Is there a new puppy in your life? Check out Dr. Barrett’s guidelines for puppy care to be sure your puppy is set up to thrive!
- Vaccinate at 8, 12, 16 weeks of age.
- Vaccines given before 8 weeks of age (often done by breeders) may not be effective.
- Do not take out on walks until all vaccines are done (in a private yard is ok).
- Which vaccines needed can be determined by your vet depending on your region and diseases that are prevalent.
- Common vaccines are for distemper, parvo virus, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and bordetella.
- Puppy proof your house and any outdoor areas.
- Be sure trash containers are covered or in cabinets where they cannot be accessed when your puppy gets bigger.
- Know all the plants in your house or yard and if they are toxic to pets, and if so, remove them.
- Be sure any chemicals, cleaning products, medications and supplements are safely stored.
- Be aware of toxic foods: chocolate, coffee, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, grapes, and raisins. Contact your vet immediately if your puppy has ingested any of those foods!
- Socialize and desensitize your puppy so it learns to deal with new people, noises and things in the world without fear.
- Consider signing your puppy up for training or obedience classes.
- If you can, crate train your puppy. It can help with house training.
- House train your puppy by using pads in the house or taking out in the yard regularly. Praise with positive reinforcement. Punishing if there is an accident does not help and can make things worse.
- Train your puppy to chew with size appropriate toys and treats. Do not reinforce bad habits such as letting them chew on/play bite your hands and feet.
Worms and Internal Parasites:
- Many puppies have worms or other internal parasites, even ones from breeders and shelters.
- Do a fecal test with your veterinarian to examine the stool with a microscope for any parasites or parasite eggs.
- You will be sent home with a specific deworming medication for the type of parasites found if there are any.
- Most dogs should receive a heartworm prevention treatment every month. It comes in oral and topical forms.
- Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitos so even if your dog stays indoors, since mosquitos can get indoors, being on prevention is ideal.
- In Hawaii it is advised to be on prevention year round. However if you are in a climate with cold seasons, you may not need to use it every month.
- Treating for heartworm, if contracted, is a series of painful injections with chemicals that are toxic to the worms, as well as activity restriction for your dog that may last for months. It can cause long term damage to your dog’s health.
Fleas, Ticks, and External parasites:
- Most dogs should be on flea/tick prevention every month. It comes in oral and topical forms and you should get it through your veterinarian, who gets it directly from the manufacturer.
- If your dog stays inside, it may not need flea/tick prevention
- There are some natural methods of flea/tick prevention but they are may not be as effective as a preventative you would get from a veterinarian. However if you would like to avoid administering a chemical parasite treatment each month, you can focus on grooming instead. This would entail bathing your dog after it goes outside and using a flea comb to scour the coat for any live fleas or evidence of flea dirt (feces). It depends on how “buggy” your environment is and how paranoid you are about getting fleas in your home.
- Over the counter preventatives are less effective and no guarantee as to where they came from and what is actually in them!
- Puppies have very specific nutritional requirements! If they are not met, they can lead to deficiencies, abnormal growth, and medical problems later in life.
- Be sure to feed a diet specific for puppies that is complete and balanced (which means containing certain important nutrients like calcium and phosphorus at appropriate levels).
- If you have a large breed puppy (will be over 50 lbs fully grown) then it is very important to feed a large breed specific puppy diet. These are designed to slow their growth curve. On normal puppy food they may grow too quickly, which can increase risk of joint problems (hip/elbow dysplasia, arthritis) in their future.
- If you want to feed raw or home cooked to your puppy, be sure to make a nutritional plan with a veterinarian who has advanced knowledge of nutrition. Otherwise it may be simpler to feed a commercial puppy food, maybe with a fresh food topper, until they are 8-12 months old.
Spaying and Neutering:
- The best age for spaying and neutering can be controversial, in addition to whether it should be done at all. See my blog on spaying and neutering.
- The earliest spaying/neutering is typically performed is around 6 months of age.
- Microchips are used in pets to identify them if they get lost. They are about the size of a grain of rice and are placed under the skin with a sterile needle, which most pets hardly react to. When scanned, a number will be produced that is associated with a database where you can register your name, phone number and address. If someone finds your pet and brings them to a hospital or shelter, they will be scanned. Microchips do not GPS track your pet.