevent Fleas and Ticks.
Preventing flea and tick infestations are far easier than treating them. Your veterinarian has a variety of topical products that can be safely applied to puppies eight weeks and older. Keep your lawn short and keep your puppy out of bushes and woody areas. Treat the environment by washing bedding regularly and vacuuming carpets to remove eggs and larvae. There are also products which can safely be used in the home, pet’s bedding etc. to kill these pesky parasites.
6. Spay or Neuter
Spaying or neutering your puppy provides numerous health benefits and should be considered if you are not planning on breeding your dog. Healthy puppies can be neutered as young as six months of age, but some vets prefer to wait until 3 months after a bitch’s first season before spaying her. Please note NOT after the first litter. Keep your bitch safely away from entire male dogs throughout her season which usually will last for 3 weeks.
7. Educate yourself on your puppy’s appropriate diet and weight.
Puppies eight weeks and older should be fed a high quality puppy food. Regular adult dog food will not provide your puppy with the energy and calcium that your puppy’s growing body needs. Follow the label recommendations and your vet’s guidelines to determine how much to feed your puppy. Ideally, puppies should be fed four times a day, reducing to twice a day when puppy is six months of age. Ask your veterinarian if your puppy is at a healthy weight.
8. Prepare for teething.
Your puppy’s first teeth will erupt between three to eight weeks of age and around four to six months of age these teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth. You will know when your puppy is teething because you will notice increased chewing. It is important to never leave your puppy to chew unsupervised and is doubly important during teething. Besides the general destruction a teething puppy can cause, they can occasionally ingest objects that may cause obstruction or toxic items. Other hazards include chewing on electric cords which can be fatal. Give plenty of solid rubber toys for the teething stage. Teething usually last a few weeks to a month. It is important to have your veterinarian monitor the teeth as they come in because sometimes first teeth can be retained which can cause problems down the road.
9. Puppy-proof your home.
While it is important to see your veterinarian regularly for health checks, you want to avoid emergencies as much as possible. Take a good look around your home to see the potential hazards to an inquisitive puppy. Consider toxins such as household plants and cleaning supplies and keep them out of reach. Use baby gates to block off access to stairs to prevent falls and to limit access to rooms that are not “puppy safe” such as the basement or workshop. Small objects such as change, jewellery, hair ties should also be kept out of reach as they can be swallowed. Take rubbish out regularly and keep out of the puppy’s reach. Screen off the fireplace if you have one. Again the best way to keep your puppy out of trouble is to never leave him unsupervised and to use a crate when he cannot be watched.
10. Enjoy your puppy.
Make puppyhood an enjoyable experience for both of you. There are a lot of “No”’s at this time but it doesn’t all have to be negative. Play with your puppy, train your puppy and Life will be rewarding – for both of you.