Dog and Puppy Health

Selecting a puppy
Select your new family member with your lifestyle and living situation in mind. Primary considerations in addition to personality include temperatment, size, and coat. Some breeds have traits that may be objectionable in certain circumstances, such as hyperexcitability or a tendency to bark. Dogs originally bred for specific purposes tend to retain these characteristics and may require additional training and patience. Your veterinarian is a valuable resource and should be consulted before you acquire a puppy (or a pet of any kind).

Before bringing your puppy home
Prepare your house for your puppy’s arrival. A special place should be designated for it to eat, sleep, and eliminate. Obtain any necessary accessories (eg, collar, leash, ID tag, crate, and dishes) before you bring your puppy home. You will need to puppy-proof your home just as you would child-proof your home to avoid accidents. Harmful cleansers, plants, electrical cords, and breakable objects should be kept out of reach. Open windows should be screened.

A crate is a combined sleeping area, housebreaker, and preventer of bad habits; basically, it’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make for your puppy. Select a crate that is large enough to house the dog when fully grown, and insert a divider to make it smaller for housebreaking. The reduced area should be small enough so that the puppy can’t eliminate in one end and sit/sleep in the other. To make the crate a friendly place, appropriate bones (choose carefully and consult your veterinarian) can be placed within it and the puppy can be fed inside of it. Puppies should only be left in their crates for short periods initially, so that they learn that they will not be confined in them permanently.

Begin as soon as the puppy arrives in your home. Young puppies should be taken out immediately upon waking and just before retiring, as well as multiple times during the day. Most puppies cannot “hold it” for long periods so it will be necessary to take the puppy out almost every hour at first (especially after periods of play, naps, and mealtimes), and then gradually increase the amount of time between visits to the “bathroom.” Take the puppy to the same area each time and praise it immediately and enthusiastically when it eliminates. Do not play with, or talk to, the puppy until after it has eliminated. Remember, if the puppy doesn’t eliminate outside, its urine and feces are being saved for deposit inside your house!

Feed a high quality diet designed for puppies. A wide variety of diets and formulations are available and your veterinarian should be your primary source of information as to the best choice for your puppy or adult dog. The amount fed will vary with the type of food and the individual dog, but in general, should only be as much as the puppy can consume in 5 to 10 minutes at a given meal.

Health Exam/Vaccinations
You will want to have your new dog examined by a veterinarian to ensure that it has no major health problems and is started on a program of preventive care. Your pet’s health care plan includes a series of vaccinations against distemper, parvovirus and coronavirus (gastrointestinal diseases), infectious hepatitis, and respiratory infections (adenovirus, parainfluenza, and bordetella). Vaccination protocols are designed on the basis of your puppy’s risk of infection and may vary depending upon your dog’s age, breed, and environmental exposures. Vaccinations are usually given at 3 week intervals from 6 to 16 weeks of age. At 15 to 16 weeks of age, the puppy receives its first rabies vaccination. Puppies should be checked for intestinal parasites (usually 2 stool samples 3 weeks apart), fleas, and heartworm disease (depending on age), and appropriate treatment or preventatives administered.

Regular brushing, bathing, and nail care are essential. Protect your dog’s eyes and ears when bathing, and don’t allow the dog to become chilled after bathing. Your veterinarian may recommend that you do not bathe your puppy when it is younger than 10 to 12 weeks unless absolutely necessary (especially if your puppy is one of the smaller breeds).

Obedience Training and Socialization
A MUST for every good family dog, regardless of size or breed! Puppies may start classes when they are as young as 8 weeks old. Check with your veterinarian for class recommendations.

Please spay or neuter your puppy. Letting children see the miracle of birth is NOT a good reason to breed your dog; only serious breeders who have the desire, expertise, and time to breed well should breed at all. Spaying your female dog can help to prevent cancers of the reproductive tract, including breast cancer, and will decrease the incidence of reproductive infections. Neutering your male dog will prevent testicular cancer and can decrease the incidence of prostate problems. The incidence of certain behavioral problems has also been shown to be reduced when dogs are spayed or neutered. The decision to spay or neuter your puppy is one of the best decisions you can make for its well-being. Your veterinarian can discuss with you its benefits and the best time to schedule the procedure.