Well, you’ve really gone and done it now, haven’t you? You went out and got yourself a puppy.
Maybe you found a puppy along the road or from a breeder or from your local shelter – however it came about, you find yourself anxiously wondering “What have I done?”
First, let me say, congratulations! A new puppy is a lot of fun. And that anxiety is totally normal – a puppy is a big responsibility.
Here are some good health care tips that will hopefully help your little rascal live a healthy life for years to come.
Puppy’s First Veterinary Exams
Get started on the right foot – or paw – with your puppy’s first veterinary exams. During the examination the veterinarian will look at the pup’s medical/vaccination history. They will also examine the new pup for genetic problems such as a congenital heart problem and a cleft palate.
Puppies, like toddlers, will put just about anything in their mouths. So, at about three weeks of age, it is vital that puppies are given a dose of deworming medication.
Fair warning: There are many types of worms and all medications are not created equally. An over-the-counter deworming medication might not have a strong enough dose, or the correct mix of ingredients for your area.
If a puppy is not properly dewormed with the right medication for all types of intestinal parasitism then they may become severely anemic which is life threatening. Talk to you vet before giving your puppy any medication you are not sure of.
Every veterinarian will have a preferred protocol for vaccinating puppies. On top of that, scientist are constantly learning new things about vaccines that can change schedules and variants. Your veterinarian can explain what’s best for your puppy.
Here is a (very) general vaccine schedule for a puppy:
- 6 to 8 weeks: Puppies first DHPP-C (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza, Coronavirus) vaccine. Puppies receive this vaccine from 2-4 times depending on several factors, including geography and lifestyle.
- 9 weeks: Second DHPP vaccine.
- 12 weeks: DHPP injection #3, and possibly a Lyme disease vaccine. Generally a Lyme vaccine is repeated two weeks later, then once a year, especially if you live in a high-risk area.
- 16 weeks: Last round of DHPP.
- 12 to 16: Rabies vaccine. The timing of this vaccine may depend on the laws in your area (since this can be a human disease, too). Confirm with your veterinarian and check your local and state laws.
Phew! Seems like a lot, right? But the reason we vaccinate several times is to ensure the puppies actually get an antibody response to the disease. Puppies inherit a natural immunity from their mothers, but that wears off when they’re between 6 – 12 weeks old and there’s no way of knowing exactly when. Rather than leave a pup unprotected (these diseases are deadly), it’s considered better to give them shots regularly during this time
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying—removing the ovaries and uterus of a female pet— and neutering—removing the testicles of your male dog or cat— offers lifelong health benefits.
Legitimate Health Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Puppy:
- Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50% of dogs
- Neutering prevents testicular cancer.
- Many aggression problems can be avoided by neutering.
Plus, spaying and neutering prevents overpopulation. Nationwide, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters annually. Many are the puppies and kittens of cherished family pets and even purebreds.
The Dish on Puppy Food
Just as babies have different dietary needs to adults, puppies also have special requirements.
Personally, I feel there are more advantages to dry food, though whatever you choose to feed your new puppy is fine. More important is ensuring your puppy receives the correct balance of proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients they need will help ward off everything from gum disease to allergies. Keeping your puppy at their appropriate weight will help prevent debilitating joint and bone problems and ensure a long and active life.
When you bring your puppy home, ask for a little of the food the puppy is currently eating. Sudden changes in food can upset the puppy’s stomach and cause diarrhea, which is not only unpleasant for you, but could also be dangerous for your puppy.
Again, like babies, young puppies (less than 2 months old) need to eat more often. Usually at least 4 small meals each day. As they get older, they will not be as hungry, and eventually you’ll end up feeding smaller breeds 2 times a day and giant breeds 3 times a day.
Puppies should NEVER have food available all the time. Firstly because they will eat until they can’t fit anything else, and secondly because it could cause behavioral problems later on.
Quick, hide the shoes!
Around 4 months of age, puppies will start teething. This is when their puppy teeth are being replaced with permanent teeth.
This is often uncomfortable and even painful for your puppy, so they might be less inclined to eat. If you are feeding your puppy dry food and they are refusing to eat, you might want to try softening their food with some warm water to make it easier for them.
Puppies start chewing on everything during this period. If they do, give them some ice to chew on, or even take a clean rag, wet it, wring it out and put it in the freezer to freeze, then give that to your puppy to chew on. The cold ice alleviates their discomfort and gives them something acceptable to chew on.
Laying Down the Rules
Sometimes people let puppies get away with just about anything because, well, they’re a puppy! The first few days of having a new puppy it’s important to lay down the ground rules.
Especially with puppies, it’s important to remember that they do not mean to misbehave – they are just being puppies. Breathe, count to 10, then calmly and lovingly show your puppy what they are expected to do. And prepare for accidents. There will be accidents.
As with all puppy-training, the key ingredients for success are consistency, follow through, and patience. YouTube is full of training videos for housebreaking, teething… just about everything! Find a method that works for the whole family, and stick with it. If you allow them to have their way about certain things now, they will only be confused later when you decide to change the rules.
Play Hard, Nap Hard
Puppies love to run and play. Love it. Be ready to be on the move with a puppy. It is not uncommon for puppies to play hard and take a long nap.
Puppies also need exercise for mental stimulation. Moving around keeps them from becoming bored and mischievous. Many owners find that taking their dogs out for regular outdoor play and walks cuts down on behavioral issues like incessant chewing and digging and nonstop barking that make owners want to pull their hair out.
The amount of exercise your puppy needs depends on his age, breed and medical condition. Not every breed will be up for a long walk, while others are always ready to romp.
Meet the Author
Dr. Clayton Jones
Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. He also is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.