How to Take Care of A Puppy
It can be a very exciting time bringing a new puppy into the family. There are a number of things that we can do at Warwick Animal Hospital to make your experience exceptional, while providing your pet with the proper care. In an ideal situation, we would like to talk to you before you get your puppy to help you choose a breed which fits your lifestyle. Since this rarely happens, we feel our guidance can be a crucial part of your puppy's first few months, while he or she is rapidly becoming a cherished part of your family. In most cases, you will be visiting us several times during your puppy's first few months so we would like you to feel comfortable asking questions - just remember, that's why we're here! You'll soon learn there is a lot for us to talk about during your puppy visits. This summary of our routine Puppy Program is designed to give an overview of the following topics:
The most important part of beginning your puppy's veterinary care is the first physical exam. This is a very comprehensive exam evaluating your puppy for congenital defects such as hearing, vision, cleft palate, proper bite, hernias, and heart defects. Typically, we recommend beginning your puppy's vaccinations between 6 and 8 weeks of age, with boosters every 3 to 4 weeks apart until he or she is 16 weeks of age. In most cases, we vaccinate for the following diseases:
- Canine Distemper Virus
- Canine Hepatitis Virus
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Parainfluenza Virus
- Canine Corona Virus
In some special cases, we may also recommend vaccination against Lyme Disease. You will find detailed descriptions of these diseases in your Puppy Care Kit which you will receive at your first visit (if you don't receive your Puppy Care Kit, please ask for one).
Puppy Diets and Feeding - Quality Puppy Food Makes a Big Difference
When choosing a diet to feed your new puppy, it is important to keep in mind food quality, as well as when and how much to feed. It is important that you choose a puppy food that has been specifically formulated for young and growing dogs. Always look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that ensures the puppy food you choose meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for growing canine bodies. On your puppy visit, ask us for specific recommendations for your puppy.
- Small and medium-sized dogs can be weaned off of puppy food, and onto adult dog food between 9 and 12 months of age
- Large breed dogs should stick with puppy food until they reach 1 year of age
- Allow plenty of access to fresh water at all times.
Have a regular feeding and walking schedule. This will be a tremendous help with potty training. Puppies will begin to learn, understand and enjoy a scheduled routine. The typical puppy feeding schedule would be:
- Age 6-16 weeks: 3-4 meals per day
- Age 3-6 months: 2-3 meals per day
- Age 6-12 months: 2 meals per day
We strongly recommend not to share food from your plate with your puppy. Most puppies will routinely beg for whatever you have on your plate but don't give in. Not only are many human foods unsafe for pets, but it will be a tough habit to break. Begin early training on how to behave while you are eating. This may involve crating or asking the puppy to stay outside of the dining room/kitchen until it learns proper behavior.
Internal Parasites & Deworming
Puppies can pick up intestinal parasites from their environment. But what many new pet owners don't realize is that puppies can also get roundworms and hookworms from their mother before birth. For this reason - and because humans can potentially develop serious problems if exposed to immature forms of roundworm or hookworms - we routinely recommend deworming all puppies several times between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks. It is important to bring a fecal sample to your first puppy exam so that we can check for these parasite eggs!
In addition to intestinal parasites such as hookworms and roundworms, puppies are also vulnerable to picking up whipworms and tapeworms - and more seriously - heartworms. Roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm infestations are easily prevented by once-monthly medication, which is also an excellent medication for prevention of infections with heartworms. Heartworm disease is frequently fatal and yet highly preventable; therefore we often prescribe heartworm prevention during one of your puppy's first visits and recommend continuing it throughout his or her entire life.
The most common external parasites we encounter are fleas and ticks. We have a variety of flea and tick control products available that are effective and safe depending on your puppy's age. We carry Frontline, Bravecto, and Nexgard. All three are excellent products used to kill fleas and ticks on both puppies and adult dogs. We also carry Revolution heartworm prevention, which also controls fleas. Flea control can be a very complicated process, so please feel free to ask any questions you have about the variety of flea and tick control options available.
Spaying / Neutering
It is very important to bring your puppy in for one of these surgical procedures to help lengthen and improve the overall quality of your pet's life. We generally like to spay or neuter most pets at 6 months of age.
For females, spaying eliminates or greatly minimizes problems with:
- unwanted pregnancy, which helps prevent pet overpopulation
- attraction of male dogs during "heat" cycles
- potentially life-threatening uterine infections
- breast cancer
For males, neutering eliminates or greatly minimizes problems with:
- aggression and dominance
- roaming, which helps prevent pet overpopulation
- territorial marking with urine
- prostate cancer and infections
- testicular cancer
- perianal adenocarcinoma (an extremely malignant cancer of the rectum and/or anus)
Puppy Obedience and House training
Obedience training is an often overlooked part of raising your new puppy that is invaluable in providing a good quality of life for you and your puppy. More dogs are euthanized for behavior problems than any other reason, and early obedience training can help prevent many behavioral problems that could occur in the future. Please ask us for suggestions on activities, books, or dog trainers/puppy classes that may be of benefit to you. Socialization is a process in which the puppy learns to relate to other animals and people in its environment. Puppy socialization in a safe environment shapes the puppies behavior for the rest of his life. Around age 12-14 weeks the window for proper socialization closes, and by that point problems such as separation anxiety, fear, and storm phobias can already develop.
Housetraining can be a lifesaver if done early, and properly. There are many methods that can be successful. Please ask us about proper housetraining or resources for gathering important housetraining information.
An excellent book about all things puppy is Puppy Start Right by Dr. Ken Martin and Debbie Martin.
We hope we've covered all the major topics here but we know new puppy owners - just like new parents - still face new questions almost every day for awhile. Please feel free to contact us at any time.